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
*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results
The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.
An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.
The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.
UFC Winnipeg Official Results:
MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT
- #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
- #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
- Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
- #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45 round 1
PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT
- #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
- Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
- Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
- John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
- Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT
- Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando
The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) December 14, 2017
Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.
It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.
Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.
In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.
Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.
In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.
UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida Officially Headlines UFC Belem
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida is officially booked to headline UFC Belem in Brazil.
Following his unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez on last weekends, UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Swanson, undefeated middleweight, Eryk Anders, called for the match-up with former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. The UFC heard, and obliged.
First reported by The MMA Kings (@mma_kings.)
EXCLUSIVE: My sources tell me that Eryk Anders (@erykanders) has gotten his wish. He'll headline UFC Fight Night: Belem against Lyoto Machida (@lyotomachidafw) in Brazil. Ask and you shall receive. #UFC pic.twitter.com/qX62A9qH6k
— The MMA Kings (Nolan King) (@mma_kings) December 14, 2017
Anders holds a 2-0 undefeated record in the UFC. The Alabama native made his promotional debut against Rafael Nata in July of this year. A bout he took on short notice, replacing Alessio di Chirico whom withdrew from the fight due to a neck injury. Anders defeated Natal by knockout in the first round that night at UFC Long Island.
Prior to his indoctrination to MMA, the undefeated middleweight played for the University of Alabama football team, between 2006-2009.
Machida recently returned to the UFC roster after an 18-month suspension handed down by USADA, stemming from a failed out-of-competition test leading up to his April 2016 contest against Dan Henderson.
In his return to the octagon, Machida faced Derek Brunson in the main-event of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The Dragon” lost the bout via first round KO.
UFC Belem, Brazil is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018, at the Mangueirinho Arena. The card will also feature the flyweight debut for Valentina Shevchenko as she faces Priscila Cachoeira.
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