In just a few days, at UFC 132: "Cruz vs. Faber," we will be treated to a wide array of different styles from a diverse pool of fighters. The main card is full of wrestlers (Tito Ortiz and Ryan Bader), strikers (Wanderlei Silva and Dennis Siver) and grapplers (Dong Hyun Kim and Carlos Condit).
And while the previously mentioned fighters are notable for various reasons, the main event is the most interesting, at least when it comes to style. While Dominick Cruz has emerged as the king of the 135-pound division with an eight fight win streak and a 17-1 record overall, it is the former WEC poster boy that remains his biggest test.
The reason for that is because the lone loss on the champ’s record is a first round submission to the current number one contender and his July 2 opponent, Urijah Faber.
Faber is an impressive 25-4 with losses to just three men: Mike Brown (twice), Jose Aldo and Tyson Griffin, all of which occurred while Faber was fighting in higher weight classes. He was the former 145-pound champion and is now on a collision course for a new title in his new division.
While many consider "The California Kid" to be a well rounded mixed martial artist having good wrestling and solid stand-up ability, some of his most notable victories have actually come by way of submission.
Let's look at Faber's history of being a choke artist.
Urijah Faber has submitted 11 opponents throughout his career and each one of those submission holds have been chokes, either the rear-naked or the guillotine. To catch up on the set up of those chokes, I have you covered here and here.
In March of 2007 Urijah Faber would enter into the WEC cage in Las Vegas, Nevada for the third time and had already established himself as the reigning and defending champion. Staring at him from across the cage was the 22-year-old undefeated (9-0) prospect, Dominick Cruz.
This is how it ended:
Cruz uses a textbook single leg to put Faber on his back and on the way down, Faber snatches his neck to attack with a guillotine choke. With Cruz in side control, it is exceedingly difficult to finish this choke since it requires less technique and more power. Because of that most guys will not even attempt to finish the choke but instead use it to control posture to scramble or improve position in lieu of burning out their arms.
From there Faber doesn’t concede position, as he snakes his right leg underneath Cruz and lifts his leg elevating Cruz and using the choke to finish the roll over. Before the roll, Faber has his left leg tight on the body of Cruz so when the roll is finished, his legs and body fall right into the mount. Still sitting with the guillotine choke Faber is in prime position to finish.
Gripping his hands and keeping his body tight to Cruz to prevent any leverage or room, Faber torques his body upwards increasing pressure on the choke. Cruz, in a very disadvantageous position, is left with few options and succumbs to the choke, tapping out in the first round.
Faber, a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Fabio Prado, a Carson Gracie Jr. disciple, has immense power in his grappling coupled with very good wrestling. To add to his brown belt, Faber also wrestled at the NCAA Division I level. His insane upper body strength would become a staple of his WEC run.
In June 2007, only three months after defeating Cruz, Faber would defend his title for the third time against Chance Farrar. While the opponent did not have the lucrative name of then prospect Cruz, the fight would end in a similar fashion.
Faber had already established dominance in his grappling against Farrar early in the first round. He would find himself in a very opportunistic position with minutes left in the frame.
Faber starts the clip on the back of Farrar standing. A lot of fighters tend to get shook off in this position, especially if they get too high on the back or slide off onto the side. Faber hugs snugly with a hook with his right leg preventing him from sliding off to the side. Farrar attempts to stand up and shake Faber off but succumbs to the monkey on his back.
Faber uses his weight and upper body strength to drag Farrar down to the mat, all the while with the rear-naked choke fully locked in. As soon as the fight hits the mat, the choke is tight as possible and Farrar is forced to tap.
Faber has always had a tremendously muscular upper body frame and carried plenty of strength in that frame. Someone so strong in the upper body will constantly find that he will have an easier time finishing chokes. Mixed with Faber’s technique, the added power only makes the chokes more constricting.
Later in the same year, Faber would return to defend his title yet again. This time the challenger was Jeff Curran who had already been established as a veteran of the sport with a career mark of 29-8 and was easily one of the most experienced fighters Faber had faced up to that point. Curran was 15-1 in his previous 16 bouts and had hoped to make his mark on the big stage for featherweights.
Faber has snatched Curran into a standing guillotine choke and viciously snaps him down head first into the mat. Again using tremendous upper body strength, Faber pulls the fight right where he wants it to finish the hold.
Once seated on the mat, Faber swings his left leg up and over the top of Curran and uses the right leg to sneak through underneath the body and onto the leg. His leg placement does a few things, including creating a very effective angle to put more pressure on the neck, which would make the choke all the more suffocating.
He also puts his legs in position to control Curran and if Curran were to try and sit up Faber would use the bottom leg to sweep much like he did against Cruz. At that point Curran was in deep trouble and tapped out giving Faber his third title defense.
By the time this next choke rolled around, Faber was facing adversity. He had just been dealt the second loss of his career, in devastating fashion, no less. After defending his title five times, Mike Brown derailed the champion with a vicious technical knockout stoppage.
On his way to redemption and another crack at Brown, Faber would rematch MMA legend Jens Pulver. Months prior, Pulver and Faber had just participated in a Fight of the Year candidate when the two went after each other for five full rounds en route to a decision victory, and final title defense, for "The California Kid."
Off a sprawl, Faber has controlled Pulver using his weight on top of the neck and shoulders. He swiftly locks in a guillotine choke and slides under to gain leverage. He throws the leg over the top of Pulver to create that angle and generate the torque for the hold; the submission comes so quickly that "Lil Evil" submits just seconds later.
The force that Faber is able to generate in the guillotine is so significant that Pulver barely makes any sort of effort to defend once the choke is locked on. That sort of power is a problem for anyone who shoots on Urijah -- or leaves their neck out in a scramble.
Faber would go on to face Mike Brown for the featherweight title only to lose, once again, and would return to rebound lane, as he would face Raphael Assuncao, a 15-1 Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
In a very compelling fight, Urijah would capitalize on Assuncao persevering with his impressive cardio and, yet again, his submission prowess.
With so much talk about Faber's power, we might have forgot to remember the agility, quickness and craftiness that he's possessed throughout his successful career.
In a scramble Faber moves quickly on Assuncao, as he is on four points, and leaps up and into standing back mount. Faber quickly gets a single hook and pulls Assuncao back and down to the mat. In similar fashion to the Farrar fight, Faber works for the choke on the way down instead of waiting to actually hit the floor.
As soon as the fighters hit the mat, Faber has the choke locked in and begins to apply the pressure. He stays tight on his body and before you know it, Tap City.
Talk about making a statement.
Unfortunately, Faber was not able to regain the featherweight title and would make the decision to drop a weight class in an attempt to be reborn as a bantamweight. He would make a statement when he beat Takeya Mizugaki and Eddie Wineland in consecutive fights, earning his spot as the main event of the UFC's Independence Day weekend blowout.
Will we see some fireworks before yet another fight ending choke this Saturday night? Time will tell.