By Frank Curreri
SACRAMENTO –The Urijah Faber who performed at ARCO Arena on Sunday night was far different from the one who lost his title seven months ago. This time he fought inspired. He fought with one hand. And the world’s most popular 145-pounder dug deep into his bag of tricks and veered from the recklessness that has been his undoing last time around. But in the end, despite much creativity and courage, the result was the same: Mike Brown is the WEC featherweight champion.
Competing in the most hostile of environments and mercilessly booed by an unforgiving crowd, Brown at least held his own with Faber in the standup realm and repeatedly took the ex-champ down and threatened him with submissions and superior position to earn a unanimous decision by scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47.
“Urijah is tough,” Brown, who beat Faber by first-round TKO last November, said during a post-fight interview inside the cage. “I just really couldn’t get my gloves on his head. He’s a world-class fighter, man.”
To chants of “Faber! Faber! Faber!” The California Kid came out gunslinging in round one, peppering the champ with crisp combinations and keeping him off-balance with front kicks and head kicks. During the fast and furious battle, Brown managed to crack Faber with an occasional punch and score a takedown, and Faber fought off a guillotine choke attempt.
In the second round, Brown stole back the momentum, scoring takedowns, passing Faber’s guard and threatening him with a guillotine choke. Though Faber defended the attacks, it was clear that Brown had become the aggressor and was imposing his will. Toward the end of the round, Faber began to hold his hands dangerously low, as if to bait his heavy-handed foe. Some fans yelled “Get your hands up!! Get your hands up!”
Faber looked uncharacteristically winded and was only firing kicks, elbows and punching with his left hand. He would later indicate that his right hand was broken during the bout.
In the third round, Brown continued to dominate the action, landing a hard right, scoring takedowns and hunting again for a guillotine. By now, Faber’s hometown faithful had become relatively quiet and subdued, sensing that his chance at victory was slipping away. Brown kept up the pressure over the next two rounds to retain his title.
“I apologize guys,” Faber (22-3) told the crowd as he iced his swollen right hand. “I stayed in there, it was all elbows after that (breaking my hand). I would love to get back out there and get another shot at the title. I’m glad you guys liked it. I wish I could have won for you guys but I’ll be back.”
With the win, Brown pushed his record to 22-4 and now anticipates possibly defending his title against Jose Aldo, who defeated Cub Swanson on the same card.
“He’s awesome man,” Brown said of Aldo. “I think it’d be a great title fight. I just can’t wait to see Urijah back in a title fight.”
In other WEC action:
JOSE ALDO VS. CUB SWANSON
It took all of eight seconds, about the same time it takes to answer a telephone call or pour a glass of orange juice. Eight measly seconds. And in that brief window of time, Cub Swanson leaned forward for a possible takedown, Jose Aldo fired a monster knee, and Swanson collapsed to the canvas and curled up. A few seconds later, it was over, and now whoever is next for Aldo has the tall task of devising a game plan to beat a Brazilian who has terrorized all five of his WEC opponents and has won eight straight.
“I want to be the champ,” the 22-year-old Aldo said afterward. “I want to fight for the title. I’m ready, I’m ready. That’s something the WEC has to decide but once I get the title I’m going to keep it.”
It’s a safe bet that Aldo (15-1) will get his wish in the near future after annihilating Swanson and opening a deep gash over Swanson’s left eye that spilled blood into his eye. It was a perfectly timed knee from a former semi-professional soccer player who packs incredible torque in his kicks and knees. The outcome halted a two-fight win streak by Swanson, who fell to 13-3.
DONALD CERRONE VS. JAMES KRAUSE
Jamie Varner, cowboy up, because Donald Cerrone is coming your way once again. The Greg Jackson-trained dynamo tore through unbeaten James Krause, submitting him with a rear naked choke near the end of round one, to earn a rematch with the WEC lightweight champ. Cerrone, who had gambled his title shot by taking this fight, publicly served notice to Varner, who was sitting cageside and garnered boos from the crowd when shown on the arena’s big screens.
“Anytime, anywhere,” Cerrone said of Varner. “I think he’s taking a lot away from me (by) saying I don’t deserve to be in the same ring with him. Hopefully Jamie will get out of the intensive care unit and be able to fight so we’ll see.”
Varner has been out of commission since defending his title against Cerrone, a bout that ended in controversy after Cerrone fired an illegal knee that grazed Varner and rendered him unable to continue. Once pals, the two emerged from that contest with bad blood that has publicly spilled over into a war of words.
Ironically, in Sunday’s fight, there was a moment where Krause was on his knees and about to stand up. Cerrone had hold of Krause’s neck, as if he were going to time the standup and fire off a knee. But Krause wisely stayed on his knees, sensing a knee might be coming – and many in the crowd started laughing as Cerrone hesitated to throw the knee, let go of the neck and let Krause come to his feet. Clearly Cerrone did not want to risk yet another premature ending involving an illegal knee. But Krause (10-1) was no match for Cerrone, who threatened him numerous times with oma platas and triangles from his guard. Though Krause defended and returned to his feet, Cerrone dropped the Missouri resident with a hard straight right toward the end of the round. Cerrone pounced and landed another booming shot and in a scramble took Krause’s back for the fight-ending choke.
JENS PULVER VS. JOSH GRISPI
This is not the way legends want to go out, but more often than not it is how things end for them. Jens Pulver’s bid to resuscitate his career suffered another setback when a Josh Grispi guillotine choke forced him to tap just 33 seconds into the bout. It was Pulver’s sixth loss in seven contests, prompting him to collapse on his knees after the submission loss, as if struggling to come to grips with what had just happened. He stood up and continued to make a slashing gesture across his throat as if to say, ‘I’m done. I’m finished. Enough.’ He then gave one of the gloves he had worn for the fight to Grispi, a longtime Pulver fan who requested the keepsake. Pulver then stood in the center of the cage and delivered what sounded like an impromptu retirement speech.
“I’m not going to be that guy who keeps saying I’m going to retire, but I think I just ended where I started,” Pulver told a packed house at ARCO Arena. “I love you guys.”
Then, a moment later, Pulver (22-12-1) indicated he may be understandably confused on making such a monumental decision.
“I’ll fight anybody they put in front of me, I’ll make no excuses,” he said, receiving a long and sustained standing ovation from many spectators. “I came out here, I fight my heart out every time out. This has been an incredible run guys, and I’m not saying I’m done yet … but I will tell you guys: Thank you for making the old man feel good.”
While there may be ambiguity about Pulver’s future, there is none when it comes to Grispi’s. Now 13-1, the Brockland, Mass., stud is just 20 years old and has sky-is-the-limit potential. He was gracious in victory toward a man who helped paved the way for fighters 155 pounds and under.
Said Grispi: “I threw a right hand that stunned him, he shot in and the guillotine was right there.”
MANVEL GAMBURYAN VS. JOHN FRANCHI
Solid but unspectacular pretty much describes Gamburyan’s WEC debut. Yes, the UFC defector prevailed, but in a division loaded with talented finishers, Gamburyan’s ground-and-pound display generated a loud chorus of boos from fans who, by the third round, had grown tired of watching the methodical and monotonous act. The standup show was limited in this one as Gamburyan scored takedowns in each round and scored with effective punches and elbows. The problem: None of the shots Gamburyan landed were the dynamic or thunderous type that draw “oohs” and “aaahs” from spectators. In the end, Gamburyan (11-5) was awarded a unanimous decision win, dealing Franchi (6-1) his first professional loss. The former The Ultimate Fighter finalist offered a thinly veiled apology to fans afterward.
“This is my new home, guys. I’m only going to get better, that’s all I’ll say,” Gamburyan said. “I’m only going to get better! The last time I cut to 145 (pounds) was 10 years ago, so trust me it wasn’t easy.”
The aggressor throughout, The Anvil did impress in the first few minutes of round one, scoring a takedown and then transitioning to a kimura, then an armbar, and then to an ankle lock. Franchi gamely escaped each time and never appeared in imminent danger of being finished.
KYLE DIETZ VS. RAFAEL REBELLO
Coming in, the unbeaten Dietz’ number one priority was this: Keep it standing. That mission blew up early as the action hit the canvas and Rebello, working out of a scramble, secured a front headlock and then immediately jumped on Dietz’ back and sunk both leg hooks in. Rebello then secured a rear naked choke for the tapout at 2:55 of round one. The Brazilian, who trains with American Top Team with Mike Brown, then seized the opportunity to antagonize Urijah Faber’s fan base.
“I train with ATT with the best in the world,” he said during the post-fight interview in the cage, drawing boos from thousands of Sacramento fans. “Mike Brown is the champion!”
ANTHONY PETTIS VS. MIKE CAMPBELL
Just 109 seconds of seeing Pettis in action was enough to conclude that this hard-nosed Wisconsinite is primed to become a force in the WEC lightweight division. Predominantly known as a striker – with relatively little jiu-jitsu experience – Pettis impressed early by jumping into a guillotine choke. When Campbell defended, Pettis immediately switched to a deep armbar. When Campbell muscled free, Pettis fished for a triangle choke, eventually securing it and winning the tap at 1:40 of round one. Clearly the unbeaten Pettis (7-0) is an extraordinarily quick learner, but he was humble afterward, holding up a shirt with a picture of his father, who was murdered in 2003.
“No one can do nothing worst that what happened to me in 2003,” Pettis said. “My dad is watching over me, nobody can stop me and I’m going to the top, baby.”
ANTONIO BANUELOS VS. SCOTT JORGENSEN
Quite possibly fight of the night and how you scored the second round determined who you thought won this fast-paced, all-out war. This was one of those fights where it’s so entertaining you wish the clock would just keep running beyond the 15-minute time limit.
Where to start? How about a splendid opening stanza, which was undisputedly owned by Banuelos. Roommate to Chuck Liddell and protégé of John Hackleman, a ridiculously amped-up Banuelos commanded the opening three minutes, landing a hard right hand and repeatedly tagging Jorgensen with hard punching combinations. Jorgensen came on later in the round, forcing Banuelos to retreat with a hard right hand. Banuelos also used a knee tap to score a takedown.
In round two, Banuelos’ insane pace slowed a tad, though he continued to land hard shots. But, to Jorgensen’s credit, he absorbed the damage and retaliated with his own power shots. Jorgensen was able to work more in the clinch, trying for a guillotine choke that Banuelos escaped. Both fighters landed hard shots in this round, with Banuelos perhaps landing more shots but Jorgensen the obvious aggressor who kept pushing the action as Banuelos danced about the cage and tried to pick his spots.
By round three, Jorgensen seemed the fresher fighter, and it would have been prudent for both men to assume they needed to win round since the second round was close. Jorgensen locked in a guillotine choke and Banuelos managed to somehow roll free. A Jorgensen elbow opened a gash under Banuelos’ left eye. Though Banuelos seemed to be tiring, and looked as if he was in survival mode, he nevertheless continually mustered the strength to throw – and land – heavy leather at Jorgensen, who somehow kept marching through those big shots unfazed.
Later in the round, Jorgensen landed a knee, a high kick and followed up with another hard knee. Banuelos, his entire face covered in blood from two gashes over his left eye, answered with yet another booming overhand right that Jorgensen brushed off.
In the final minute, Jorgensen scored a takedown and took Banuelos’ back, but was unable to finish it. The verdict went to the judges, who awarded Banuelos (17-5) a split decision victory.
FRANK GOMEZ VS. NOAH THOMAS
Gomez set the tone early, bashing Thomas with two hard knees from the clinch as he attempted takedowns. Thomas spent a lot of energy hunting for the takedown in the first two minutes, and when Gomez conveniently fell into his guard, Thomas was unable to capitalize or prevent Gomez from imposing his will. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter pounded Thomas with elbows in bunches, opening a gash on the Gracie jiu-jitsu fighter’s forehead. In round two, it was more of the same, with Gomez raining down several dozen more elbows and a bloodied Thomas wilting under the intensified assault. The 23-year-old Gomez managed to pass Thomas’ guard with relative ease and quickly secured an arm triangle that caused Thomas to tap at 3:12 of round 2.
With the win, Gomez improved to 14-4-1 and evened his WEC record at 1-1.
SETH DIKUN VS. ROLANDO PEREZ
With both men coming off losses in their WEC debuts, this bout had huge implications for each fighter since slipping to 0-2 could mean being given their walking papers by the organization. And it was Dikun who shined, stunning Perez and trapping him in a flying triangle early in round one. Perez, who feels most comfortable standing and with his boxing skills, gamely defended the triangle to pick up Dikun and drop him with a mini-slam. But Dikun stubbornly refused to let go, keeping the triangle tight and punishing Perez with elbows and punches to the head. After more than a minute in the triangle – a very long time – Perez tried to burst free once more, and Dikun seized the moment by cinching the triangle even tighter, earning the tap at 2:30 of the first round.
Dikun (7-3) was euphoric and then choked up immediately following the victory, and said of his surprise maneuver, “My cornermen just taught me that move like two weeks ago. I hit it in sparring and I knew I could do it … I wanted this so bad.”
Perez, who suffered a first-round TKO loss to Jose Aldo in his debut and dropped a weight class for this fight, fell to 4-3-1.
Brown Outlasts Gutsy Faber, Retains WEC Title
Frank Curreri, WEC – The Urijah Faber who performed at ARCO Arena on Sunday night was far different from the one who lost his title seven months ago. This time he fought inspired. He fought with one hand. And the world’s most popular 145-pounder dug deep into his bag of tricks and veered from the recklessness that has been his undoing last time around. But in the end, despite much creativity and courage, the result was the same: Mike Brown is the WEC featherweight champion.