When former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion Urijah Faber and Ivan Menjivar meet inside the Octagon tonight (Feb. 23, 2013) at UFC 157, which takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., it will be an interesting mixed martial arts (MMA) rematch of their 2006 collision.
For us West Coast MMA-watchers, it was Faber’s first step up against big-name, world-class opposition. At the time, it was considered a very brave move by his management, as Menjivar -- along with "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto -- was widely regarded as one of the best fighters in the world below 155 pounds.
Their fast-paced, rollicking bout ended in a disappointing "No Contest" after Faber absorbed a kick while downed. Fast-forward seven years, this latest one comes after both have had lengthy careers at the world-class level.
Menjivar, 4-1 in the UFC since returning in 2011, has shown his bulldozing power at 135 pounds. Forever cursed early in his career by taking on bigger guys such as Matt Serra and Jason Black, every Menjivar win at bantamweight on the proper stage is a fitting coda for a guy who labored for years giving up size. He was even George St. Pierre’s professional debut, so it’s easy to root for him.
Faber, forever crushing people in non-title bouts, has lost five consecutive title bouts, including a disappointing showing in his decision loss to Renan Barao in his last outing. A win for either guy would definitely put him into the title shot conversation as interim boss Barao and the injured champ, Dominick Cruz, eventually square off and settle claims to the throne.
Match up-wise, Menjivar may be one of the few in the division who Faber can’t simply overpower on brute force alone. "California Kid" may have to rely on his speed and better-versed striking to set up attacks instead of simply blowing through him, which is a reliable strategy for him against most foes.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 157 pay-per-view (PPV) main card showdown between Urijah Faber vs. Ivan Menjivar below:
Age and mileage are a concern for both, especially Faber, whose injuries in recent bouts and intense training regimen are red flags.
Menjivar’s never been a particularly technical striker, but he hits with huge power for a little guy – bantamweight bouts often resemble pillow fights with nobody getting buzzed, but that’s rarely the case when either of these guys connect.
Faber’s still the only guy I’ve seen drop the normally durable and elusive Cruz with a single shot, and the crushing force Menjivar generated into massive elbow strike that blew away Charlie Valencia was impressive. Many lighter-weight bouts are a kind of "go to the fridge and come back in 15 minutes" proposition to hear the decision after a long bout of two-way scrambles and trades.
Not this one. Not on your life.
Faber should have a speed edge, and he’s usually pretty good about parlaying that advantage on the feet. He used it to befuddle opponents like Jens Pulver and Brian Bowles in extended striking matches, and he’s smart enough to know that it will soften up a tough customer like Menjivar for a grappling-focused finishing push. He will definitely eat a shot or two in this one but he’s very durable and recovers quickly when nailed.
If there’s one concern since dropping to bantamweight, it’s that at times he hasn’t seemed to have the bottomless gas tank he had at 145 pounds, which could be a product of a hard weight cut, but his relative pound-for-pound strength has improved. He’ll sashay in-and-out, mixing in kicks and strikes, and giving Menjivar angles. He also remains one of the toughest fighters in the game to keep planted on his back, and he’ll scramble out of any bad positions that materialize.
Menjivar will become frustrated and reduced to heaving haymakers and home-run attempts, but Faber will keep piling up points, throwing in a takedown late in the second and third rounds to take a clean sweep on the cards to win via decision.
Faber by decision.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 157 PPV main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.