It may have taken nine months to come to fruition, but tonight's UFC 132 main event between bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and number one 135-pound contender Urijah Faber is the type of exciting showdown that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) likely had in mind when it dissolved World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in Oct. 2010.
In fact, their bantamweight brawl will mark the first time ever that two former WEC fighters will headline a major UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event. And while there seems to be relatively little buzz for the marquee match up, with Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben and Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader getting the lion's share of the attention, don't expect it to disappoint.
That's because there is much more on the line than just championship gold.
"The Dominator" and "The California Kid," of course, have met before. Faber made quick work of Cruz back in 2007, submitting him in less than two minutes with a guillotine choke in their 145-pound scrap. The roles have since changed: Faber is now looking to capture bantamweight glory after trying unsuccessfully, twice, to regain his 145-pound belt from Mike Brown and Jose Aldo, respectively.
Cruz, meanwhile, who will make his Octagon debut later this evening at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, is out to showcase that he is indeed the class of the division, as well as prove that his initial loss to Faber was the exception rather than the rule.
This is one is all about respect, pride and position with company moving forward. And both men will have five rounds to prove their points.
During his run as WEC featherweight champion, Faber was the face of the promotion. He was heavily promoted, with most of his fights generating strong ratings. That all began to unravel when he dropped two fights to the aforementioned Brown and a third to "Scarface" in April 2010.
The Team Alpha Male product is now on a two-fight win streak, including a hard-fought decision win over Eddie Wineland in his promotional debut at UFC 128 in March of this year. There is likely nothing more that he, or the UFC, would like more than for him to go on another successful run, which can be marketed to the masses like the good 'ole days.
Cruz, on the other hand, can't seem to get in the good graces of most fans. Perhaps it's his perceived arrogance, his technical, bordering on robotic, stand up style or just his pretty face ... or all of the above. Regardless, if the reception he received at the UFC 132 weigh in is any indication, he's not the most well-liked champion on the company's roster.
Nonetheless, the "villain" role works just as well, if not better, than the wholesome traditional approach from a marketing perspective. Many fans will tune in to see him win, but many more will likely pay up just to see him lose. Ortiz and Josh Koscheck have got that down to a science.
All things considered, as long as Cruz and Faber deliver the performances of which they are capable, the promotion could not have dreamed of a better scenario for its inaugural WEC-inspired main event. And, with a Cruz win, or controversial Faber victory, we can probably expect another real soon in a trilogy fight.
Their faces, and bad blood, aren't going away after tonight when a new star is born. It's quite the opposite, actually.