UFC 128: Urijah Faber Looks to Reclaim His Place at the Top

Scott KennedyContributor IMarch 10, 2011

If anyone is excited about the WEC's merger with the UFC, it's Urijah Faber.

His only complaint might be that it didn't happen a couple of years sooner, but that's not to say things weren't going good for the "California Kid"on the outside.

Faber (24-4-0) is one of an exceptional few in the sport of mixed martial arts. He has managed to make it to the top of the MMA world as a fighter and as a personality without the bright lights of MMA's biggest stage, the UFC.

Urijah Faber hasn't done bad for himself at all.

Faber established himself as one of the top fighters in the world, whose prowess in the cage and charisma outside of it, have made Faber a fan favourite and one of the most popular fighters in the world.

However, none of this should come as a surprise; Faber has had a lot of experience with success.

Faber got his professional start back in 2003, not long after graduating from college. Faber had been a standout on the UC Davis wrestling team. His wrestling abilities earned him a scholarship after his freshman year and he went on to rack up enough wins to become UC Davis' all-time win leader.

After a run like that in college, Faber wasn't about to sit around telling stories about the glory days—not when there was something out there that looked way more fun.

Faber made his MMA debut back in 2003 for the Gladiator Challenge, by submitting Jay Vakencia in the first round with a guillotine choke. Faber went on to win his next seven fights and picked up a couple of championship belts along the way.

Faber made his debut for the WEC in 2006, stopping Cole Escovedo to win the featherweight belt. Faber would defend his belt five times before losing it to Mike Brown, suffering the first stoppage loss of his career by way of TKO in the first round.

Faber bounced back with a quick win over Jens Pulver at WEC 38, earning himself a rematch with Brown.

The rematch between Faber and Brown went the distance, but the results were the same with Brown going home with the belt.

During the first round of the fight Faber broke his hand but he managed to gut it out through the next four rounds.

Last year, in another attempt to regain the featherweight crown, Faber made history by headlining the WEC's first and only PPV event.

Faber was featured in a championship belt against rising superstar Jose Aldo. Faber suffered a five round drubbing at the hands of Aldo. 

However, if there was a moral victory for Faber to take away, it was that he was able to go the distance with the dangerous Aldo, something no fighter had been able to do in more than two years.

Following his loss to Aldo, Faber made the decision to drop down to bantamweight, believing his body is better suited for the 135 lbs division. It's early, but so far the results appear to agree.

Faber met Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 52 and handed Mizugaki his first submission loss, by way of a first round rear-naked choke.

Faber is now preparing for what, it some ways, is the biggest fight of his life. Not only is Faber making his UFC debut in front of a global audience of millions, but he is also fighting for a another shot at the top.

Faber will meet original WEC bantamweight champ Eddie Wineland in the co-main event at the upcoming UFC 128: Shogun vs Jones in Newark, NJ, on March 19.

Wineland (17-6-1) is a solid fighter, but Faber likes his chances wherever the fight goes, believing he's more well-rounded than Wineland, although Faber isn't taking Wineland lightly.

There's too much at stake to start looking past anyone.

It is expected that the winner of the Faber vs. Wineland matchup will receive a shot at current UFC bantamweight champ, Dominic Cruz (17-1-0).

There is also talk that along with the title shot will go coaching duties alongside Cruz on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter."

Considering Faber's popularity, it's not hard to believe that the UFC brass are quietly hoping for a good showing from Faber.

A Faber win would set up a marquee matchup between Faber and Cruz.

Along with the popularity of Faber, the fight comes with a built-in back story, which contains several chapters of animosity between Faber and Cruz, dating back to 2007.

That's when Faber handed Cruz his first and only career loss at WEC 26.

When you mix in the mutual dislike the fighters feel for one another, the UFC shouldn't have much trouble turning the tension between the two fighters into some entertaining reality show drama.

This time, however, the tables will be turned, as it will be Cruz holding the belt and looking to send Faber unhappy.

For Faber the "TUF" coaching gig would be welcomed, but it's the matchup with Cruz that he will be working towards in Newark.

It's about settling an old score, but most of all, it's about winning the belt and re-establishing himself as one of the best fighters on the planet.

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