Dominick Cruz out, vacates bantamweight title; Urijah Faber now meets Renan Barao at UFC 169
Dominick CruzÂ can’t seem to buy a break.
The UFC’s bantamweight champion, out for more than two years and set to finally return next month, is back on the shelf. A groin tear will sideline Cruz (19-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) and take him out of a bantamweight title unification fight againstÂ Renan Barao (31-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in the main event of UFC 169. In Cruz’s place will step former WEC featherweight championÂ Urijah Faber (30-6 MMA, 6-2 UFC).
UFC President Dana White made the announcement Monday afternoon on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
UFC 169 takes place Feb. 1 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The UFC’s annual Super Bowl weekend show typically is in Las Vegas, but this year heads to New Jersey, which hosts the NFL’s title game the next day at MetLife Stadium in nearby East Rutherford. Barao-Cruz will headline the card following a featherweight title fight between champ Jose Aldo and top contender Ricardo Lamas.
With Cruz stripped of his bantamweight title, Barao now is the UFC’s undisputed 135-pound champion. Instead of a title unification fight, he’ll meet Faber in a rematch.
“Renan Barao’s been tearing through everybody,” White said. “But Faber’s been on a tear, too, with four straight wins against the best of the world. Not only is he ready for this, the guy’s an absolute stud and is taking the fight on three weeks’ notice.”
Cruz has been out due to a series of knee injuries and surgeries. His most recent fight was a title defense against Demetrious Johnson in October 2011. While he’s been out, Barao won the interim 135-pound title by beating Faber, then defended it with wins over Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland, the latter coming this past September at UFC 165.
Faber in December stopped McDonald with a second-round “Submission of the Night,” capping off a stellar 2013 that saw him go 4-0 with three submission wins. Before stopping McDonald, “The California Kid” beat Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen and Yuri Alcantara. The four wins and three stoppages have made him a leading candidate for “Fighter of the Year” recognition, and arguably the best non-champion in that conversation.
Barao is ranked No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA bantamweight rankings. Cruz, however, dropped out of the list from his previous perch at No. 1 when he hit two years of inactivity. Faber is No. 2.
For the latest on UFC 169, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Urijah Faber)