It’s been eight months in the making. On Sunday night, former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Urijah Faber gets his chance to try and win back the title from the man that stripped him of it, Mike Thomas Brown. The two will lock horns at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif.
Brown was able to do what no other featherweight fighter in the world has ever done, stop Faber. When they met at WEC 36 in Hollywood, Fla. – in Brown’s backyard – he TKO’d the then-champ in just over two minutes of the opening round.
They’ve both fought twice since then, each scoring a quick first-round finish.
For Brown, this is the ultimate opportunity to prove he is no flash in the pan. For Faber, it’s his shot at redemption.
Both Brown and Faber are good strikers. Brown, fighting out of American Top Team, is the more clearly defined boxer of the two, stemming from the coaching he receives at ATT. He also packs a ton of power into his punches as both Faber and Leonard Garcia have felt. He caught Faber with a hook that sent him reeling back against the cage then dropped him with an uppercut. Brown put Garcia down, and nearly out, with an overhand right. So, it’s quite obvious that Brown has an assortment of angles from which to deliver the power in his hands.
Faber, on the other hand, is a much more unorthodox striker than Brown, and brings a much more broad arsenal of strikes into the cage. His hands don’t pack the power of Brown’s, but what he lacks in power, he makes up for in hand speed. Faber is also much more versatile with his striking. In addition to his hands, he’s not afraid to throw spinning backfists and elbows, as well as launching an assortment of kicks, and driving knees from the clinch.
Brown and Faber have similar ground games. Both are excellent wrestlers. Although Faber is better in pure wrestling skill, Brown’s large size for a featherweight helps to make him very successful in implementing his takedowns for MMA, something he was able to do against Faber in their first fight.
Although Brown is more likely to score the takedown due to his size, Faber, a tremendous athlete, is great at neutralizing the takedown with his quickness, typically able to get back to his feet rather quickly. And if the fight gets into a scramble, Faber will be able to utilize his quickness and superior skills to end up with the better position.
The two pretty much neutralize each other in submissions. Both have strong submission games, but both are also rather adept at defending them as well. Neither is likely to get caught in a submission.
Top position on the ground is a whole other matter. If the fight goes to the ground, whoever gains top position gains a huge advantage. Both are ultra-aggressive when they are able to take top position on the ground, unleashing a relentless barrage of punches and elbows that most opponents aren’t able to get out from under. Again, Brown’s size gives him a little help in this category.
This is a strong area of separation for Brown and Faber. While Brown isn’t necessarily a counter fighter, he’s not as persistent in his pursuit as Faber. Almost to a fault, Faber constantly moves forward, stalking his opponents, even leaving himself open at times – like he did against Brown in the first fight – in trying to push the pace and finish the fight.
In their first meeting, this cost Faber the bout as he made a mistake while moving forward and got caught. He displayed a renewed aggression in his last fight – a dominating performance against Jens Pulver – so it’s unlikely that he’ll back off, he’ll just be a little more calculated in his pursuit.
Although his patience paid off in their first fight, if Brown hangs back too long in this one, chances aren’t high that he’ll be able to duplicate the result. If Faber can push the pace the way he’s used to, Brown could be overwhelmed, much like most of Faber’s other opponents.
Conditioning hasn’t come into play for either fighter in a long time and it’s not likely to in this fight either. Both guys come in ready to go, with a full tank of gas and then some. It is a five-round fight, so Faber’s usual frenetic pace could push Brown farther than he’s ever been pushed before if they go into the championship rounds. But outside of that, don’t expect either fighter to fade much.
The “X” Factor
The biggest “X” factors in this one are likely to be Faber fighting on his home turf and his desire to be “the man” in the WEC. Fighting at home can be a distraction, but Faber, more than most other fighters, feeds off of his fans. Fighting in his own backyard is only likely to energize him. That coupled with his standing in the WEC are huge issues for Brown to overcome. When Zuffa purchased the WEC and re-launched it in Las Vegas, Faber quickly became the foundation upon which the organization was built. He relishes that position and wants to retain it.
Where the hometown distractions could have an effect on Faber’s game, Brown’s “simple man” attitude and humility could be just what he needs to overcome the former champ’s desire to return to the top. Brown is a “nose to the grindstone” kind of guy that guts it out every day in a room full of world-class fighters. He doesn’t feed off the spotlight. He relishes in his pursuit of just working hard to prove himself in the cage, time and time again.
Keys to Victory
–Needs to remain focused as Faber pushes the pace
–Get the takedown, securing top position
–Don’t get caught in a wrestling match
–Capitalize on any mistakes
–Be aggressive, but calculated
–Stuff Brown’s takedowns
–Don’t rush the fight
–Don’t make mistakes; Brown will capitalize