Renan Barao (29-1-0-1) vs. Michael “Mayday” McDonald (15-1-0)
Dominick Cruz labeled this fight the best when he called it a number one contender’s match for his title, because the truth is, that is all the interim title means. It is an automatic title shot where no one can leapfrog in front of the winner to get a fight with Cruz. McDonald and Barao are the two best fighters at 135 outside of Cruz, and this match is pretty even all the way around.
A lot of people like to compare Aldo and Barao because they train at the same camp, but the fact of the matter is, they are two different fighters. Standing, the fighters have advantages in different areas. Barao does not nearly posses the knockout power that Aldo does, but McDonald does have that one-punch KO ability. He has finished more fighters standing than Barao has in half the wins. The intangible here is leg-kicks. Barao does have great kicks, and if McDonald cannot defend them, then his movement will be slowed tremendously. McDonald needs to defend the kicks and get his hands on Barao. If he can land a power shot he will stop him, or hurt him bad enough that he will be open for submission.
On the ground, the game is very different. Barao has great submissions, which is evident in nearly half of his wins coming by submission. McDonald is no slouch on the ground either, but this is a brown belt versus a black belt, which is usually a big difference. The wrestling is the big factor in the ground game. Faber did not shoot on Barao too much, so his wrestling defense has never been tested, and McDonald does not have a wrestling background.
The Bottom Line:
A lot of oddsmakers put Barao at the favorite, and rightfully so since he is on a 29-fight winning streak. The problem is that McDonald can keep the fight off the ground, has been training kickboxing since he was ten, and can knock Barao out if he lays his hands on him. McDonald by TKO in the third.