Almost from the day his fight with Renan Barão was announced, Urijah Faber predicted what the Brazilian star would do: Fire off a lot of kicks and fight like Jose Aldo did against Faber in a 2009 bout.
Barão did exactly what Faber expected Saturday in the main event of UFC 149 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, but he couldn't do anything about it. Barão won a wide unanimous decision to take the interim bantamweight championship.
Chris Lee scored it 50-45, while both Jeff Blatnick and Sal D'Amato had it 49-46 for Barao, who has now won 19 in a row and is unbeaten in his last 32 fights. Barao's only loss was in his pro debut, as an 18-year-old.
He handled Faber like a veteran on Saturday, never getting threatened by the former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion.
"I knew Faber was a great athlete and a great fighter, but I came well prepared and I executed my strategy," Barão said.
Aldo, Barão's Nova Uniao teammate, used a similar plan on Faber in their 2009 bout. Aldo was more devastating, but Faber was unable to close the distance in both fights and, thus, was unable to mount any sustained attack.
"I knew he was trying to keep me at a distance," Faber said. "Those kicks were coming from pretty far out and it was difficult to get in for takedowns."
It was a lackluster main card that had long stretches of inactivity, which led to plenty of boos from the crowd.
In the co-main event between middleweights Hector Lombard and Tim Boetsch, the two fighters made it clear that champion Anderson Silva has nothing to worry about from either of them.
Lombard's heavily hyped UFC debut was a total dud, as he did little but follow Boetsch around in a fight that left the crowd booing loudly.
All three judges had it 29-28, with two going for Boetsch and the other for Lombard as Boetsch took a split decision and moved to 4-0 at middleweight. The winner was expected to be in contention for a title shot, but both were less than impressive.
Boetsch didn't seem willing to engage Lombard, who has a reputation for heavy hands, and he won the fight primarily on the basis of landing more kicks. Boetsch circled and landed a few kicks, which was more than Lombard and which apparently was enough to eke out the win.
Cheick Kongo set a record for most rounds in the Octagon by a UFC heavyweight, one of the few highlights of a desultory match with Shawn Jordan. Kongo won by scores of 30-27 twice and 30-28 in a bout in which most of the action was spent grappling against the cage.
Jordan, a former LSU football player who was a late replacement for the injured Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, had little to offer in the way of offense. His best move came when he elbowed Kongo in the groin in the first round while the two were against the cage.
Other than that, however, Jordan did little to threaten the giant Frenchman, who won his 11th UFC bout. Kongo, a high-level kick boxer, wasn't able to create the distance he needed to land his strikes.
He connected with knees that sapped Jordan, but it was mostly an ugly fight that did little for either man.
Kongo and Jordan weren't the only ones on the main card to have problems. James Head and Brian Ebersole also engaged in a strange fight, with neither doing much of anything significant offensively. Head, who repeatedly stuffed Ebersole's takedown attempts, landed a few elbows and some punches and pulled out a split decision.
All three judges had it 29-28, with two going for Head and the other for Ebersole, who lost for the first time in five UFC fights.
The highlight of the fight came in the first round, when Head caught Ebersole in a guillotine choke. Ebersole has never submitted to a guillotine and calls it "a myth." Head seemed to have the choke in, but on two separate occasions, Ebersole gave a thumb's up to indicate he was not in trouble.
In the pay-per-view opener, Matthew Riddle gave up a dominant position in the first round of his fight with Chris Clements because he wanted to make it exciting for the crowd. But when Riddle saw an opportunity in the third, he didn't waste time going after the standing arm triangle choke.
After Clements missed a spinning back first, Riddle quickly maneuvered into position for the standing arm triangle. He then tripped Clements and quickly forced the submission. He dominated in grappling after spending long hours working on his jiu-jitsu in Las Vegas with the decorated Robert Drysdale.
"Working with Robert Drysdale, his jiu-jitsu is top notch," Riddle said. "He took me to the next level and now I'm finishing fights with submissions."
Riddle was getting the best of the standup in the first round, landing several good kicks that clearly bothered Clements.
He said he couldn't get too carried away with his striking, though.
"I knew Chris wanted to bang, so I made sure I banged a little," Riddle said. "But then I went back to my roots. I had to get that 'W.' "
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- Urijah Faber
- Hector Lombard
- Brian Ebersole
- Tim Boetsch