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UFC 149: Faber vs. Barao

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Never has a card put on by The Ultimate Fighting Championship been so heavily impacted by injuries than tonight’s event at the Saddledome in Calgary. Nevertheless, there will be a belt at stake and fights galore to be wagered on at UFC 149.

The main event is for the interim bantamweight title as Urijah Faber (26-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC) takes on Renan Barao, who is listed as a minus-200 favorite at most books. Faber, the former WEC featherweight champ, is plus-170 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $170).

Faber was initially set to take on bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in a rematch of their UFC 132 showdown won by Cruz via unanimous decision. However, Cruz was scratched after suffering a torn ACL. (This actually would’ve been the third meeting between Faber and Cruz, as Faber won their first encounter by first-round submission at WEC 26.)

Barao (28-1-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) is unbeaten in three Octagon appearances with wins over Cole Escovedo, Brad Pickett and Scott Jorgensen. His win over Pickett by rear-naked choke late in the first round at UFC 138 garnered Fight of the Night honors.

Barao’s lone career loss came in his mixed martial arts debut at the age of 18 when he dropped a unanimous decision to Joao Paulo back in April of 2005.

The 33-year-old Faber, who also held the KOTC bantamweight belt early in his career, has participated in 15 bouts with a title on the line. He has posted an 11-4 record in those matchups.

A few offshore books had proposition bets available on Friday afternoon. 5Dimes had minus-150 odds for the fight to go the five-round distance, while a plus-120 return could be had for a finish inside the distance.

If you like Faber to win by decision, the payout is plus-303. A win by Barao from the judges will net a plus-171 return (risk $100 to win $171).

Prediction: I think it’s a toss-up fight but from a betting standpoint, I’m all about the veteran Faber at the generous underdog price.

In the co-main event, former Bellator middleweight kingpin Hector Lombard (31-2-1-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will make his UFC debut. Most books are listing Lombard as a minus-360 ‘chalk’ versus Tim Boetsch, who is a plus-280 underdog (risk $100 to win $280).

Lombard hasn’t tasted defeat since a unanimous-decision loss to Gegard Mousasi at Pride Bushido 13 on November 6 of 2005. The ‘Cuban Australian’ has won 20 consecutive fights with 13 knockouts over this span.

Boetsch (15-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) has won three in a row since dropping down to the middleweight loop following a loss to Phil Davis (modified kimura) at UFC 123. The 31-year-old wrestler rallied from a huge deficit to score a third-round KO of Yushin Okami at UFC 144 in Japan.

Okami dominated the first two rounds, but Boetsch caught the former No. 1 middleweight contender with a big right early in the third stanza to completely shift the momentum. With Okami struggling to regain his senses, Boetsch turned it on and finished with a violent flurry of uppercuts, prompting analyst Joe Rogan to momentarily call it the greatest comeback in UFC history. (Rogan later admitted to a moment of hyperbole.)

Whatever the case, the dramatic victory earned Boetsch a shot at a top contender in Michael Bisping, who had to pull out of the fight due to an injury. When Brian Stann had to do the same (shoulder) for his UFC on Fox 4 showdown versus Lombard, then Boestch and Lombard were matched up for tonight.

The popular notion is that a win by Lombard in impressive fashion could earn him a title shot against Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, who doesn’t appear interested in a superfight versus light heavyweight champ Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. UFC President Dana White said this week that a win by Boestch would put him ‘in the mix’ for a title shot.

Prediction: Sometimes the bright lights of the UFC impact fighters who have only fought for smaller promotions in the past. Will this be the case for Lombard? I’m not sure but this is certainly a fight that warrants a play on the underdog or a pass. I’ll suggest a small taste of Boestch for the nice return, but I wouldn’t risk much at all.

Cheick Kongo (17-7-1 MMA, 10-5-1 UFC) will take on Shawn Jordan in a heavyweight battle. Most spots are listing Jordan as a minus-130 favorite, while Kongo is available at even money.

Kongo saw his 3-0-1 run halted when he lost by first-round KO to Mark Hunt at UFC 144 in late February. The defeat was his first in more than 26 months, dating back to a loss to Frank Mir at UFC 107 in December of 2009.

Kongo’s 10 victories in the Octagon include six KOs, three decisions and one submission.

Jordan (13-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made his UFC debut in March at UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, beating Oli Thompson with a second-round TKO (knee and punches). He replaced Little Nog, who had to withdraw from his fight against Kongo due to an arm injury.

The biggest win on Jordan’s resume is a second-round submission of Lavar Johnson when both me were with Strikeforce last year.

Prediction: The French kickboxer has certainly faced tougher competition in his career with wins over the likes of Pat Barry, Matt Mitrione, Mirko Cro Cop, Antoni Hardonk and Paul Buentello. Plus, Kongo’s only losses in the last four years have come against a pair of former champs, Mir and Cain Velasquez, and Hunt. I like Kongo as my favorite play of the night.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Jason Floyd, the host of ‘In the Cage’ on sports radio in Tampa, likes Kongo tonight. Floyd told VegasInsider.com, “This fight is a huge step up in competition for Jordan, who just seemed happy to be there at the press conference. On the other hand, Kongo looked like he was ready to take Jordan’s head off.”

--Dana White confirmed this week that welterweight champ Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre was on schedule and barring injury, will be ready to face interim champ Carlos Condit at UFC 154 in Montreal at the Bell Centre on November 17. 5Dimes currently has GSP installed as the minus-360 favorite with Condit available for a plus-270 payout (risk $100 to win $270). Also on this card, Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann are scheduled to throw down with the winner getting a shot at the 170-pound belt. Hendricks is the minus-135 ‘chalk’ against Kampmann (+105) at 5Dimes.

--There were reports Friday that Daniel Cormier would make his final appearance with Strikeforce by facing former UFC heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia in September. However, White shot down that notion earlier today and Cormier's to-be-determined opponent remains unknown.  

--Notable fights announced in the last week or so include…
Brian Stann vs. Michael Bisping (co-main event at UFC 152)
Glover Teixeira vs. Rampage Jackson (co-main event at UFC 153)
Jose Aldo vs. Erick Koch (for featherweight title at UFC 153)
Lavar Johnson vs. Brendan Schaub (UFC 154)

--Check out this sweet highlight clip from CainTheBull via Bloody Elbow.

  
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