Chris Cariaso has lost to both UFC on Fuel TV 7 headliners. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
Two of the sport’s top bantamweights will bring contrasting traits and finishing abilities to their clash for the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship title in the UFC on Fuel TV 7 main event this Saturday at Wembley Arena in London.
Champion Renan Barao can take your back in a flash, and his challenger, Michael McDonald, can counter deftly with the division’s heaviest right hand. Chris Cariaso can tell you all about them.
When he fought “Barao” at the final World Extreme Cagefighting event in December 2010, Cariaso fell victim to the Brazilian’s elite scrambling and submission technique in less than four minutes. At UFC 130 in May 2011, Cariaso went the distance with McDonald, deflecting the Californian’s forward-charging style in a fashion that won him a nod from one of the three cageside judges.
In a recent interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” program, Cariaso -- the second Zuffa opponent for both “Barao” and McDonald -- shared his firsthand insights into what it was like to compete against both halves of the UFC on Fuel TV 7 headliner. What follows is a sampling of his observations:
“McDonald does hit very hard. He’s always looking for that big right hand -- that’s the main thing -- and he sets it up really well. When he comes with that aggressive [style], I think you’ve got to look for that. When I was fighting him, that’s what he was constantly trying to set up. Anytime I tried to move forward, he was trying to hit me with that right hand. You see it in all of his other fights; that’s what he’s putting everyone to sleep with.
“I felt like McDonald was just trying to box me the majority of the time. I didn’t see McDonald trying to kick as much and really trying to box a whole lot more. When it comes to the whole kicking and kind of like muay Thai style, “Barao” definitely brings a more full package than McDonald, [who is] kind of more versed in just the hands.
“What a lot of guys are trying to do is counter right after I kick, so that’s pretty much what [McDonald and “Barao”] were looking for. As soon as I kicked, they wanted to be on top of me as soon as I stepped my foot down.”
“What overwhelmed me was [“Barao’s”] grappling. Right away when I fought “Barao,” I felt like as soon as my guard opened, he was constantly trying to pass my guard. The second my guard opened, I was defending him trying to pass. He got a side mount and mounted me, and it was just a long … it was a long but short fight (laughs). He’s a freak of nature. I tried to attack one of his arms, but he started to pass, and as he started to pass, I tried to hit an escape on him, and as soon as I hit that escape, one hook was in; and before I knew it, I had a body triangle on me. Then I was trying to fight the body triangle as he was trying to attack my neck, so it was just kind of like one thing right after another. Basically, he was ready for each position that I was trying to escape to, and kind of was just ahead of me -- one step ahead.”
“McDonald, when he was in my guard, he wasn’t trying to pass so much; he was trying to work a little more ground-and-pound and kind of giving me a little better opportunity to set up my submissions, as well. If I was McDonald and [“Barao’s”] in my guard, I’d be looking to create space and get back to my feet, so I can work that boxing game. I would be fighting like hell to get back up [and] create space, because that was one thing that Barao was good at, was just sucking up all that space and not giving you any space to move.”
“I’ve never seen McDonald as a big wrestler, so I don’t see him wrestling too much with “Barao.” I kind of see him countering and boxing. That’s kind of the fight I see, kind of like sprawl-and-brawl-type style, like old Chuck Liddell style. I don’t think we’ll see much grappling. I think if there is going to be a takedown, it’s going to be from against the fence; it’s going to be some kind of body trip or some kind of trip like that. Neither one of them are big wrestlers; they’re kind of more defensive wrestlers. If I see them clinching up, they’re going to be kneeing each other, [and] working kind of [a] muay Thai clinch, and you’ll see takedowns from the clinch. That’s the thing I foresee happening, if we see any grappling at all, but I think we’re looking for five rounds of standing up.”
For Pegado: It definitely was my leg kicks ... that was working good when I started flurrying on my punches and then finishing with the leg kick. I remember I switched to right-handed, to orthodox stance, a little bit, and that seemed to be kind of working. I was trying to keep him guessing on what I’m going to throw; that was like the main thing. He was kind of countering with that right hand; he was waiting for that right hand. I just saw he was backing up a lot, and that was kind of frustrating for me. I watched all his tapes and watched him just move forward and just mow people over, and when we fought each other, I just saw that he was backing up the whole time and he wasn’t moving forward and just kind of made it a frustrating, hard fight for me. I was waiting for him to come forward at me blazing guns, and he didn’t. I don’t know what it was. I know in the first round he hit me on the top of the head, and maybe he hurt his hand, but I was kicking him; I was really attacking his arm. I wasn’t really kicking for his body in a sense. I was trying to kick that right arm, trying to start taking away that power. Maybe that had something to do with it.
For McDonald: I think that every time I’ve seen him work on kind of moving forward is when he always does the best. I think that with someone like “Barao,” if he gets you to wait on him, he’s going to get his game off and start putting the pressure on you, so I think that if [McDonald] moves forward on him, that’s going to help give him the edge.
I give it to “Barao.” I see a five-round battle between the two. My pick is “Barao” by decision.