Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao will make his featherweight debut against Jeremy Stephens at UFC Fight Night 88 on May 29th, 2016.

Barao’s struggles with making the bantamweight limit of 135 pounds has been well documented. Most notably, he pulled out of his rematch with T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 177 after collapsing and getting hospitalized due to weight cut on the day before the fight. Barao just fought once in 2015, and that was the rescheduled rematch with Dillashaw at UFC on Fox 16 where he lost again by TKO in the 4th round.

Weight Issues

Prior to his two losses to Dillashaw, Barao owned one of the longest unbeaten streaks the sport had ever seen. After losing in his first ever MMA bout, Barao went unbeaten in his next 32 bouts ( winning 31 times and being held to a no-contest in 1 fight ) over a period of over 9 years. At UFC 149, he captured the interim UFC bantamweight championship by defeating Urijah Faber. Two fights later, he was promoted to regular champion status after Dominick Cruz was unable to return due to injury. Known as the Baron, Barao is 10-2 under the UFC and WEC, picking up significant wins over Faber ( twice ), Eddie Wineland and Michael McDonald.

Back Against The Wall

Jeremy Stephens meanwhile has his back against the proverbial wall. Ranked 8th in the UFC’s featherweight division, Stephens has lost three of his last four bouts, including his most recent outing against Max Holloway at UFC 194 last December 12, 2015. Although just 11-11 in the UFC, the Alliance MMA fighter is 24-12 overall with 16 KOs and 3 submissions. He owns notable wins over Cole Miller, Dennis Bermudez and current lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos.

Power Versus Skill

Like Barao, Stephens moved to a different weight class three years ago. But instead of moving up, Li’l Heathen moved down from 155 pounds to featherweight. Although he hasn’t had any weight issues, Stephens has struggled to a 4-3 record since fighting at 145 pounds. But against Barao, this heavy handed ( 16 KOs in 24 wins ) Alliance MMA product may have the edge in power. If Barao had a hard time dealing with the power of  bantamweight in Dillashaw, what more for a featherweight who once fought as a lightweight and knocked out Rafael Dos Anjos way back in 2008. Skill-wise however, it’s the Baron who has the edge with a more complete game.

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