Photo of Urijah Faber via SBnation.com
On Sat., Nov. 19, at UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif., Urijah Faber beat up Brian Bowles to ensure that he would get another chance to square off against his nemesis, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, in a trilogy match-up for which the "California Kid" has been asking for since he was defeated at UFC 132 earlier this year.
The last time Faber and Cruz met, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans were treated to a five-round throwdown, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the top fights of 2011.
Though a date and event have not yet been confirmed, it's certain that these two will share the Octagon once more in 2012 in a fight for the 135-pound strap.
"The California Kid" believes things will be different this time. Of course he does. He has to say that. However, during an appearance on HDNet's Inside MMA, Faber said he believes the difference, this go-round, will be his ever-improving hands:
"He's not dangerous. He's a world champion and there's a reason why he's there. He has my respect, but he doesn't have my respect when it comes to punching power or danger. I'll walk right through his punches and march forward. It's just gonna be tracking him down and scoring more points on the way to finishing him."
Faber exhibited some of this new and improved striking ability during his fight against Bowles. He feels like it was an exhibition of how his punching and ground game are finally starting to come together as one:
"I feel like I was just seeing stuff. I feel like it's just a matter of time before my hands really come into their own. It's a matter of time. You know, I've been wrestling since the eighth grade. That's second nature to me. I've been doing jiu-jitsu at a high level for a long time. It's just getting to the point where my hands and putting it all together is coming to fruition."
Although Faber takes a decent amount of criticism, he was quick to not take the praise for his maturation in the stand-up game. He gives all the praise to his instructor, Master Tong:
"Yeah, I gotta say, my instructor, Master Tong, he's been a guy that's one of the top boxing coaches in the world. He's been with me for almost three and a half to four years. I've really started to see the pay-outs from working with him. I get more and more comfortable. I see it in my sparring. Our whole camp is getting great."
Though Faber doesn't believe he's ever been a poor striker, by any stretch, he definitely feels like he's come a long way. His goal isn't to settle or stay where he is. He's constantly trying to improve and predicts big things for the future:
"I'm a better striker every day. It's crazy. I do a lot of things to work on it. You know, I haven't been bad. I've had a lot of great fights. I've been knocking guys down the last four fights. I've either knocked them down or shook 'em, at least and wobbled 'em. You're gonna see my best knockouts coming in the near future."
Only time will tell if he's right, or if it's just sour grapes. Either way, the trilogy rubber match should settle things once and for all. No more excuses.
Do you Maniacs think Faber has what it takes to knockout Cruz or is it just wishful thinking? Is there anyone in the bantamweight division who can give "The Dominator" a run for his money?