Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight scrappers Urijah Faber and Petr Yan will throw down this Saturday (Dec. 14, 2019) at UFC 245 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It’s taken just about 18 months for Yan to introduce himself to UFC’s roster and climb into the title mix. “No Mercy” is likely just one more win away from a potential showdown with Henry Cejudo, and the kickboxer has certainly shown the potential to be a champion in his current eight-fight win streak. Meanwhile, Faber surprised fight fans by returning from a 2.5-year retirement against a ranked foe in Ricky Simon, whom he promptly stopped in 46 seconds via strikes (watch highlights). Faber is once again gunning for the title, and few would think to deny him if he takes out Yan.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jimmie Rivera (UFC 238), John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 145), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC 232), Teruto Ishihara (UFC Fight Night 132)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Yan fights a very specific style. The Tiger Muay Thai-trained athlete is a pressure striker, one who breaks opponents with constant offense. That’s not necessarily a unique approach, but Yan separates himself from the pack by transitioning between stances masterfully and keeping his defense sound all the while.
That makes for an interesting match up against Faber, because no one has ever really pressured “The California Kid” and found great success. In general, Faber has struggled with opponents who strand him at range and make it a distance kickboxing match, but he’s always been able to time a right hand or double leg against foes who really pressure him.
All this leads to an interesting question: does Yan stick to his usual game plan or adapt for Faber?
Given Yan’s apparent expertise in striking overall, it would probably benefit him to switch strategies. There are strategies that have been proven to work against Faber, namely keeping him at the end of the jab, feints, and low kicks. It may not be as exciting as usual, but that’s likely the safest bet for Yan.
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (WEC 26), Raphael Assuncao (WEC 46), Michael McDonald (UFC on FOX 9), Eddie Wineland (UFC 128), Ricky Simon (UFC Fight Night 155)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (UFC 149, UFC 169), Jose Aldo (WEC 48), Dominick Cruz (UFC 199, UFC 132), Jimmie Rivera (UFC 203)
Keys to Victory: At 40 years of age, Faber remains one of the most athletic men in his division. The collegiate wrestler is a fantastic grappler with sneaky set ups for his power punches, most of which come in the form of a punishing right hand.
Opposite Yan, Faber wants an ugly fight. His Russian foe is likely to take the fight to him, which as mentioned, should play into Faber’s dual-threat of right hand and double leg quite well. However, Faber cannot count solely on reactive strikes to to pull the fight into his control — Yan is too tough for that and will made adjustments.
Instead, Faber has to initiate lots of wrestling exchanges. It’s unlikely that all takedowns will land — wouldn’t that be convenient? — but there are still plenty of striking opportunities on the break. Again, Faber historically fairs very well in close-quarter exchanges, so forcing as many of them as possible would be sound strategy.
This is very possibly a title eliminator at 135 pounds.
Given Cejudo’s absence, the Bantamweight title picture is murky. Whether it’s Yan or Faber, the winner of this bout has as strong an argument as anyone for a title shot. Also in the potential mix are Aljamain Sterling, Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar, which definitely makes this one of those scenarios that demands an impressive performance.
While the consequence of victory is similar for each man, defeat is a different story. Yan is still a relative newcomer on his first run toward the title — there will be future opportunities if this is not the one. However, Faber returned from retirement specifically to chase the belt one more time, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him call it quits if he comes up short here.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 245 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the Fight Pass/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 245, Petr Yan and Urijah Faber will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?