A bantamweight title shot is on the line this Saturday night (November 19, 2011) as former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber takes on former WEC bantamweight champion Brian Bowles in a thrilling UFC 139 main card showdown.
Faber is a legend of the lighter weight classes, the former face of the WEC. He's coming off a thrilling five round war with champion Dominick Cruz and both he, fans and analysts alike are hoping for a rematch. After coming up short in his last 4 title fights, a victory over Brian Bowles could earn him his last shot at being a champion again.
Brian Bowles lost his title to Dominick Cruz in early 2010 and after recovering from the broken hand that cost him his belt, he's picked up right where he left off with two strong showings in the UFC. The Georgia resident is a fan-friendly finisher and he needs to get through Faber to earn another crack at the only man to ever defeat him.
Will Urijah Faber be the alpha male on Saturday night? Can Brian Bowles spoil Faber's California dreams? How does each former champion earn a victory at UFC 139?
Let's find out
Record: 25-5 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (WEC 26), Eddie Wineland (UFC 128), Takeya Mizugaki (WEC 52)
Key Losses: Dominick Cruz (UFC 132), Jose Aldo (WEC 48), Mike Brown 2x (WEC 41, WEC 36)
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 2-1 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. He's hoping for one more crack at "The Dominator" with a victory over Bowles.
How he gets it done: Faber needs to take advantage of Bowles' patience in his striking game by turning up his aggression. He naturally is the type of fighter that loves taking risks and going for broke, so this could play right into his mindset as a competitor. As long as he keeps his hands up while moving forward, he'll be able to block the counter and keep Bowles on his heels.
Another thing to look out for is that Brian Bowles tends to circle to his left and he's been prone to eating right hands. As long as Faber can set it up with a simple 1-2 combination or perhaps something more complex, he should be able to find a home for his power strikes as long as he can properly gauge them.
Mixing it up is key as well. Faber loves to stand and bang, but he should definitely not be afraid to shoot in for takedowns the second that Bowles get comfortable on his feet. If he can keep the former bantamweight champ guessing, he's definitely going to earn favor with the judges, if not more.
Record: 10-1 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Miguel Torres (WEC 42), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 132), Damacio Page 2x (UFC on Versus 3, WEC 35)
Key Losses: Dominick Cruz (WEC 47)
How he got here: Brian Bowles made an explosive burst onto the MMA scene. After destroying on the local Georgia circuit, he was given an invite to the WEC and despite only having had three previous fights, he finished everyone in his path all the way to a title shot against the then-seemingly unbeatable Miguel Torres.
Bowles took the fight to Torres, dropping him early in the fight and then finishing him at the end of the first round with a beautiful right counter while under fire from a wild flurry of strikes. Just eight fights into his professional MMA career, Brian Bowles was the bantamweight champion of the world.
His reign would not be long, however, as Bowles showed up against Dominick Cruz with a rib injury and broke his hand just seconds into his first title defense. After a two round beating, he'd had enough. Since recovering from the busted appendage, Bowles has gone 2-0 in the UFC with impressive victories against Damacio Page and Takeya Mizugaki to once again jump back into title contention.
He'll have to get through another legend in Faber if he wants to get his revenge against Cruz.
How he gets it done: Bowles is a patient fighter, but if he sees any good openings, he needs to attack. Especially with how aggressive Faber is, he'll need to look to either respond in kind, or find the perfect opportunity for a counter. Bowles has significant power in both hands and his striking technique is superior to Faber's, but his defense is not.
The clinch is his friend, as long as he doesn't allow Faber to get inside position so he could look for takedowns. Bowles has some sneaky Muay Thai and he's capable of unleashing some very nasty elbow strikes if the fight gets up close.
Also, Bowles has a nasty guillotine choke, so if Faber leaves his neck exposed while shooting in for a takedown, he could find himself in trouble. He has a very underrated ground game and he's strong off his back, capable of sweeps or submission attempts if need be. The main concern for him is keeping his left hand up in the stand-up department and if he's taken down, he has to get back to his feet.
Bowles has the power to finish this fight if he can connect solidly.
Fight "X-Factor:" The X-Factor for this fight could be the mental side of the bout. Urijah Faber thrives under pressure and he's stepped up every time he's had an opportunity to earn a title shot. He may have come up short when competing for the belt, but he's damn near unstoppable in any other bout. He's also shown incredible mental toughness in his fights, battling through broken hands and some crippling leg kicks in losing efforts.
Brian Bowles has some fragile hands and if he hurts them against Faber, he could be in serious trouble. When healthy, he's one of the most violent fighters on the planet, but when he gets hurt, he becomes much more passive and it's possible that he could break mentally. Even the thought of a broken hand against Mizugaki seemed to get to him, although he did fight through it this time.
How each man handles adversity could be a huge factor.
Bottom Line: These are two of the best bantamweight fighters in the world and they're meeting while still at the top of their abilities. You can't ask for much better than this. As long as these men fight to their capabilities, this has all the making of a thriller. Both men are well-rounded and rather evenly-matched. It could come down to one punch, one submission attempt or one single takedown as the deciding factor. There's a title shot on the line so keep your eyes peeled. With how dangerous both men are, anything could happen on Saturday night to force a crazy finish.
Who will come out on top at UFC 139? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!