It’s a replacement bout for the postponed-until-July middleweight title fight pitting injured champion Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida. It’s a lighter-weight bout. Barao, a Brazilian, is known as a devoted, humble athlete obsessed with training with little care for self-promotion.
UFC President Dana White was recently wondering to staff why there wasn’t the typical buzz for the pay-per-view bout at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, when he asked to review his champion’s statistics.
Barao, 27, hasn’t lost in 35 fights dating to his debut a decade ago. His average strikes-landed per minute (4.04) are nearly 1.5 better than the average UFC fighter.
He’s never been taken down in seven UFC bouts despite two title fights with veteran submission specialist Urijah Faber and he’s won his last three title defenses by stoppage.
“Definitely, this kid is without a doubt the No. 1 fighter pound-for-pound in the world,” White said, slotting Barao (34-1, one no-contest) over effectively unbeaten light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones at No. 2.
With a few swear words tossed in for effect, White said Barao’s dominance reminds him of another great Brazilian champion, Anderson Silva.
“Same … thing,” White said. “When [Silva] first started, I was the first guy to say he was the best in the world. I saw that … talent long before anyone … did, and people weren’t singing his praises, either. It could be the language barrier, who knows? But look at the stats. Look at the way this guy fights. Every fight is exciting, there’s no doubt he’s the … man.”
Barao’s Saturday opponent, Dillashaw (10-2), has the UFC’s best strikes-landed average (4.84 a minute).
“Dillashaw has great wrestling, unbelievable striking and power punches,” White said. “Knocks people out, and his output is better than Barao’s, so it’s going to come down to those two being toe to toe, slugging it out.”
White’s pleas for mixed martial arts enthusiasts to watch his disciplined champion come on a card that includes an expected light-heavyweight slugfest between veteran Dan Henderson of Temecula and Daniel Cormier, and a welterweight scrap between March title contender Robbie Lawler and fifth-ranked Jake Ellenberger.
Mostly, White wants it known that Barao is taking his place on a grand stage.
“I’m the president of the company saying, look at this guy!” White said. “The facts are all there and when you look at the facts, there’s no doubt he’s the best in the world. He’s unbelievable.”