Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 138 Preview: Renan Barao vs. Brad Pickett

The goal behind the SILVA experiment, from the very beginning, was to find out just how well fights could be predicted if the only information on hand was the wins and losses of a fighter. The simplest way of evaluating fighters with this limitation is to look at his overall record. If this was the case, I would conclude that Renan Barao was the best bantamweight in the world. At 26-1, Barao has won 26 fights in a row after losing in his professional MMA debut.

Of course, that’s not nearly enough information to make sound judgments on the relative merit of MMA fighters. At minimum, we need to know how good Barao’s opponents have been, and a look through his record reveals quite a few opponents who either had bad records or had no significant professional MMA experience. So how good is Barao really?

Well, with recent wins over Cole Escovedo and Chris Cariaso, Barao has at least shown the ability to beat very respectable bantamweight opponents. Don’t get me wrong, Escovedo and Cariaso aren’t at the top of anybody’s list of title contenders. But when a fighter is on such a long winning streak, it goes a long way to prove that it’s not a record like that of Jason Reinhardt. One way to describe it is to say that Barao has combined quality (beating Escovedo and Cariaso) with quantity (26 wins in a row). The result is that SILVA thinks Barao is one of the very best bantamweights in the world.

Is it enough to favor him to beat Brad Pickett, who is finally making his UFC debut this Saturday? It’s a good question; Pickett has gained notice by being one of two fighters to beat Demetrious Johnson (along with some guy named Dominick Cruz), and has also beaten Ivan Menjivar while losing a very competitive fight with Scott Jorgensen. And while Pickett can’t boast the same kind of sparkling record that Barao has, he did appear to fight much tougher competition on the regional circuit.

Here’s the problem with Pickett. He’s known as a very good striker, but it’s hard to make excuses for the number of Significant Strikes that have been landed in his last three fights:

  • Demetrious Johnson 47, Brad Pickett 25
  • Scott Jorgensen 84, Brad Pickett 45
  • Ivan Menjivar 84, Brad Pickett 69

Indeed, Pickett won his fights against Johnson and Menjivar not with his striking, but with his takedowns (he landed ten of them against Johnson in particular). That shouldn’t be easy to do against Barao, who has only been taken down once in his three fights in the WEC and UFC.

Another problem for Pickett is that he really doesn’t have that many fights against quality competition. In fact, I would go so far as to say that his last three WEC fights are his only such fights. Pickett might have more fights against average/OK opponents than Barao does, but I would say that each man has fought top competition three times. Barao is 3-0 in such fights; Pickett is 2-1.


I don’t want to pile on Pickett too much. His SILVA score of 60.65 currently ranks 8th in the bantamweight division, and I’d favor him to beat quite a few good opponents in the UFC. Unfortunately for Pickett, Renan Barao is not one of those fighters. Unlike Pickett, Barao has been consistently out-striking his opponents, and if Pickett tries to go to the takedown game, I anticipate that he’ll find that very difficult to execute. Don’t get me wrong, I think this will be a good fight, but I also think it will go Barao’s way.


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