In the co-main event of UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones," former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber will take on former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland in a 135-pound scrap that will mark both fighters' official Octagon debuts.
UFC 128: "Shogun vs. Jones" will take place this Saturday night (10 p.m. ET to be specific) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Faber will look to transfer the dominant reign he had as a featherweight into his more natural weight class of 135 pounds. So far so good: "The California Kid" made a successful bantamweight debut at WEC 52 when he submitted former WEC bantamweight title challenger Takeya Mizugaki.
Wineland, meanwhile, has recently enjoyed a career renaissance, defeating his last four opponents, two of which earned him "Knockout of the Night" honors. In his most recent fight, Wineland scored a highlight reel knockout slam over Ken Stone that had fans jumping out of their seats in amazement.
Will Faber continue to have success in his new weight class and make a run at the division champion or will Wineland be able to steal the spotlight from the former WEC poster boy?
Let's find out after the jump:
Record: 18-6 overall, 5-2 in the WEC
How he got here: "New Breed" was the first WEC bantamweight champion and the first champion in the promotion's history. But it didn't last long after losing his title to Beebe, which he followed up with a loss to Rani Yahya. Undeterred, Wineland worked his way back up the division ladder rung-by-rung on the regional circuit. In fact, since the loss to Yahya, Wineland has racked up four wins in a row, demonstrating there is a competitive fire that still burns bright inside him.
How he gets it done: Wineland needs to bring the action and not let Faber establish his rhythm. From there, the Chesterton, Indiana, native needs to use his reach and solid boxing skills to batter Faber as much as he can on the feet. Most people overlook the wrestling of Wineland, but his defensive wrestling and reflexes are very sharp. And he'll have to rely on those attributes in this fight because he cannot afford to let Faber put him on his back.
Record: 24-4 overall, 9-3 in the WEC
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (WEC 26), Jeff Curran (WEC 31), Jens Pulver (WEC 34, WEC 38)
How he got here: "The California Kid" is one of the most popular and marketable fighters from the WEC. And up until his meetings with Mike Brown and Jose Aldo, Faber was one of the most dominant featherweight fighters in the history of the division. He defeated the likes of Jeff Curran, Jens Pulver, Bibiano Fernandes, Raphael Assuncao and also gave current UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, his first and only loss. Now having already moved down in weight and defeating Takeya Mizugaki via rear naked choke, Faber has his sights set on making another run at "The Dominator" in 2011.
How he gets it done: The Team Alpha Male team leader gets it done by mixing up his striking with his takedowns. Despite being picked apart by current UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Faber still has very solid striking skills and once he can use his striking to get in on the hips of Wineland, look for Faber to take Wineland for a ride. Once Faber can put Wineland on his back, look for "The California Kid" to implement his tremendous ground game and work for a submission, or possibly a technical knockout.
Fight "X factor:" The submission arsenal of Faber could very well come into play this weekend. Whether Faber is on top or on the bottom in this fight, he is incredibly crafty and dangerous. Wineland has not been known for his submissions, or submission defense for that matter, losing four of his six career defeats via tapout.
Bottom line: Most people have Faber winning this fight, myself included. Wineland is a tremendous talent, but he's a two-dimensional fighter (wrestler/striker), where as Urijah attacks from wrestling, submissions and striking. I see Faber stifling Wineland, working angles on the feet and when Faber gets tired of standing with Wineland, Faber will bring the fight to the mat and finish the fight from there. "The California Kid" should win this fight convincingly, but it won't be easy because Wineland is a scrapper and will come prepared to throw down and leave it all on the line.
Who will take the next step up the bantamweight ranks? Let your voice be heard!