Renan Barao has not lost a fight in eight years. Since that time, 31 opponents have stepped into the arena of combat with him and left scratching their heads, tending to their injuries, or both. Next up for the interim UFC bantamweight champion is Eddie Wineland, a talented but somewhat inconsistent former champion who prefers to trade leather but has a wrestling base.
With Barao's finishing instinct and Wineland's knockout power, the fight is, at least on paper, explosive. The opening lines have barely been kind to the Indiana challenger, however, as Barao was quickly installed as a favorite of almost 4-to-1.
Yet the way Wineland sees it, he's got the advantages in several key areas.
"My training for this fight is no different than any other fight," he said at a Wednesday press conference to publicize . "We're training just like we normally train. A little more grappling. We're going to push it a little harder. Obviously it's a 25-minute fight, not that I intend it to go 25 minutes, but we’ll be ready for it. I think I’m stronger, I think I’m faster, I think I hit harder. I think I'm the better wrestler. June 15, we’re going to find out who has the advantage."
At least in terms of statistics, Barao has the edge in several different areas. According to FightMetric, he lands more strikes per minute (3.58 to 3.25), has better accuracy (35 percent to 29 percent), and has better takedown accuracy (58 percent to 44 percent) and defense (95 percent to 80 percent).
On the other hand, Wineland is riding high with back-to-back wins over top 10 bantamweights Brad Pickett and Scott Jorgensen, the most significant surge he's made since holding that WEC strap back in 2006.
Still just 28 years old, Wineland may have a second breath in him yet. Despite the high stakes -- it's not only a title fight, but also his first time headlining any card since Feb. 2008 -- he expects to treat the opportunity as though it was an ordinary walk to the cage.
"We’re going to train like it’s a normal fight," he said. "Every fight I feel like I can fight for 25 minutes. So there’s no pressure. I think I train better when there’s no pressure."
With a win, beyond Barao, Dominick Cruz looms, but the champion is still recovering from his knee problems, and Wineland said he would not want to lie inactive and wait for Cruz if the injury continues to keep him sidelined for too long. Before he truly contemplates that decision, he'll have to end Barao's incredible streak.