Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver delivered an entertaining five-round battle the first time they met, the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title on the line in June of 2008. Faber is coming off a knockout loss to Mike Brown and Pulver has dropped back-to-back fights. There’s no belt at stake in the rematch, but both fighters are in need of a win.
Heading into their first bout, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone that thought Faber had an advantage in the striking department over Pulver. On that night, he beat Pulver to the punch, landed the better shots, and displayed his stand up abilities to the surprise of many.
Faber showed he had the faster hands in their first meeting and had Pulver in trouble a few times, but was unable to finish the veteran.
Pulver has one-punch knockout power and is always dangerous on his feet with the ability to end a fight at any moment.
While Faber did out strike Pulver the last time, the cat is out of the bag. Pulver will be more prepared for that facet of Faber’s game heading into this one.
Grappling and Submissions
Both fighters are good grapplers, but Faber has shown his wrestling, takedowns, and ground and pound to be some of the best in the world. Pulver is well versed in grappling, but Faber has a distinctive advantage on the ground.
Pulver did submit Cub Swanson in his WEC featherweight debut, but 10 of Faber’s 21 victories have come by way of submission, including recently catching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jeff Curran in a guillotine choke.
Faber has the advantage in both grappling and submissions, but Pulver’s not exactly a fish out of water on the ground.
In their first meeting, Faber controlled the majority of the fight and dictated the pace of the action. Expect him to do the same in the rematch with his fast, accurate punching and the threat of a takedown always looming.
The two went five rounds the last time, so conditioning shouldn’t be a factor for either fighter. Faber has a reputation for his work ethic and Pulver typically doesn’t get fatigued in fights. This category should not be a factor in the rematch.
The “X” Factor
There are a lot of intangibles to consider when looking at this match up. Urijah Faber has never suffered two losses in a row, and the last time he was defeated, he went on a 13-fight win streak.
Pulver didn’t want to fight in January, instead looking to a return in March. But when he was presented with the opportunity to rematch Faber, Pulver couldn’t turn down the fight. His wife recently gave birth to a son, which could add motivation or be a distraction. Pulver has also been faced with tragedy with the death of close friend Justin Eilers on Christmas, exactly a month ago.
We’ve seen fighters take personal tragedy and turn it into triumph several times. James “Buster” Douglas comes to mind with his 1990 knockout win over Mike Tyson, who looked unstoppable at the time. Ian Freeman did the same against Frank Mir at UFC 38. Vitor Belfort was able to pull off a win over Randy “The Natural” Couture at UFC 46 on the heels of the loss of his sister.
Pulver’s had a lot of distractions leading up to this fight, but whether they’ve affected him one way or another won’t be known until after the bout.
Keys To Success
Pulver has to let his hands go. He has to throw caution to the wind and make Faber pay in the stand up exchanges. He needs to avoid the takedowns, but most importantly, he needs to let his hands go and stay busy. When they clinch, he needs to fall back on the Miletich patented dirty boxing that he helped pioneer, and as soon as they have space, utilize his reach and constantly keep a hand in Faber’s face.
For Faber, he has to be careful not to make a mistake like he did in his last outing against Mike Brown. If given the opportunity, Pulver can end the fight with one shot. Faber utilized his striking to effect in their first meeting, but can’t fall back on the same gameplan. He needs to shake things up, look for takedowns, and keep Pulver constantly guessing.