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History in the Making: Urijah Faber makes a spectacular bantamweight debut at WEC 52

Photo by Esther Lin for SBNation.
Photo by Esther Lin for SBNation.

When it came to stars in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), Urijah Faber stood alone.

Sure, during the promotion's latter days, names like Ben Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Jose Aldo began to creep into casual mixed martial arts (MMA) fans' conversations but for most of the company's life, "The California Kid" was front and center as its posterboy.

So when WEC was absorbed into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the idea of Faber fighting inside the Octagon not only made sense, it seemed like it was a long time coming.

Unlike most of his career inside the smaller blue cage which was spent at featherweight, Faber would step inside the Octagon at 135 pounds, the weight at which he contends for the interim title tonight (July 21) at UFC 149. He takes on nearly-undefeated Brazilian monster Renan Barão for the chance to take on UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz when he comes back from an ACL injury.

Before Faber left the shores of WEC, he headlined the company's penultimate event at 135 pounds, taking on former title contender Takeya Mizugaki. Before the Team Alpha Male product's headlining bout tonight in Calgary, Alberta, let's take a look at his first appearance at bantamweight.

It was a fight which ended with one man unconscious.

Let's take a look.

Even at a smaller weight, Faber employs the same style he did which made him the featherweight kingpin. Over and over, with hands down low, "The California Kid" bullrushes in and unleashes combinations on his Japanese opponent. Mizugaki uses crisp boxing and well-timed counters to keep up with his frenetic opponent.

Clinched up against the cage, both fighters employ short punches to wear the other down. Despite it being his first appearance at 135 pounds , Faber's strength doesn't seem to have shrunk alongside his weight.

Pushing Mizugaki against the cage, he begins to wear the former title contender down and even smacks the Japanese fighter with a nice elbow from the clinch.

Mizugaki is then able to reverse position on Faber, shoving the American against cage but the offensive flurry doesn't last long for the long-time bantamweight. The Team Alpha captain explodes off the cage and midway through the bout, it's so far so good for Faber.

It was about to get a lot better.

Faber dives in for a takedown and pressures Mizugaki against the cage but the Japanese fighter is able to stuff it against the chain-link. He reverses Faber but the American's strength allows him to literally pull Mizugaki down to the mat.

They slam against the canvas and Faber immediately transitions to take Mizugaki's back, instantly snaking his arm around the Japanese fighter's neck as he rises to his feet.

As Mizugaki struggles to keep Faber's hands from locking in the submission, the two once again end up on the mat. Faber, with a tight body triangle, finally sinks in the choke. Pressed against the cage, it's nearly impossible for the referee to notice Kanagawa native has slipped out of consciousness.

Unfortunately for Mizugaki, the fight isn't stopped for nearly 10 seconds after and when Faber's grip is finally pried from his neck, the Japanese fighter is out cold and stiff as a board.

It was as successful a bantamweight debut as Faber could have hoped for.

Tonight, can he finally get gold in the weight class?

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