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Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber III: Ten years in the making

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In the relatively short history of the sport of mixed martial arts grudge matches have tended to grip the imagination of the viewing public more than any other. Fights with a backstory or a genuine dislike between competitors mean fans will usually part with their well-earned money to witness two fighters settle a score inside the cage.

A fight surrounded by bad blood is a promoters dream and have led to these events going down in UFC history making an imprint on the sport. Fights like Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans vs Rampage Jackson and more recently Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier live long in the minds of fight fans simply because of the added fuel surrounding the contests.

While most rivalries in the sport are generally settled there and then inside the eight-sided enclosure there are some that simply will not dissipate. The animosity between UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and long time challenger Urijah Faber falls into the latter category.

Cruz and Faber have twice competed against one and other and their history dates back almost a decade when the division they both compete was not even featured in the premier organisation on the planet, the UFC.

In March 2007 “The California Kid” Urijah Faber was the ruler of the WEC featherweight division and a global superstar in MMA. A champion in and out of the cage Urijah had swiftly become one of the sport’s most recognisable stars. It was at this juncture that he and Dominick Cruz first crossed paths in the lead up to  WEC 26 in Las Vegas.

At the tender age of just 21 Cruz entered the contest as a relatively unknown 9-0 prospect who was facing the poster boy of the lighter weight classes. This was  his promotional debut and a fight that nobody was looking to take. Nothing highlighted who the star was more than the WEC’s decision to leave Dominick off the poster for the event choosing instead to display Urijah on his own despite the fact this was a title bout.

Naturally Cruz took exception to this and chose to leave his own mark on the posters by signing his name onto Urijah’s face, an action that rankled with the then featherweight king. When describing their first interaction to the UFC camera’s in the promotional Bad Blood video Faber denounced Cruz for his actions

“I was just thinking man this guy is a little punk.”

Of course, at this point, Urijah would exact an early revenge by winning their first encounter decisively with a beautifully mounted guillotine finish. Dominick, the inexperienced professional at the time vowed to use this experience as motivation to learn, grow and eventually lead him on a path to Faber once more.

The two fighter’s careers progressed at a different trajectory following the fight. Urijah who retained the featherweight crown at WEC26 would go on to defend it three more times before falling to Mike Brown, two years after he vanquished Cruz. A failed attempt to recapture his title from Jose Aldo preceded a drop in weight to the bantamweight division a place where the once green Cruz had begun to call home.

After losing to his rival, Dominick Cruz made a successful debut at 135 pounds by defeating Charlie Valencia. He would go on to record a string of successful outings in the cage downing the likes of Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez en route to capturing gold against Brian Bowles at WEC47. Dominick Cruz was finally a world champion. His status at the summit of the sport meant only one thing, another clash with the only man to put a blemish on his professional record.

Cruz made the final defence of his WEC world championship by defeating Scott Jorgensen in December of 2010. This title defence had particular significance. As the UFC absorbed the WEC, Cruz became the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion. In his post-fight interview, Dominick stated his eagerness for a rematch

“Yeh I’m ready to fight Urijah, let’s do it in Sacremento or here in Arizona”

His star would only continue to grow and the collision course that he and Urijah were now on came to the fore in the first bantamweight title fight in the UFC’s history.

By now both Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber had both reached the pinnacle of the sport. Thrust into the spotlight the rivalry captivated the hearts and minds of mixed martial arts fans and the pair prepared to do battle once more on a platform bigger than either could have imagined.

UFC132 took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Nevada, the Mecca of fighting across the world. The bantamweight rematch took centre stage and this time round what unfolded was a far cry from the one-sided affair that took place first time round.

Both Cruz and Faber had made vast leaps forward in their respective skillsets, Cruz in particular having developed the frightening footwork and unorthodox movement that he is now renowned for. A back and forth five round technical display of MMA was the outcome and Cruz managed to retain his title by way of decision. The champion did not have it his own way by any means having found himself seated by a number of hard punches throughout the course of the fight. At one fight apiece the trilogy seemed inevitable however it did not materialise immediately.

Another relatively smooth title defence against Demetrious Johnson in October 2011 followed for Cruz. One month later Faber submitted Brian Bowles with a  vicious rear naked choke to set up a coaching slot opposite his nemesis on the Ultimate Fighter Season 15.

An initial dust up on the topic of how Urijah had managed to open his gym in Sacremento California was one of the tamer arguments on display. The two rivals began trash talking early as the bantamweight number one and two bickered for thirteen long weeks. With the third fight scheduled to take place at UFC148 during International Fight Week, it seemed the bitter feud would be settled once and for all, sooner rather than later.

The central theme of UFC148 was bad blood. The card was headlined by the anticipated rematch between then-middleweight king Anderson Silva and brash challenger Chael Sonnen.

The co-main event slot was allocated to the bantamweight barnburner that had fans flying in from far and wide to attend. However after having wrapped up a long season filming the Ultimate Fighter disaster struck as Cruz tore his ACL in training prior to the big show. What the world did not know was this was to be the first in a long list of injury blows for the bantamweight king and he would not feature in the cage for nearly three more years.

Over the course of the next four years, Faber twice tried to capture the belt off Renan Barao failing on each occasion. Barao was promoted from interim to unified champion as his own bout with Cruz fell through.  After the Brazilian defeated Urijah the second time round he pleaded with the UFC brass to give his stablemate TJ Dillashaw a shot at the title.

TJ famously shocked the world by bamboozling Barao in the first four rounds and then violently knocking him out in the fifth. He repeated the feat last July taking one less round to finish the fight. As a member of Team Alpha Male Dillashaw’s ascension to the status of champion seemingly left Urijah on the outside looking in. TJ’s use of angles, footwork, and crisp striking had fans and media calling for one fight to be made, a match up with the pioneer of the very style that won him the championship, Dominick Cruz.

A very public split between Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male took place late last year. This added a new dimension to the longstanding feud between Cruz and Faber. TJ became a target from both sides as Dominick Cruz did his utmost to ridicule the situation at every turn. Faber encouraged talk of a fight between himself and his former protégé. As January neared and Cruz and Dillashaw prepared to do battle in Boston excitement throughout the division was at fever pitch.

TD Garden a historic Boston arena played host to one of the tightest five round fights in recent memory. Amazingly what transpired was another Cruz masterclass as he edged a close decision. Showing no signs that he had lost a step in the course of a miserable past four years Cruz completed one of the sport’s greatest comeback stories. Sitting cage side to witness this was none other than Urijah Faber who let his feelings be known quickly after the fight. Speaking with Ariel Helwani backstage Faber immediately let Cruz know it was time to settle old scores.

“Let’s do it Dom. This has been a long time coming. I’ve been sticking around a few extra years just to let you heal up. You’re not made for battle.”

And so the stage was set. The UFC swiftly moved to book the long awaited third chapter of this historic rivalry and the melee soon began. Speaking at a media scrum to promote UFC199 the new king slammed Faber criticising his persona as well as his lack of evolution throughout the years

“Ego I think his ego is just too big for me to handle. What changes do you see? He has an overhand right he’s got a guillotine, he’s scrambly that’s Urijah Faber.”

Cruz went even further criticising “The California Kid” for refusing to fight Dillashaw in his absence.

“Faber was too scared to face T.J plain and simple and so Cruz came back and Cruz being the Cruz he is, beats the guy Faber was too scared to face. Now Faber has a whole lot to say about Dominick but Dominick is just gonna wax that ass again.”

The verbal vitriol continued as Urijah hit back by lobbing thinly veiled PED accusations at both his former teammate Dillashaw and Cruz who he would face on June 4th. Speaking with Submission Radio he had this to say.

“ I’ll tell you what has happened, I’ve seen drastic changes in his body from the very first time I fought him… All of a sudden he’s got floppy boobs and back fat.”

All signs point towards the Golden State of California as the tumultuous relationship between champion and challenger will finally hit a boiling point. The two fiercely competitive and evenly matched men will finally close the book on a ten-year rivalry on the backdrop of many months of slander back and forth.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, this statement could not be further from the truth. Cruz’ long absence did little to dim the flames. His return to the top of the division only fanned them further. At UFC199 On Saturday, June 4th in the Forum in Los Angeles California the final battle in a long war will be decided. It would be wise not to miss it.

Follow MMALatestNews for full coverage of UFC199 which takes place this Saturday on pay per view. The early prelims begin at 11PM BST on UFC Fight Pass followed by the BT Sport Prelims at 1AM BST

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Interviews

Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Announcement

Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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Announcement

*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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