Urijah Faber has yet to capture a UFC belt. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Urijah Faber’s mantle lacks only one piece of hardware: an Ultimate Fighting Championship title.
Faber -- a fill-in for the injured Dominick Cruz -- will challenge Renan Barao for the undisputed bantamweight crown in the UFC 169 main event on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. “The California Kid” will enter the five-round showdown on the strength of a four-fight winning streak, the last piece to his career puzzle within reach once again.
“The best thing in the world for me is to get that UFC belt to add to the collection and just go down in history as one of the best fighters of all-time,” Faber told Sherdog.com. “To be in a position to even think about that, realistically think about that ... with a few more accomplishments, I can be one of the greatest fighters of all-time. That’s inspiring for me. That gets my juices flowing and [it is] one of the things I’m working towards every single day.
“There’s only so many guys that have been multiple weight class champions, multiple organization champions, who have been at the top of a fight career for 11-plus years,” he added. “I’m in position to do that.”
The most formidable of obstacles stands in his way. Barao, who has not tasted defeat in nearly nine years, will carry a string of 21 consecutive victories into the cage. The 26-year-old Nova Uniao representative last appeared at UFC 165 in September, when he dispatched Eddie Wineland with a spinning back kick to the face and follow-up punches at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“He looked really good his last fight,” Faber said. “You just assume that everybody’s getting better. It’s like blackjack. You assume there’s a face card underneath. No one’s gotten close to beating him, and he’s fighting the top guys in the world.”
Having dropped a unanimous decision to Barao at UFC 149 in July 2012, Faber has a sense of what to expect.
“It was a very close fight,” Faber said. “Some people act like it wasn’t, but the difference was a couple of kicks and a couple punches. I didn’t take extreme damage. He didn’t take extreme damage. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was a pretty close fight.”
The Team Alpha Male patriarch has not lost since, rattling off wins over Ivan Menjivar, Scott Jorgensen, Iuri Alcantara and Michael McDonald.
“It was a great year,” Faber said. “I feel like I had a lot of tough opponents and went through them all with some impressive victories, some finishes and one pretty lopsided decision. It was an active year. I didn’t really get much time to think. Looking back, it was a great year altogether.”
The Weight of Things
John Lineker has answered all but one question. Can he meet the 125-limit for flyweights on a consistent basis?
Lineker -- who has missed weight three times in five UFC appearances -- will put his four-fight winning streak on the line against two-time sambo world champion Ali Bagautinov in a featured flyweight scrap at UFC 169. The 24-year-old Brazilian has compiled a stellar 17-1 record in his past 18 outings, finishing his last three opponents inside two rounds: Azamat Gashimov, Jose Maria Tome and Phil Harris. Lineker has the look of a title contender, provided he can steady his performance on the scales.
In Bagautinov, he confronts a heavy-handed grappler who will enter the cage on the strength of 10 consecutive victories.
“I think Ali is a strategic fighter who likes standup striking just like me,” Lineker said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com, “but I am well-prepared for this battle.”
This & That
UFC 169 will be the fifth Ultimate Fighting Championship event staged at the Prudential Center, joining UFC 78, UFC 111, UFC 128 and UFC 159 ... Featherweight boss Jose Aldo has landed 237 more significant strikes (527) than his opponents (290) since arriving in World Extreme Cagefighting in June 2008, according to FightMetric data ... Frank Mir has recorded more wins (14) inside the Octagon than any heavyweight in UFC history ... Jamie Varner was one of seven men to hold the WEC lightweight championship, along with Gilbert Melendez, Gabe Ruediger, Hermes Franca, “Razor” Rob McCullough, Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis ... Undefeated Brazilian lightweight Alan Patrick Silva Alves has held titles inside the Vision Fight, Jungle Fight and Bitetti Combat organizations ... In 20 career bouts, Alliance MMA’s Danny Martinez has never been finished, losing decisions to Mark Hominick, Adrian Wooley, Joseph Benavidez and Jussier da Silva ... Former Ring of Combat champion Nick Catone graduated from Rider University with a degree in psychology ... When “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 finalist Al Iaquinta was born on April 30, 1987, the top five songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list were Aretha Franklin’s “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” The Artist’s “Sign of the Times,” Jody Watley’s “Looking For A New Love” and Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” ... All seven of Andy Enz’s bouts have taken place inside his native Alaska ... Lightweight newcomer Tony Martin hails from Palos Heights, Ill., the same hometown as Detroit Tigers President, CEO and General Manager Dave Dombrowski ... Gasan Umalatov lists Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson as his heroes.