Aldo vs. Lamas, Cruz vs. Barao set for UFC 169 in Newark
Dominick Cruz will return to the UFC's octagon Feb. 1, 2014 in Newark, and he'll do so as the first of two champions to defend their titles on the Super Bowl Weekend event, UFC officials told Newsday.
Cruz will defend his bantamweight title against interim champion Renan Barao at UFC 169 at the Prudential Center.
The main event will feature Jose Aldo defending his featherweight championship belt against Ricardo Lamas.
Both bouts have been verbally agreed to by the fighters.
Earlier this month, it had been reported that Jon Jones would be defending his light heavyweight title against Glover Teixeira at UFC 169, but several days later, UFC president Dana White scrapped that plan.
Aldo (23-1), who hasn't lost a fight since 2005, last defended his title with a fourth-round stoppage of Chan Sung Jung at UFC 163 in August. Lamas (13-2) is the No. 2 ranked featherweight in the UFC and the winner of four straight.
Cruz (19-1) hasn't fought in more than two years because of a pair of knee surgeries. His last fight was a unanimous decision win over Demetrious Johnson on Oct. 1, 2011. Since then, Johnson dropped to flyweight and won that division's title.
White said last month that if Cruz couldn't return by February, it was possible that the UFC could strip Cruz of his title and instill Barao as the official champion.
"If he's not ready to go at the beginning of the year, then we'll have to make a decision," White said then.
Barao (33-1) has already defended his interim title twice since winning it against Urijah Faber in July 2012 and is currently the No. 6 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Barao was a last-minute replacement to fight Faber when Cruz first tore his ACL while he and Faber coached against each other on the live season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Also on the card is a heavyweight bout between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem. That bout very well could see the loser out of the UFC. The two heavyweights were originally scheduled to fight in November at UFC 167.
UFC has traditionally held its Super Bowl Weekend card in Las Vegas, but moved it to New Jersey this year since broadcast partner Fox will televise Super Bowl XLVIII from MetLife Stadium.