Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012 | 2:30 a.m.
- Debate rages on after Carlos Condit slips past Nick Diaz at UFC 143
- UFC 143 weigh-in: Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit keep their cool
- Tension brewing between Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce
- Renan Barao among the UFC’s most promising up-and-coming fighters
- UFC 143 breakdown, betting odds and picks
- Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit promise a war at UFC 143
- Knee injury takes Georges St. Pierre off of UFC 143 in Las Vegas
- UFC coverage
- UFC 143 section
- All MMA/boxing coverage
If developing new stars for the two weight classes the UFC added a year ago remains a priority, the promotion may have taken two giant steps forward Saturday night at UFC 143.
Two fighters under the age of 25 confirmed their places among the top five in the world in their respective weight classes at the Mandalay Bay Events Center’s annual Super Bowl weekend card.
Dustin Poirier submitted UFC newcomer Max Holloway with an arm bar less than four minutes into their featherweight bout, while Renan Barao won a unanimous decision over former bantamweight top contender Scott Jorgensen.
“It is my objective to fight for the belt,” the 24-year old Barao said through a translator. “Whenever that is, if I have to wait in line, I’m here for it.”
Barao (28-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) and Poirier (12-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) could both fight for championships before the end of the year. Both are likely no more than one victory away from reaching top-contender status.
Poirier, 23, won his fifth straight Saturday and stayed unbeaten since dropping to the 145-pound division last year. He’s now finished 10 of 13 career opponents within the opening two rounds.
“When I do fight for that title, I want to take it and I want to hold it for a long time,” Poirier said. “So I’m just taking my time and building it fight by fight.”
Poirier has preached his desire to gradually climb to the top, but the time for patience may be running out for the Lafayette, La., native. The pool of challengers vying for featherweight champion Jose Aldo’s belt has started to dry up.
Aside from Poirier, Erik Koch and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung are the only top 145-pound fighters who haven’t faced Aldo. Poirier, who was supposed to face Koch at UFC 143 before an injury prevented the pairing, could face one of the two in his next bout to determine a top contender.
“I like those fights,” Poirier said. “Two guys on good win streaks, we’ll see what happens.”
Ideally, Poirier would like to spend a couple months working on his overall game before booking his next fight. Although it may not have looked like it recently, Poirier said he had plenty of areas where he needed to grow.
The game plan against Holloway was to come out methodical and pick him apart on the feet. That changed when Holloway attacked Poirier from the opening bell.
“He had nothing to lose and came in there throwing a lot of punches and kept the pressure on me,” Poirier said. “I had to close the distance, take him down and finish him.”
Defending against takedowns was supposed to be the area where Barao struggled against Jorgensen. But the Brazilian proved too quick on his feet and under control to succumb to any of Jorgensen’s advances.
Barao blew past Jorgensen in the stand-up, out-striking him by a wide margin. It’s unclear who will serve as Barao’s next opponent, as he seems to rank ahead of every bantamweight except Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber.
Cruz and Faber will clash for the title this summer. Barao could lurk for the winner.
“I have worked very hard and this feels great,” Barao said. “I was ready for this moment. The title is my goal. I train every day and I’m ready for it.”