Saturday, 01 February 2014 12:00
By Josh Nason, Wrestling Observer
Super Bowl weekend is here and while the big stars might not be in the Octagon Saturday, two titles are on the line, two heavyweights look to keep their night job, and the pressure of not coming through in championship opportunities rests upon a single Californian.
And hey, UFC 169 will give you a chance to give yourself a break from Daniel Bryan and CM Punk talk for a couple hours.
So far, so good for our panel in 2014. You liking this group yet?
- Dave Meltzer (8-2 - .800): Wrestling Observer founder & writer
- Josh Nason (8-2 - .800): Wrestling Observer behind-the-scenes guy, WON on Twitter
- Todd Martin (8-2 - .800): Weekly FFD guest | LA Times | Sherdog
- Oliver Copp (8-2 - .800): Combat sports insider, co-host of Tough Talk
- John Pollock (8-2 - .800): Fight Network personality, Live Audio Wrestling host
- Front Row Brian (8-2 - .800): MMA newsbreaker, Twitter personality
- Mike Sempervive (7-3 - .700): Wrestling Observer Live co-host | Big Audio Nightmare | future book author
- Steve Juon (7-3 - .700): Wrestling Observer MMA reporter, AngryMarks.com founder
Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao (31-1-0-1) vs. Urijah Faber (30-6) II
Despite a winning streak that 99% of fighters would die for, Barao hasn’t fully enamored himself with the far reaches of the MMA universe. Underrated, undervalued, and underappreciated, Barao looks for the third defense of the 135-pound title and the follow-up to a great 2013 that saw him finish both Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland. Perhaps Dominick Cruz awaits him with a win, and maybe not.
Always at the ready, Faber stepped into this title opportunity thanks to Cruz’s most recent injury and attempts to halt a 0-for-5 title shot slide that has been talked about with, well, everyone. Despite that, he’s riding a four-fight win streak with three submission finishes. He looked awesome in buzzsawing McDonald in December, but the first time he fought Barao resulted in an unanimous decision loss.
Barao: Nason, Juon, Copp, Martin, Storm, Sawyer, Sempervive, Pollock
Faber, Meltzer, FRB
Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo (23-1) vs. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)
On one side, you have a man that has won 16 fights in a row, been champion since November 2009, has seven straight title defenses, and doesn’t seem to have an equal at 145 pounds. On the other side stands a man who has won four straight and seven of his last eight. After destroying Erik Koch in January 2013, he has been on the sidelines due to injured opponents and awaiting a title opportunity.
If Aldo wins, it’s likely he jumps to 155 pounds, relinquishes the title, and fights lightweight champion Anthony Pettis for his title. Considering the featherweight landscape and captivating fights, that sounds like a good idea to me.
Aldo: Nason, Juon, Copp, Martin, Storm, Sawyer, Sempervive, Pollock, Meltzer, FRB
Frank Mir (16-8) vs. Alistair Overeem (36-13-0-1)
Without a doubt, this is a loser leaves the UFC bout unless they put on a classic. Mir has dropped three straight (Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett) and has been finished by TKO in two of them. A UFC fixture since his 3rd pro fight, Saturday could be his last ride into the Octagon. After beating up Brock Lesnar in his UFC debut and subsequently getting popped by elevated testosterone levels, Overeem has been finished by Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne.
Overeem: Nason, Juon, Martin, Storm, Sawyer, Sempervive, Pollock, Meltzer, FRB
John Lineker (23-6) vs. Ali Bagutinov (12-2)
Lineker is a frustrating case, having missed weight three times in six UFC fights. Friday, he missed again but was able to cut down after a second attempt. There’s no other way to say it: he needs to be a bantamweight and this is likely his last fight at flyweight. It’s too bad, because with a four-fight win streak, three straight finishes, and nearly 0 contenders on the horizon, a win here would probably have given him a title shot.
That opens the door for Bagutinov, the surging 28-year-old that comes into Saturday having won 10 in a row. 2-0 in the Octagon, Bagutinov is coming off a November decision win over Tim Elliott. While Lineker is a finisher, the Russian has never been finished. With a win, it’s hard to deny he’s earned a shot at Demetrious Johnson.
Lineker: Juon, Pollock, FRB
Bagutinov: Nason, Copp, Martin, Storm, Sawyer, Sempervive, Meltzer
Jamie Varner (21-8-1-2) vs. Abel Trujillo (11-5-0-1)
After his injury fill-in return to the UFC in May 2012 that was punctuated with a first round TKO win over Edson Barboza, Varner has come back down to Octagon Earth a bit. Following a 3rd round Fight of the Night loss to Joe Lauzon, the 29-year-old is 1-1 in his last two with two split decisions. Trujillo looks the part but is 2-1-1 in his UFC career thus far, and is fresh off a 2nd round TKO win over Roger Bowling six weeks ago.
Trujillo: Nason, Juon, Martin, Storm, Sawyer, Sempervive, Pollock, Meltzer, FRB
Coverage here on the site all day!