UFC 149: Urijah Faber's 12 Memorable Moments in His Career
Former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber is still considered by some to be the greatest 145-pound fighter in MMA history, but "The California Kid" remains in search of his first UFC title.
On Saturday, Faber will get his second crack at UFC gold in the form of an interim title bout with rising bantamweight star Renan Barao.
When Faber reigned over the featherweight division, the UFC did not host 145-pound bouts. Only recently have competitors under that weight been given the opportunity to compete inside the Octagon, so the 33-year-old Faber is trying to make a late-career push to add that previously unattainable UFC belt to his mantle.
For those who may not have followed MMA outside of the UFC during his glory years, let's take a look back at the most memorable moments in Faber's illustrious career.
Urijah Faber vs. Cole Escovedo
As an 11-1 fighter and then-KOTC bantamweight champion, Urijah Faber was awarded a title shot in his WEC debut against the organization's original featherweight titleholder, Cole Escovedo.
In the March 2006 bout at WEC 19, Faber forced a stoppage at the end of the second round to claim the WEC featherweight title, which he would defend five times and hold onto for more than two-and-a-half years.
With this victory over Escovedo, the most important chapter in Faber's career began.
Urijah Faber vs. Bibiano Fernandes
In his final fight for a non-Zuffa promotion, Urijah Faber picked up a fourth-consecutive defense of his KOTC bantamweight title by focing a doctor stoppage in the opening round against eventual Dream champion Bibiano Fernandes.
At the time, Fernandes was relatively unknown. However, in the five-and-a-half years since his loss to Faber, Fernandes has only lost twice and has become recognized as one of the world's top bantamweight fighters.
Not long after beating Fernandes, Faber was forced to vacate his KOTC belt due to an exclusive contract he signed with the WEC after it was purchased by Zuffa. While somewhat of a no-brainer, the move paid dividends for Faber, who went on to become the face of the WEC for years.
Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz
When he earned his first WEC title shot in March 2007, Dominick Cruz was undefeated in nine fights, but he had not faced an opponent anywhere near the level of Urijah Faber. Not surprisingly, Cruz wasn't quite ready to compete on such a large stage and suffered a submission loss via guillotine choke in the first round.
With his victory over Cruz, Faber picked up a second straight WEC title defense, but he motivated an eventual rival in the process. Following that loss to Faber at WEC 26, Cruz dropped to bantamweight and has arguably separated himself as the best 135-pound fighter in MMA history.
Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver
In June 2008, Urijah Faber successfully defended his title for the last time in a Fight of the Night performance against former UFC champion Jens Pulver.
By defeating Pulver via decision at WEC 34, Faber picked up his fifth-consecutive title defense, a streak that was never attained by any other champion in WEC history. Currently, Faber's career is defined by his reign as WEC champion, but "The California Kid" would add to his legacy significantly with a win over Renan Barao on Saturday.
Urijah Faber vs. Mike Brown
Heading into his title shot against Urijah Faber in November 2008, Mike Brown had won 10 of 11 fights, but he was still an underdog against the long-reigning titleholder.
Nonetheless, Brown stunned the champion with a right hand early in the bout and was able to claim the WEC featherweight title in under three minutes. Though Brown only defended the championship twice before running into current UFC champion Jose Aldo, he holds an important place in MMA history by dethroning Faber.
In the three-and-a-half years that have passed since this defeat, Faber has not been able to string together more than two straight victories.
Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver II
After losing to Mike Brown at WEC 36, Urijah Faber was offered a rematch with Jens Pulver. Coming off of the most disappointing performance of his career, Faber made a statement by submitted Pulver with guillotine choke in only 94 seconds.
In addition to building his resume by defeating an all-time great, the win over Pulver earned Faber Submission of the Night honors at WEC 38 and a chance to reclaim his belt from Brown a few months later.
Urijah Faber vs. Mike Brown II
Urijah Faber's luck couldn't have been much worse in his rematch with Mike Brown. Early in the bout, Faber broke his right hand and dislocated a thumb, leaving him without many weapons in one of the most important fights of his career.
Still, Faber pushed through the pain and threw everything he had at Brown. Despite the injuries, Faber put together an admirable performance and lasted through all five rounds of the title affair. Though the fight ended in a disappointing defeat, Faber's resolve through adversity at WEC 41 would lead to another quick return to title contention.
Urijah Faber vs. Jose Aldo
Following his second loss against Mike Brown, Urijah Faber only needed one win to earn another opportunity to fight for the featherweight championship. By submitting Raphael Assuncao in January 2010, Faber received his title shot. However, this time, it would come against an even more dangerous opponent in Jose Aldo.
At WEC 48, the first ever pay-per-view event in the organization's history, Faber was unable to deal with the kicks of the Brazilian champion. Faber was out-classed on his feet for 25 minutes and left with some serious swelling in his thigh.
Faber's defeat at the hands of Aldo would go down as the former champion's final title fight under the WEC banner. While he didn't turn in a great performance, Faber should be credited with bringing the WEC to a pay-per-view audience. He was the promotion's biggest star even when he wasn't champion and deserves recognition for growing the sport during his WEC days.
Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki
As such an integral piece to the organization, it would be a crime to leave Urijah Faber's final WEC fight off of this list of the most memorable moments of his career. However, Faber's win over Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 52 was noteworthy enough in itself.
Faber's loss to Jose Aldo in April 2010 led to a move to the bantamweight division, where he is currently one of the top contenders. In his return to 135 pounds, Faber easily dealt with Mizugaki and left the former top contender unconscious due to a rear-naked choke near the end of the opening round.
While the win over Mizugaki was expected, the ease with which Faber stopped the Japanese fighter sent a message to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz that "The California Kid" was coming for a rematch and the belt.
Urijah Faber vs. Eddie Wineland
For years, Urijah Faber was considered one of the best fighters in MMA, but he hadn't been able to compete under the sport's brightest lights inside the Octagon. In March 2011, Faber finally made his UFC debut in a bout against former WEC champion Eddie Wineland.
Most expected Faber to put together a more dominant performance against Wineland, but he did enough to pick up a decision victory that would earn him his chance to dethrone Dominick Cruz in a highly-anticipated rematch.
Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz II
At UFC 132, seven-year veteran Urijah Faber finally found himself in a UFC title fight. After five rounds of back-and-forth action, Faber came up just short of picking up his second victory over Dominick Cruz and his first UFC title.
However, the competitive matchup only fueled the rivalry between Faber and Cruz, which eventually led to Faber's inclusion as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter—a position that would ultimately mean his second shot at the UFC bantamweight belt against Renan Barao.
The Ultimate Fighter 15
In addition to a win over former WEC champion Brian Bowles, some bad blood and the intrigue of a rubber match with Dominick Cruz earned Urijah Faber a spot as coach on the first FX-televised season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Unfortunately, Dominick Cruz suffered a knee injury during the reality series and was unable to meet Faber in a coaches fight at the end of the season. Still, due to Cruz's repeated injury problems, Faber will still be given a chance to earn a UFC belt in an interim title fight against Renan Barao on Saturday.
With Cruz temporarily out of the picture, this UFC 149 fight could be Faber's best and last chance to become UFC champion before the end of his career.