The date was April 14, 2005. The place was Natal, Brazil. The opponent was Joao Paulo. On that day, Renan Barao, fighting in his home town, lost his MMA debut by unanimous decision.
The significance of this defeat cannot be understated, because this would be the only time he would taste defeat in his nearly eight year mixed martial arts career. His record since that loss is an incredible 30-0 with 1 no contest.
The one no contest came back in 2007. Barao has since won 20 fights in a row. Barao’s brilliance has been nothing short of spectacular, so much so that his dominance has earned him a spot on everyone’s top ten bantamweight rankings at either number one, or number two.
Here at mma-freak.com, I went one step further. Barao occupies the number seven ranking on my pound for pound list. The only men in front of him are Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Jose Aldo, Benson Henderson, and Cain Velasquez.
Six men remain in front of him, a matter to be resolved by Barao soon enough. At this current pace, Barao will one day crack the top five, and there isn’t a bantamweight on the planet that can stop him, and that includes Bantamweight Champion, Dominick Cruz. Barao is on an lengthy unbeaten streak that is not matched by any active fighter. Not by Anderson Silva. Not by GSP. Not by anyone.
How great is this unbeaten streak? Only one fighter has had as impressive an unbeaten streak as Barao. I’m talking about the legend himself, Fedor Emelianenko. The legendary Russian once went 28-0 with 1 no contest in a span of just under 10 years.
Like Barao, Fedor has a no contest to his record during his streak. Like Barao, Fedor accumulated a ton of wins during the streak.
But that’s where the comparison ends, because you see, Barao has won two more fights than Fedor did during his historic winning streak. Before I receive hate messages from you hardcore MMA fans, it is important that I mention that I am in no way saying that Barao has had the more impressive streak, although you can certainly make a case for it.
I will attempt to do just that. One of two things will happen. I’ll either create a compelling argument, one that will have you side with me, or I’ll fail dramatically. Drama aside, this is going to be lots of fun.
There is, however, only one rule. Since I like the number five, I am going to take a closer look at both Barao’s and Fedor’s five greatest victories during their respective unbeaten streaks. Shall we get started?
Let’s start with Fedor Emelianenko. In my opinion, Fedor’s five greatest victories during his unbeaten streak came against Mark Coleman 2x, Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 2x. Fedor’s first victory of note during the streak came at Pride 25 on March 16, 2003. On that day, he defeated a legend in his own right, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, by unanimous decision.
In defeating “Big Nog,” he was also crowned the Pride Heavyweight Champion. It will be over a year, a span of four fights, before Fedor would face another credible opponent. That credible opponent would be former UFC Heavyweight Champion, and 2000 Pride Openweight Grand Prix Champion, Mark Coleman.
The fight took place at Pride Total Elimination on April 25, 2004, and was the opening round of the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix. Fedor would go on to defeat Coleman by vicious first round armbar. Fedor’s next big win would come against “Big Nog,” a man that he was fighting for the third time.
As I mentioned earlier, Fedor won their first encounter. Their second encounter ended in a no contest, because of an accidental headbutt. Their third encounter which took place at Pride Shockwave on December 31, 2004, ended the same way as the first, with Fedor taking home the unanimous decision victory. Only this time, the reward was much greater as Fedor not only won the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, but he also unified his own heavyweight title with Nogueira’s interim title.
Fedor’s next big win would come eight months later, as he would defeat Mirko Cro Cop by unanimous decision at Pride Final Conflict on August 28, 2005. With the victory, Fedor improved his record to 24-1.14 months later, Fedor would face off against a man he had already defeated in Mark Coleman.
This fight took place at Pride 32 on October 21, 2006. Coleman was riding the momentum of his victory, albeit in controversial fashion, against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Same fighters, different fight, same result. A first round armbar victory for Fedor, who again, firmly established himself as not only the best heavyweight, but also as the greatest fighter on the planet.
Fedor would add victories over former UFC Heavyweight Champions Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski, the latter representing Fedor’s last great victory. He would go a modest 4-3 after the Arlovski win, before retiring from MMA. Well, there you have it folks, Fedor’s five greatest victories in my opinion. Let’s see how Renan Barao matches up.
Renan Barao is a monster! How many times have we heard that before? If it weren’t true, people would have no need to say it, right? This guy is an absolute phenom, who is like a lighter version of Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. In fact, they both train together.
Some things are just so unfair. Although Barao hasn’t been on our minds for long, he does have some great victories on his record. Barao’s first great victory was against Chris Cariaso at the final WEC event, WEC 53, on December 16, 2010. He would win that fight via a beautiful rear naked choke in the very first round.
Some of you might feel like naming Cariaso on a list of great victories is a stretch, but I ask you to consider Cariaso’s recent three fight winning streak, which ultimately ended not long ago. After making his UFC debut at UFC 130 in a victory over Cole Escovedo, Barao would go on to fight Brad Pickett at UFC 138 on November 5, 2011.
Pickett is one of only two fighters to hold a victory over UFC Flyweight Champion, Demetrious Johnson, which automatically makes him a credible opponent. In a fight of the night performance that featured a memorable exchange, Barao would go on to win the fight by rear naked choke after dropping Pickett. It was clear that Barao had arrived.
Three months later, Barao would return at UFC 143 for a fight against Scott Jorgensen, who was three fights removed from his bantamweight title shot against Dominick Cruz. Although he did not finish Jorgensen, he did win a dominant unanimous decision.
After Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz got injured leading up to his fight with Urijah Faber, Barao was chosen to replace him against Faber. The bout would be for the interim bantamweight title. This fight took place on July 21, 2012 at UFC 149. Barao would win a clear cut decision over Faber and in the process was named the interim bantamweight champion.
This leads us to Barao’s greatest victory, which came at UFC on Fuel: Barao vs. McDonald, on February 16, 2013, almost three weeks ago. McDonald was seen as a stiff challenge by most, but what did Barao do?
He controlled most of the fight, except for one moment in the very first round where he was hurt. He would go on to finish McDonald via arm triangle choke, which is an early candidate for submission of the year. There you have it, the five greatest victories of Barao’s unbeaten streak. Just to reiterate, there isn’t a fighter at 135 pounds that can defeat Barao, not even Bellator Bantamweight Champion, Eduardo Dantas.
So how then does Barao’s unbeaten streak match up against the great Fedor’s unbeaten streak? Each fighter had standout victories over the very best that their respective divisions had and has to offer. Make no mistake about it, both streaks were and are as impressive a thing as has ever been done in MMA.
And although Barao has done so much in the sport in only eight years, he has a ways to go before he catches up to Fedor Emelianenko. But for fans of Barao, myself included, there’s hope.
Ideally, Barao can fight for another 10 years, where he could very well rack up another 20-25 wins. Who knows, 10 years from now we could be talking about how Barao is 50-1, and hasn’t loss in 18 years. Sound crazy? You bet, but I truly believe that Barao is one of the best fighters in the world today, and one of the best fighters to come along in some time.
It probably wasn’t fair to compare the streaks of Fedor and Barao, but I had to do it. I felt the need to honor a living legend, and a legend in the making. Believe me when I say that although this conversation can be considered crazy right now, a few years from now, you might be calling me a genius. So for now, the battle goes to Fedor, but the war could very well go to Renan Barao. After all, he has the benefit of time being on his side.