Urijah Faber is not intimidated by UFC 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Urijah Faber’s plan heading into the UFC 132 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas is simple: finish Dominick Cruz for the second time and capture the bantamweight championship.
Though many have been stifled of late by Cruz’s sharp boxing and well-timed takedowns, “The California Kid” believes he has the tools to succeed where others have failed. According to Faber, when he locks up with Cruz for their five-round rematch, it will be the challenger -- not the champion -- who holds the advantage.
“The bottom line is that I don’t think Dominick’s style is that dangerous or that scary,” Faber tells Sherdog.com. “I’m not intimidated by [his style] at all. It’s just going to be a matter of figuring out how to get to him. I haven’t seen him put too many guys in danger, so I feel like trying to finish the fight from the get-go [works in my favor].
“He has some pretty good MMA-style wrestling takedowns, but as far as scrambling and wrestling prowess, I’ve got the better credentials,” he adds. “From the clinch work to the scrambles on the ground to the straight jiu-jitsu, I’ll definitely have an edge.”
That is not to say that Faber believes he will be outmatched on his feet, as the Team Alpha Male founder also possesses confidence in his striking heading into his showdown with “The Dominator.”
“[Cruz] has got a pretty good style standing up. He’s real elusive and tricky,” says Faber, “but in my mind, I have the edge in the standup. I feel like if I can catch him with a punch that I could do some damage there. I’ve been working on my hands and my kicks for seven years now. I got into this game with just a strong mentality that no one could beat me, and I’ve been improving in all aspects of the game [since then]. There’s no doubt in my mind that my hands are the best they’ve ever been right now, along with my kicks and everything else. I believe that.”
Faber and Cruz first met four years ago at WEC 26 with their roles reversed. The promotion’s reigning featherweight champion at the time, Faber rudely welcomed Cruz to the blue cage, choking out the challenger with a one-armed guillotine in just 98 seconds.
Leading up to the rematch, Faber has not shied away from sharing his feelings about his foe, openly admitting his distaste for the champion. According to Faber, the tension between the two first surfaced in the lead-up to their first encounter.
“[My issue] is with the way he carries himself towards me,” he says. “He was immature and disrespectful before our first fight. After the fight, you’d think we’d squash it, but I continued to hear about him badmouthing me. He kept dwelling on it and had this chip on his shoulder. It just seems like he’s got a negative attitude.”
Faber’s upcoming clash with Cruz marks just the third fight at bantamweight for “The California Kid.” Prior to cutting to 135 pounds, Faber dominated the WEC’s featherweight division until he lost his title to Mike Thomas Brown in 2008. Following a second defeat to Brown and then a loss to new champion Jose Aldo, Faber decided to make the move to bantamweight.
According to the former titleholder, the tribulations he endured during his last several fights at featherweight have actually given him confidence heading into his showdown with Cruz.
“If you put Dominick and Jose Aldo in the cage together and you think that Dominick has a chance, I think you’re mistaken,” says Faber. “So [Cruz] is not my toughest opponent, but it is a very important fight for me.”
Since making the cut to bantamweight, Faber has looked sharp, dispatching Takeya Mizugaki in November before outpointing Eddie Wineland in his UFC debut in March. Prior to his bout with Mizugaki, Faber had not made a weight cut of such significance since his wrestling career at the University of California, Davis. With two bantamweight fights now under his belt, Faber claims that shedding the pounds has once again become routine.
“[Before my first fight at bantamweight], I hadn’t made weight in about seven years. I [wrestled in college] as a 132-pounder, so I had to come in and re-figure that stuff out. I knew I would be able to do it, because my body had gotten down there [in the past],” says Faber. “I’ve got it down now, and I understand my body a little bit more. I’m excited about these next couple years at 135 and at possibly jumping back up [to featherweight] at some point for some super fights.”
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