Renan Barao has become nearly as bold as his record.
Unbeaten since 2005, a fourth-round submission of Michael McDonald allowed the Brazilian Barao to retain the interim UFC bantamweight title at UFC on Fuel TV 7 inside London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday.
“Dominick Cruz, I’m waiting for you,” the normally reserved Barao said through an interpreter in the post-fight televised interview. “Please come (back) quick.”
Cruz is the bantamweight titleholder who has been sidelined since October 2011 with two serious knee injuries. There’s been no timetable for Cruz’s return, although he told viewers he’s not concerned over Barao whenever he makes it back inside the Octagon.
“Enjoy the back-to-back titles,” Cruz said on the Fuel TV post-fight show. “The truth is that I’m the champ and I can’t wait to get in and fight the guy. I’m excited, man. He’s so good. He brings so many different tools. It’s a different challenge than I’ve ever faced. I’m coming back from these injuries and it makes it an even tougher task.”
Cruz, however, said earlier in the broadcast, Barao was “going to be confused when he gets in there.”
McDonald (15-2) looked like he took control in the later portions of the first round with repeated right hands to Barao’s temple. While Barao crumpled, he did recover and returned some strikes of his own as he extricated himself.
A fairly even second round included a stoppage after McDonald’s right eye was caught with an accidental poke with Barao’s left hand. A cut near Barao’s right eye also became apparent in the round. The third round contained little action, minus a spinning kick by Barao that found McDonald’s face and bloodied his nose.
This fight was the first time McDonald went past three rounds, ground that Barao covered when he took the interim title with a decision win over Urijah Faber in July. McDonald looked winded as the fight went on and Barao maintained his activity level with kicks and takedowns — successfully avoiding situations that would allow McDonald to counter.
Barao (30-1) landed one of those takedowns with about two minutes left in the fourth round. He eventually put McDonald on his back and applied an arm-triangle choke, a hold wrenched down for more than 30 seconds before McDonald tapped out.
“There was no doubt he’s a young, talented athlete,” Barao said of McDonald. “He’s a tough guy, but all fights were tough in the past. He was just another tough opponent I had to encounter.”
On the undercard, Gunnar Nelson remained undefeated with a unanimous victory over Jorge Santiago (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), although it was hardly overwhelming. Santiago — who replaced Justin Edwards on the card — hung with Nelson much of the fight even as Nelson got in a few good strikes.
Santiago rallied in the third and final round, even landing a solid punch to Nelson’s face. The strike, however, came just before the fight’s conclusion.
Cub Swanson used some precision strikes and some late takedowns for a unanimous decision win (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) over Dustin Poirier in a bout that was active from the start. It was Swanson’s fourth victory in a row as he continued his rise up the featherweight ranks.
Jimi Manuwa had the first stoppage victory on the Fuel TV portion of the undercard, although it came between rounds. Cyrille Diabate injured his left leg in the first round, apparently on a Manuwa takedown. After medical personnel evaluated the lower portion of his leg, Diabate was unable to continue. Manuwa improved to 13-0 as a pro, 2-0 in the UFC.
James Te Huna earned a unanimous decision victory (29-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Ryan Jimmo. It was Te Huna’s fourth UFC win in a row as he continues his ascent in the light heavyweight divisions.
Matthew Riddle defeated Che Mills via a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27) to open up the Fuel TV portion of the undercard. The score was closer than the fight itself as Riddle controlled much of the action.