Former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Featherweight Champion takes on former No. 1 WEC Bantamweight challenger, Scott Jorgensen, this Saturday (April 13, 2013) at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Throughout his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, Faber has constantly been at the top. After defending his 145-pound WEC belt five times, the most of any fighter for the now-defuncy promotion, Faber hit a championship rough patch. Losing two title shots, with a win over Jens Pulver sandwiched between, Faber decided to drop down to Bantamweight.
Faber began his 135-pound career with a first round submission over Takeya Mizugaki. Then, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) absorbed the WEC. Faber won his Octagon debut via decision, and then lost to UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. He then smashed current top division contender, Eddie Wineland, before losing to Renan Barao, the interim Bantamweight UFC champion who took over while "Dominator" recovered from multiple injuries.
Despite the failures in title bouts, Faber responded once again, crushing a fellow top fighter, Ivan Menjivar, with ease at UFC 157.
Believe it or not, with a win over Jorgensen, Faber will likely be in the running for another title shot. That's because regardless of his recent losses to champions, a win over Jorgensen would easily make him the most qualified challenger.
However, does he have the ability to beat "Young Guns" in "Sin City?"
Let's find out:
Faber keeps a low stance, which is capable of a quick takedown or hard punch. Despite relying almost solely on his right hand, Faber's stand up is quite dangerous.
Almost all of Faber's power punches are his right hand. Faber has a very effective overhand, straight and hook. He sets all of them up the same way, simply leaping forward and winging the punch. This works quite well for Faber because his opponent cannot tell if he's going for a takedown.
Another solid tool in "The California Kid's" arsenal is his uppercut. Instead of using uppercuts in the clinch, Faber prefers to throw them from long range as a lead. This is a very risky technique, but Faber gets away with it because of his quickness and reflexes.
Faber is able to get away with relying on his right hand because of how well he feints with takedowns. Faber frequently lowers his level, trying to get a reaction out of his opponent. If they start to fall for his feints, Faber will explode forward with a punch.
On the rare occasion Faber does use his left hand, he'll throw a left hook. Like his right hook, Faber likes to leap in when he throws the left hook. Unlike the right hook, he throws this as the start of a combo, often finishing with his right hand. Despite its lack of use, Faber's left hook is pretty powerful, as he used it to repeatedly rock Pulver.
Although he has done well standing with some elite strikers, Faber's striking flaws are the reason for every one of his losses. Mainly, his left hand is underutilized and he doesn't deal with kicks very well.
Faber's disdain for using his left hand is costly. Since he doesn't really have a jab, he can't set up strikes very well and has trouble maintaining (and closing) distance. This means he gets clipped while attempting to get close enough to land big punches often.
In addition to his lack of a jab, Faber lacks any real kicking threat. That means when a skilled striker, Jose Aldo for example, keeps him at the end of his kicks, Faber has no response.
A high school wrestler and football player, Faber wrestled for UC Davis before transitioning to MMA. Despite his constantly improving striking ability, his best game plan is still to take down his opponents and carve them up with elbows.
Faber is capable from wrestling from any position but prefers to shoot for a double or single leg. Faber is exceptionally quick and almost always manages to get in deep on the takedown. Once he does, Faber will drive, lift, and trip his opponent until they are on the mat. In particular, Faber is excellent at blasting through his opponent and then slamming them to the mat.
Throughout his career, Faber has become an expert at masking his takedown attempts with strikes. Additionally, many of Faber's strikes lead into takedown attempts. For example, in the .gif below, Faber lands a powerful straight right hand. Notice his leg placement after the punch lands -- if his punch hadn't dropped or Assuncao hadn't connected at all, he was in the process of shooting.
Once Faber gets on top of his opponent, he likes to stay in guard. If the pass is there, he'll take it, but most times, Faber just tears up his opponent with elbows. He normally allows his opponent to control his arm, often with an overhook, then rips it out and slashes downward with an elbow. Afterward, he'll put his arm back in the overhook and repeat the process. If he can't get his arms out of his opponent's grasp he'll pick them up and slam them to loosen their grip.
Faber is very difficult to takedown. Cruz had a little bit of success, while Mike Brown managed to successfully get, but not hold, Faber down repeatedly. Brown's immense strength benefited him greatly, as did Faber's injured hands.
Of all the elite fighters at Team Alpha Male, Faber has the best jiu-jitsu. "The California Kid" has earned a brown belt under Fabio Prado and actually competed in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, an elite grappling competition, in 2005, where he won his first match before losing to a very accomplished black belt.
Looking at Faber's record, it's pretty clear that the Californian loves chokes, as all of his submission victories come from either a guillotine choke or a rear naked choke. Both chokes are greatly aided by Faber's immense upper body strength.
First, we'll look at the choke Faber's become known for, the guillotine. Faber prefers the Marcelo Garcia style guillotine, or Marcelotine. Here's what I wrote about the Marcelotine in my Ultimate Submission's post concerning front chokes:
When done properly, the person doing the guillotine will do his best to push his inside elbow (the one doing the actual choking) down towards his hips while the outside elbow raises up towards his chin.
This derives pressure from the oblique muscles as well as the arms twisting into the neck.
When doing a Marcelotine, a full guard is perhaps the worst guard to finish in. Instead, a half butterfly is recommended. The person attacking with the guillotine should utilize a butterfly hook on the side of the choke (the lower elbow side) while throwing their other leg over his shoulder on the other side.
Instead of a butterfly hook, Faber likes to hook his inside leg on his opponent's hip or let it sit in between his opponent's legs. Faber gets a majority of his guillotine victories from the front head lock position, either by snapping his opponent down or countering his attempt to stand up.
Faber is also very good at finishing the guillotine from the mount. In fact, Faber is so incredibly strong and has such a good understanding of leverage that he can put immense pressure on his opponent with a single arm, which is a very difficult technique to master. Faber hit this one-armed finish on Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in their first fight and finished Brian Bowles with the regular grip from mount.
Faber is excellent at getting his opponent's back. He frequently sneaks in his hooks while his opponent tries to get back to their feet, often after controlling them with a headlock. One of the most interesting things Faber does is bait his opponent to stand up. He'll stand up above them, slightly out of range of their upkicks. When they go to stand up, Faber will deftly jump behind them, and suddenly, he's on their back with a rear naked choke locked up.
Against skilled grappler Ivan Menjivar, Faber executed one of the smoothest back takes in the history of the UFC. While he was baiting Menjivar to stand up, Menjivar obliged, and Faber attempted to take his back. As he hopped around, all he was able to catch was one of Menjivar's arms.
Essentially, he had a standing crucifix. This is a very difficult position to finish the choke, and since the person attacking is suspended in midair, it's very difficult to get full back mount.
Apparently, it's not very hard for "The California Kid."
The way Faber took the back was brilliant. When Menjivar attempted to shake Faber off, Faber used the momentum to swing his leg around. From there, he locked up the body triangle, followed by the rear naked choke.
It's also worth noting how Faber gets his rear naked choke once he achieves back mount. Instead of fighting hands and trying to slip his arm under the neck, Faber forces the choke. He'll get his arm around his opponent's chin and then start squeezing.
He doesn't care that their chin is down, as he leaves them with two options: try to tough it out(which is near impossible against someone with Faber's strength), or allow his arm to slip under the neck. So far, everyone Faber has faced has decided to let him have their neck, including Menjivar.
Faber is excellent in his opponent's guard. He may not be the best at passing, but his pressure is second to none. Faber is able to contain his opponent and completely nullify their submission attempts. Using his strength, Faber avoids every submission his opponents attempt by never allowing them to contain him. It's a testament to his BJJ defense that in thirty three professional fights, he has never been submitted.
While Faber's athleticism plays a huge role in his success, his toughness is more important. Plenty of incredible athletes fail because they don't have the ability to tolerate the pain that comes with being a fighter.
It's hard to tell how tough a fighter is until they're examined under fire. When Faber is getting punished, he endures and continues trying to win, even when completely outclassed or injured.
When Faber fought Featherweight champion Jose Aldo, it was clear pretty early that the champion was keeping his belt. Aldo brutalized Faber with punches, knees, and above all, leg kicks. By the end of the night, Faber's leg was purple and he could barely stand.
But, he never gave up.
Additionally, Faber proved his heart in his second fight against Mike Brown. Faber broke his right hand pretty early in the fight and then injured his left a couple of rounds later. Instead of opting out, Faber threw elbows and kicks. While he ultimately lost the decision, he still did some damage and made the fight close.
Best chance for success
This is very much Faber's fight to lose, so while it may be too late to change his entire game, it'd be good for Faber to work on a couple of things in his fight against Jorgensen. First, he needs to at least try to use his left hand to jab or hook. If he wants to defeat either champion, getting better with his left is a must.
Next, he should try to check every kick Jorgensen throws. This is only Faber's second fight since hiring former Muay Thai champion "Bang" Ludwig, and since the first only spent around thirty seconds on the feet, it will be interesting to see how his striking has improved. It would be very good for Faber to practice checking kicks against a live opponent. Again, both champions throw powerful kicks, so Faber needs to practice checking them if he wants to do better in potential rematches.
Other than working on his flaws, Faber should continue to do what he always does. If he mixes his takedown attempts and power right hands like he usually does, he'll be able to capitalize on Jorgensen's poor head movement and get takedowns. It's a five round fight; he'll likely get a choke eventually.
Will Faber mangle another top contender in a non-title fight, or will Jorgensen play spoiler?
For a closer look and "Complete Fighter Breakdown" of Jorgensen be sure to click here.