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Barao v McDonald announced for Wembley Arena

ESPN staff
December 6, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
Belt-ing start for Wembley card

Thursday brought massive news for the UK MMA scene with the announcement that the February 16 card at London's Wembley Arena will host an interim bantamweight title fight between Renan Barao and Michael McDonald.

The UFC confirmed several bouts on its official Twitter account on Thursday morning, with Brits Terry Etim, Paul Sass, Che Mills, Andy Ogle, Vaughan Lee and Phil Harris all confirmed for the event.

But the major news surrounded the main event, as Brazilian sensation Barao - undefeated in 29 fights - takes on arguably the most exciting young talent in the UFC, McDonald. It will be the first title fight on UK soil since BJ Penn fought Joe Stevenson in 2008.

As interim title holder at 135lbs, Barao had been waiting for his chance to meet champion Dominick Cruz but that plan was shelved due to an injury setback for Cruz. Now Barao will have to defend his interim strap, against a man who has never lost in the UFC.

McDonald brings explosive knockout power and an extremely well-rounded skill-set, way beyond his 21 years. Barao, who has previously beaten England's Brad Pickett, outclassed Urijah Faber in his last outing and will surely start the night as favourite.

Elsewhere, the highly-talented Terry Etim returns against Renee Forte, a Brazilian boasting a 7-2 record, coming off a loss to Sergio Moraes at UFC 153. Etim has not fought since a January 12 loss to Edson Barboza due to a shoulder injury and staph infection.

In the welterweight division, Matt Riddle gets his wish to fight another Brit after being paired with Che Mills. Riddle will almost certainly be the least popular man in London after his digs at the British public, but he is coming off a win over John Maguire and will be a tough test for Mills, whose last outing ended prematurely due to an injury to Duane Ludwig.

Paul Sass gets the chance to get back in the winner's circle following defeat to Matt Wiman by taking on another experienced rival in 33-year-old Danny Castillo. The American lost to Michael Johnson last time out, but won his previous three including a victory over Anthony Njokuani.

Vaughan Lee, recently rumoured to be fighting Urijah Faber, has actually been paired with Motonobu Tezuka of Japan, who lost on UFC debut via split decision to Alex Caceres. Andy Ogle, meanwhile, will meet Josh Grispi at featherweight, knowing he cannot afford to lose to a man who is on a three-fight losing streak.

And February 16 will also play host to Europe's first UFC flyweight encounter, with Brit Phil Harris taking on Ulysses Gomez. Harris has 21 wins to his name, 13 by submission, but lost on UFC debut to Darren Uyenoyama. Also coming off a loss is Gomez, who was knocked out by John Moraga in his last fight.

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