The UFC’s 145-pound landscape may have added another strong potential contender in the form of former bantamweight titlist Renan Barao. The dangerous Brazilian joins Diego Sanchez and Myles Jury in electing to join the 145-pound ranks. Unlike Sanchez and “Fury” who dropped down a weight-class, Barao is headed on up.
The move makes sense after some previous tough weight-cuts, including a disastrous one that removed him from the main event of UFC 177, and a pair of losses to current 135-pound kingpin T.J. Dillashaw. Barao was most recently thrashed by Dillashaw in their title rematch at UFC on FOX 16 in Chicago.
Barao originally captured the interim bantamweight strap with a unanimous decision victory over Urijah Faber at UFC 149. He made successful defenses against Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland and Faber before a shocking upset loss to Dillashaw at UFC 173. That defeat snapped a 33-fight undefeated streak and effectively ended his air of invincibility. “The Baron” has compiled an 8-2 UFC record and is hoping the featherweight move will help to rejuvenate his career. Here are the top three possible opponents to consider for Barao’s 145-pound debut.
3. Dennis Siver
Siver appears to be on the downside after back-to-back setbacks against Conor McGregor and Tatsuya Kawajiri but is still ranked in the top 15 and is usually involved in exciting affairs. The talented kickboxer had to settle for a grinding battle against Kawajiri at Fight Night 69 in Germany and came out on the wrong end of a close unanimous decision verdict. He’s faced elite competition during his stints in the lightweight and featherweight divisions having also competed against Cub Swanson, Donald Cerrone, Ross Pearson and Gray Maynard during his 20 Octagon appearances.
The 36-year-old veteran is currently holding down the No. 15 spot in the division, and always comes to fight, win or lose. Siver has produced six Fight of the Night bonuses during his UFC tenure and has compiled an 11-8 record with one no-contest. The stocky, unorthodox Siver would make a solid challenge for Barao as he looks to test the dangerous 145-pound waters.
2. Dennis Bermudez
Bermudez is looking to rebound after a loss in a thrilling battle against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 189. The third-round knockout setback marked his second straight defeat after a previous seven-fight win streak. “The Menace” has a strong wrestling background, good punching power and has been involved in his share of wild Octagon brawls.
The 28-year-old is currently ranked ninth in the division, and would provide a stern challenge for Barao in his initial 145-pound appearance. Bermudez owns a notable Octagon triumph over top-five contender Max Holloway and remains a tough out for anyone in the division. His tenacity would definitely force Barao to raise his game to another notch if he wants to make a strong first featherweight impression.
Of all the matchups that can be made for Barao, a fight against Swanson would seem to be an ideal fit. It wasn’t so long ago that Swanson was closing in on a title opportunity only to see those hopes dashed by losses against Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. He was completely dominated in both of those contests and sustained a broken jaw and hand in the UFC on FOX 15 loss to the talented Hawaiian. Despite those recent struggles the No. 6-ranked contender would still make for a dangerous test.
Swanson owns notable wins over the likes of Stephens, Siver, Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira. He’s a proven finisher with 15 of his 21 wins coming by knockout or submission. With Swanson still having his sights set on a possible future title shot, this would represent an excellent opportunity for both veterans to try and revive their UFC stock. A Swanson vs. Barao matchup would certainly have explosive potential.