UFC 128 will showcase an absolutely riveting lineup of top shelf mixed martial arts. One of the main components of such a compelling fight card is a Bantamweight showdown between former WEC champ Urijah Faber and the up-and-coming Eddie Wineland.
While both fighters are true mixed martial artists, it is a clash of styles when pointing to each athlete's strengths. Faber is a relentless grappler, Wineland is a vicious striker and both men have blinding speed.
Hurtsbad MMA was honored to join the two on the UFC 128 conference call this week. Hearing these two talk about their matchup, it is apparent that there is a lot of respect for one another, but also a lot of confidence on both sides of the equation.
This a number one contender eliminator bout, so whoever wins this match will move on to challenge UFC BW Champion Dominick Cruz—a top ten pound-for-pound fighter.
Neither Faber nor Wineland is looking past the other. But for “The California Kid,” the opportunity to fight Cruz for a second time provides extra motivation. Faber is the only man to ever beat Cruz many years ago. Since then, Cruz has seized the title and defeated Faber protege and Team Alpha Male member, Joseph Benavidez, twice.
The bad blood between Faber and Cruz has been escalating for some time. Verbal jabs are not uncommon between them, and Faber talked about his desire to fight Cruz again.
When asked about his feeling on the champ, Faber offered this explanation.
“I'm the kind of guy that follows my heart. When people ask me questions, I'll tell you the real answer. I don't really like the guy very much.”
Faber went on to elaborate. “Bottom line is, I feel like the guy kind of chose me as an enemy, and I accept. So we are going to get to fight and that is going to be that. We fought once, and we are going to do it again. We are both different fighters.”
“But yeah," he said, "I don't like the guy very much. You probably wouldn't hear much about it, except everyone keeps asking and I'm an honest guy.”
Faber is no stranger to major events and all the publicity, so making his UFC debut really is not unfamiliar territory. Wineland, on the other hand, is still up-and-coming, and the magnitude of this event could take him back.
Even though this is new territory for Wineland, he is taking it all in stride. He sees it as just another match with a few differences from his normal expectations.
“This fight, I'm anxious to get in there and get it done. To me, the WEC always was the UFC for the little guys. The only difference for me is going to be putting on a set of black gloves and you get a few more feet to run around in.”
His opponent provides more inspiration than the event itself.
“To fight Urijah, it's an honor. Everybody knows Urijah Faber. He's a great dude, he's a great fighter. He is dangerous in all areas, and I can't wait to test myself against him.”
Faber was sure to give Wineland credit where it is due, but also explained that he sees himself as the superior mixed martial artist when asked for his personal scouting report on his opponent.
“I think Eddie has got extremely fast hands. He has real straight punches that land. I think, because they are so straight and there is so much structure behind them, that they're powerful. He's an athlete. When you are talking about the top guys in the UFC, we are all gifted athletes, we are all strong for our size and fast. I think that's something that is going to be with both of us.”
Faber went on to explain, “He is a well-rounded fighter, but compared to me he is not a well-rounded fighter. He is good at wrestling, he is good at Jiu Jitsu. But I'm very good at wrestling, I'm very good at Jiu Jitsu and I'm very good at striking.”
“He is very good at one thing, and I think that is going to be the difference. I would say the guy is hard to take down—he has an awareness in Jiu Jitsu—but when it comes to naturally things coming over, I'm just going to be a more well-rounded fighter than him.”
When the question was turned to Wineland, he noted Faber's talents, but explained that he thinks he may have the antidote to Faber's strengths.
“Urijah brings a lot to the table. He has got a tool box that is full of tools, and they are all sharp and ready to go. His hands have improved immensely from what I have seen. His wrestling—obviously, he is a great wrestler. His Jiu Jitsu is no joke. He brings a lot to the table. Like he said, we are both very fast and both very strong for our size. That just comes with the territory being a little guy.”
“We are both athletic, we are both in great shape, and it's going to be an exciting, fast-paced fight," he added. "As far as his strengths, I think his strengths are in grappling. With my fighting style, I'm very hard to find in order to take me down.”
So, once again, it appears that the UFC has found two clashing styles to bring together for a fight that carries a lot of potential for quality MMA competition.
Faber carries a confidence in his ability to outclass his opponent. Wineland seems to think he knows what is coming, and feels he has the answer to Faber's questions.
Two highly capable and confident athletes are prepared to give fight fans the answers to all of their questions on Saturday, March 19. Whichever one comes out on top will find themselves standing just one notch away from becoming a UFC champion.
The man at the top, Dominick Cruz, is eagerly awaiting the outcome of this match so he can test his championship pedigree against the better of the two.
Cruz also recently spoke with Hurtsbad MMA, and had this to say about the match up. “You know, I'm pumped for that fight. I'm excited to see how Urijah does against a good striker like Wineland. That's a good test for Faber because Wineland is no slouch. He has a good winning streak going, and he has been doing really good."
“I'm excited to see his game plan against Faber, and Faber's game plan against him," he added. "Is Faber going to try and stand with him for the whole fight, or is he going to go for the takedown like he always does? There are a lot of things that make this fight interesting, and I'm excited to watch it. I just want to get in there with the better of the two and put it on them.”
Obviously, the champ is motivated by this matchup, but he definitely is not alone. This fight may be overshadowed by a title match between Jon Jones and Shogun, but these two athletes have a lot on the line and are both extremely capable of putting on a riveting show for the fans.
Wineland vs. Faber is a fight no one wants to miss—not anyone calling themselves a self-respecting MMA fan, anyway.
On behalf of all the staff at Hurtsbad MMA, thank you to both Faber and Wineland for taking the time out of their training camps to speak with the media about their upcoming tilt.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad.com.