This may very well be Urijah Faber's last chance to hoist Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gold. The former WEC champion will attempt to take the belt off of Dominick Cruz's waist later tonight (Sat., June 4, 2016) at UFC 199 live from The Forum in Inglewood, California, as the two Bantamweight fighters meet for the third time.
Even with a main event showdown between current UFC Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and long-deserving title contender Michael Bisping carrying much of the pay-per-view (PPV) appeal, Cruz vs Faber III has been a matchup in the making since "The Dominator" last defeated "The California Kid" back at UFC 132 via unanimous decision. Before that, Faber submitted Cruz in the first round at WEC 26 to retain his 145-pound title.
Needless to say, the bad blood between both of these elite 135-pound killers is realer than anything feud we've seen in the past. This includes Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier, Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen, and even Dana White vs Tito Ortiz. To think that this trilogy bout will not deliver on all cylinders would be absolutely inaccurate.
While much attention has been cast upon Cruz and his inability to stay healthy, seeing as the champion has only fought twice since defeating Demetrious Johnson back in 2011, Faber is the one who we should be watching with a close eye later tonight at UFC 199. After all, the Team Alpha Male founder is already 37 years old and has fought 41 times throughout a 13-year career. This third installment opposite Cruz should be the last time Faber has a shot at a title, unless he develops a new level of skill and athleticism as he approaches his 40s.
During Cruz's absence from the Octagon, Faber found himself competing against some of the very best names in the sport. He may not have fared well against the likes of Frankie Edgar and Renan Barao, but those fights have helped Faber evolve as a fighter. Edgar still possesses some of the very best footwork and hand speed in the game today, while Barao was one of the most puzzling offensive gurus at the time of their two title fights. It's likely that Faber will be a better version of himself than the one Cruz fought back in 2011. Despite his age and capped potential, "The California Kid" still maintains the chin and finishing ability that got him to this level in the first place. Adding elite names to his resume, win or lose, while Cruz sat on his couch certainly could play a factor entering UFC 199.
But through all of his physical capabilities and past success against the best fighters in the Bantamweight division, Faber is still faced with the possibility of going 0-4 in UFC title fights. That's simply inexplicable. Faber is certainly good enough to be a divisional champion, but ran into Barao at the absolute worst time and was unable to ward off Cruz's unorthodox movement in their past rematch. The idea of putting up another goose egg has to be killing Faber. He's one of the most competitive guys in the game today, so he'll be fighting with even more purpose this time around as his window of opportunity closes by the second.
Hopefully he can respond in fashion and fight fans can finally witness a historic end to one of the biggest rivalries in MMA history.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 199 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.