For more than 30 fights and nine long years, Renan Barão was a force to be reckoned with at bantamweight.
Barão was unbeatable. The Brazilian took out guys like Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland. Then T.J. Dillashaw came around and scored one of the biggest upsets when he was able to outmove and outstrike Barão on his way to a fifth-round TKO victory. After picking up a win over Mitch Gagnon, Barão fell short yet again in a rematch with Dillashaw, this time losing an even more lopsided fight in which he suffered a TKO loss in the fourth round.
Barão has struggled with more than just Dillashaw in his time as bantamweight, though. The Brazilian also faced troubles with the scales that infamously took him out of an earlier rematch with Dillashaw just three months after their first fight. While that bad weight cut wasn’t the end of his bantamweight career, the calls began to come in for him to move up a weight class. Barão had been great at bantamweight, but the weight cut was inevitably taking a toll on him.
Now, however, Barão is faced with yet another predicament. He dropped his first fight at featherweight against Jeremy Stephens. The move up in weight should have conceivably helped Barão. It didn’t. Instead, Barão is stuck in a sort of weight limbo. His body punishes him when he attempts to cut to 135 pounds, but he looked small and out of his element against Stephens at 145 pounds.
The cut to bantamweight isn’t a good long-term idea for Barão, who is still nearly a year away from his 30th birthday. The excessive stress on his body could lead him down a bad path of health problems in his later years. A failed weight cut was enough to pull him out of a rematch against Dillashaw for a world title, and the same fate could befall him again. He didn’t fare well in the second Dillashaw fight either. He looked drain and completely out of it on fight night.
The 145-pound division seemed to be the optimal weight class for Barão. The cut wouldn’t be so bad, after all. However, he suffers from being a smaller fighter against featherweight opponents, and his power can only take him so far against bigger fighters. At bantamweight, he enjoyed an advantage in reach, height and even in the strength department, but those advantages will be harder to come by at featherweight. Stephens is one of the better fighters in the division and Barão couldn’t compete with him. Against the upper echelon likes of Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Lamas or, if he ever got far enough, champion Conor McGregor, things don’t shape up well for the former bantamweight champion.
Barão’s best bet might be at bantamweight if he can get the diet and nutrition down to make the cut wreak less havoc on his body. There is only so far he can go down the nutrition path to lead to a better cut, though, and it’s only a guess to how he has handled that part in previous cuts. However, that’s the easier path to success for the Brazilian. Barão can’t magically grow a couple of inches and stretch out his arms to make him more competitive in the ring as a featherweight.
Of course, some of the burden could be placed on Barão’s loss to Dillashaw. Since their first fight, Barão hasn’t looked anywhere near the same fighter who couldn’t be beat for 30 fights. The confidence in his striking seems to have diminished and the holes in his game continue to look more and more prevalent. Barão’s case of the yips could be the overwhelming reason why he hasn’t looked well in his previous fights. He has looked a lot less like a killer, and he’s been more timid in picking his strikes. If he can fix those problems, then Barão could have a chance to reclaim the bantamweight title that is now held by Dominick Cruz. Right now, though, Barão looks like a fighter without a weight class.