Two of the most experienced bantamweights in the world will rematch this Saturday night (Feb. 26, 2013) as former WEC champion Urijah Faber takes on Ivan Menjivar on the UFC 157 main card in Anaheim, California.
Faber has experienced a very up-and-down career as of late, winning every fight that didn't involve a championship belt but coming up short when the title was on the line. He'll be trying to at least keep the good part of that streak alive by defeating Menjivar.
Menjivar was on a roll in the bantamweight division before Mike Easton cooled him off. He bounced back by taking out a talented prospect in his last fight, but he's looking for a much bigger resume-padding victory against Faber, a man he was disqualified against in the past.
Will Faber keep his non-title fight winning streak alive? Can Menjivar earn revenge for that disqualification over seven years ago? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 26-6 overall, 2-2 in the UFC
How he got here: After cutting his teeth in the Gladiator Challenge and King of the Cage promotions on the local California circuit, Urijah Faber had compiled an 11-1 record and was given a title shot in his WEC debut against champion Cole Escovedo, which he won after a second round corner stoppage.
Faber would defend his title five times over the next two years, becoming the face of the organization in the process during a 12 fight winning streak. At WEC 36, he would lose his title to Mike Brown after a spinning back elbow attack backfired and he was knocked out in the first round. Faber would earn another shot at Brown and in one of 2009's best fights, he'd continue battling despite breaking both hands early in the match, choosing instead to lunge forward with elbow strikes although he would lose a decision.
After Brown lost his title to Jose Aldo, all eyes were on Faber to take on the young Brazilian at the first ever WEC pay-per-view. "The California Kid" would fall short to Aldo in a gritty performance, absorbing some awful leg kicks for five straight rounds. Faber made the decision to drop to bantamweight afterwards.
At 135 pounds, Faber has gone 2-2 including a unanimous decision victory over former bantamweight champ Eddie Wineland at UFC 128 in his debut with the promotion. He gave champion Dominick Cruz the toughest fight of his bantamweight career at UFC 132, but came up short in the decision.
Faber earned another shot at "The Dominator" with a devastating victory over former champion Brian Bowles, and after a season of hype on The Ultimate Fighter, Cruz went down with an injury. Instead, he settled for an interim title shot against Renan Barao, which he again lost via unanimous decision last summer.
Now, he'll try to once again get back in the mix against a tough veteran in Menjivar.
How he gets it done: Faber needs to push the pace. He's a cardio machine and has all the tools to really make this a rough day for Menjivar.
Faber should go after "The Pride of El Salvador" both on the feet and with takedowns, really making the Tristar fighter work all over the Octagon.
Menjivar is tough as nails, but he can be hurt, and has been hurt in the past. Faber has the power in his punches to wobble the veteran and he's strong enough in the grappling department to not only take him down, but to really punish the Canadian transplant with ground and pound and even submissions.
Pressure will be key here as Menjivar got himself in trouble against Mike Easton simply because he was forced to fight off his heels for the majority of the bout. If Faber can push the pace, move forward and make Menjivar fight on his back foot again, he won't have an answer for it.
Record: 25-9 overall, 4-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Ivan Menjivar has had a long and arduous career in mixed martial arts, especially considering he just turned 30 last year. Originally hailing from El Salvador, his family left the country when war was breaking out as a child and he surprisingly grew up in Canada where he found a love for the martial arts.
By 2001, he was competing professionally and because of the lack of smaller weight classes, he was forced to fight men much bigger than him. In fact, he fought Georges St. Pierre in just his fourth pro bout. "The Pride of El Salvador" eventually worked his way to a shot in the UFC where be battled eventual champion Matt Serra, losing a decision
Menjivar fought all over the world, from Japan to Manitoba, going into a state of semi-retirement after losing to Bart Palaszewski in the IFL due to injuries and personal life. Four years later, he returned and was given a shot in the WEC where he had a Fight of the Year candidate against Brad Pickett get overshadowed by Anthony Pettis' "Showtime Kick."
The Tristar Gym product got another shot in the UFC and made the most of it, crushing Charlie Valencia with a brutal elbow at UFC 129 and then eeking out a close decision against Nick Pace at UFC 133. He faced a stern test early against John Albert but weathered the storm to earn a first round finish in one of 2012's most entertaining one-round scraps.
Menjivar finally experienced his first setback against Mike Easton, withering to "The Hulk's" constant pressure via decision, but he bounced back in a big way at UFC 154 by easily submitting top prospect Azamat Gashimov via armbar in the first round.
He'll have an opportunity to make everyone completely forget about the Easton loss if he can put Faber away on Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Menjivar is still improving with his technique. He's very tough, can take a shot, keeps coming and pushes a tremendous pace. Having a good well-rounded skill-set will help him hang with a very talented fighter like Faber again.
Menjivar is competent on the ground, holding his own against men significantly larger than him for years, but expect to see him try to keep this fight standing. "The Pride of El Salvador" will want to work some kicks before closing the distance and looking for either power punches on the inside or potentially an opportunity to land his brutal elbows like he did against Charlie Valencia in his UFC return.
Keeping proper distance will be key here as Menjivar does not want to be backed up for three straight rounds and he most likely doesn't want to fight off his back as he's going to have a much more difficult time slapping on an armbar against Faber as he did against Gashimov in his last bout.
Leg kicks have been the bane of Faber's existence in the past and Menjivar possesses some talented kicking skills. Don't be surprised to see him try to wing some from the outside until Faber catches on to his game. If he can slow "The California Kid" down, he's got a shot of pulling off a big upset.
Who will come out on top at UFC 157? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!