Although it's usually the opening bout on a pay-per-view where you see a pair of exciting lighter weight fighters squaring up, for UFC 143 it's the two-hole that sees a match up of bantamweights that is sure to deliver fast-paced action. Renan Barão puts one of the longest winning streaks in the world on the line against Scott Jorgensen, with the winner of the fight potentially finding themselves just one or two wins from a shot at the winner of Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber's UFC bantamweight title fight.
Like many of the UFC's lighter weight fighters, Barão was once a WEC fighter. Though not as tenured as his opponent within the organization, Barão has quickly made a mark on the division and now the Nova União fighter knows he is not far from having the chance to bring a second UFC belt home to his gym, to display alongside that of Featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
After tasting the oh-so-close pain of losing a split decision in his professional debut, Barão has gone 28 consecutive fights without having to again come to grips with defeat. Barão has fought for Zuffa four times, with a pair of wins in both the WEC and Zuffa. Barão's UFC debut came against Cole Escovedo, and Barão handed in a dominant performance in winning the fight by unanimous decision. For a follow up act, Barão faced Brad Pickett at UFC 138 in Birmingham. While the British crowd was strongly pro-Pickett, Barão played spoiler by choking out the Brit in the final minute of the opening stanza.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Barão is a Brazilian jiu jitsu blackbelt, and has the submissions on his record to prove it. Just shy of half the men who have stepped into the cage to face Barão have left after finding their neck or a limb pulled in a new and exciting direction by the Brazilian. In addition to his dangerous grappling game, however, Barão is also a very capable striker. While many expected Barão to have the grappling edge against Pickett, it was on the feet that Barão did the majority of his work, outstriking the striker before dropping his opponent to get the fight to the mat and set up the decisive choke.
Barão is the favorite in this fight, and for good reason. No matter where the fight goes, he will be a handful for Jorgensen. While he has the more distinct advantage on the feet, Barão is the type of fighter who won't hesitate to hurt you on the feet as a set-up to a submission, locking a hold on his wounded foe. Jorgensen is a game fighter, but take Barão to win by a second round submission after hurting Jorgensen standing. Barão is also a fantastic option in your parlays, or as a small return bet who will stop just shy of doubling your money for a straight wager. While lack of familiarity with Barão by the casual fan has this line close in the fantasy game, Barão is favored nearly as much as Ed Herman and Josh Koscheck on the Vegas books, both of whom are more than -400 favorites on MMA Playground.
Scott Jorgensen analysis after the jump.
Jorgensen is one of the most recognizable fighters who came over to the UFC due to an easily recognizable look as a result of his red mohawk and his vitiligo, which caused Jorgensen's skin to develop spots of less pigmentation, and because he fought for the organization for nearly its entire run on Versus. Jorgensen fought ten times in all for the WEC, winning seven times in the Blue cage.
Jorgensen is an impressive 7-1 in his last eight fights, despite seeing a setback in his final WEC bout when he fell to the unique striking attack of champion Dominick Cruz. Since jumping over to the UFC, Jorgensen has run off back-to-back wins to leave himself just one big result from climbing back into the thick of the battle to earn a title shot, and Barão provides that shot. After a first round knockout of Ken Stone in his UFC debut, Jorgensen was faced with the always tough Jeff Curran, taking a unanimous decision when neither man could manage to put his opponent away.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Jorgensen's primary strength is his wrestling. He competed for Boise State in college, winning a Pac-10 title three of his four years at the school. Although Jorgensen has shown competence in all phases of the game, only looking out of his league when striking in his fight against champion Dominick Cruz, who commonly makes fighters seem out of place, he has not displayed the finishing ability in either area that Barão has. Jorgensen's submission grappling is not on the same level as Barão, however it is not beyond his ability to operate safely on top of a dangerous grappler should he get the fight to the canvas.
If Jorgensen is to win this fight, the most likely avenue for success will be getting Barão off his feet, establishing a strong base on top and hammering the Brazilian with ground and pound. At the start of the next round, do it again, and one more time does the trick. If you back Jorgensen to win, a unanimous decision is your best bet for bonus points. For the fantasy game, Jorgensen is a slight favorite at -120, despite being a underdog in the area of +200 at the sports books. While Jorgensen can give decent payout in your parlay if paired with a big dog or two, there's likely better options available with bigger payoffs and better chances, so stay away unless you are very sure of Jorgensen and don't like any of the other 13 fighters in close-odds bouts with any confidence.