Renan Barao at UFC 138UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has a fight on his hands when he returns from injury.

Interim UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barão already had a fight on his hands when he squared up with 22-year-old Michael McDonald, who gave Barão everything he could have asked for in their UFC on Fuel TV headlining bout on Saturday in London.

McDonald came out with a quiet confidence that belies his years, but has become a key component of his approach.

He really seemed to take Barão out of his rhythm early in the fight, shucking off many of the champion’s takedown attempts, and often beating him to the punch and slipping the counters.

As McDonald settled into a rhythm, however, Barão did what all good champions do and adjusted his attack.

Particularly in the third round, Barão stepped up the pace of his attacks, pressuring McDonald instead of countering the youngster. And even though Barão missed with several spinning kicks, he finally landed to McDonald’s chin towards the end of round three.

The fourth round saw McDonald fighting at a much slower pace, Barão still upping his aggression eventually putting McDonald in a bodylock and not letting go until he planted him on the mat.

As they hit the mat, Barão landed off to the side with a head-and-arm choke applied. McDonald gave a quick thumbs up to indicate he was okay, but Barão had his hip blocked so he couldn’t move into the choke and take the pressure off. The champion remained patient, continuing to cinch up the choke until McDonald finally had no alternative and tapped out.

“I feel great,” said Barão after the fight. “That was the result of a lot of hard work.”

Upon winning the interim belt against Urijah Faber last summer, Barão had intended to wait for Cruz to make his return. Setbacks increased the wait time, however, so Barão made the defense against McDonald, but now, his sights have returned to the UFC bantamweight champion.

“Dominick Cruz, I’m waiting for you,” Barão declared. “Please come quick!”

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