It would appear Christmas has arrived early for MMA fans since November has delivered solid actions and fights since UFC 138 in England, where Mark Munoz sidelined Chris Leben and moved one step closer to a title shot. UFC on FOX debuted with record-setting numbers (8.8 million viewers) that all watched as Junior Dos Santos finished Cain Velasquez in the opening minute of their fight. Tomorrow night from the HP Pavilion inSan Jose,CA former WEC champions Brain Bowles and Urijah Faber square off in a match that could lead either man back to another bout with current champion, Dominick Cruz in 2012.
Brian Bowles (10-1) may look like the nice kid from down the street but once he enters inside the cage, that kid turns into a violent man and ruins whoever is put in front of him. Having only one professional fight go the distance, Bowles has used his submissions skills to finish many opponents and has turned the lights off on the other men with heavy hands. His sole loss came during his first WEC bantamweight title defense against Dominick Cruz, where after two rounds the doctors stopped the bout seeing Bowles broke his hand and was unable to continue. This ending is bittersweet for any fighter (a champion especially) since it was by a call rather than a definitive stoppage and he will use his current two fight win streak to show everyone he is still a threat and not a flash in the pan.
“The California Kid” Urijah Faber (25-5) is arguably one of the most known fighters in MMA. Always happy and never one to trash talk, Faber is an ambassador of the sport and has put in time long before the sport had blown into what it is today. One time dominating the featherweight division, he dropped to bantamweight after his one-sided loss to Jose Aldo, citing that bantamweight is closer to where he was when wrestling collegiate and the weight was an easier cut and allowed him to be more explosive and powerful overall. Wrestling is his base and strength but like Bowels, many of his victory come via submission and both of these men have multiple wins via rear naked choke.
The only thing that could be called “weak” in Faber’s arsenal is his striking. Never heavy-handed or feared for knockout power, he displayed an improvement against Eddie Wineland at UFC 129 and looked clean against Dominick Cruz this past July, he was just to slow for “The Dominator.” Walking into the cage on Saturday night, one can hope he has continued to improve his hands and head movement as Bowles is able to finish the bout with select shots and could set Faber back even further from what he wants the most, another shot at UFC gold.
A title shot is not out of reach for either man after this bout is finished and they each have personal reasons and motivations to fight Cruz again for his belt. However, is that something that fans want to see? The bantamweight division is full of talent but is young in its divisional roster depth – similar to the UFC heavyweight division a few years ago, a small group of talented men who were recycled amongst themselves and the title scene was repetitive until they evolved. Ideally, one of these will fight Cruz in mid 2012 for a belt unless someone breaks out and makes a run for it. Until then, make sure to watch UFC 139 tomorrow night to see true talent in a lighter weight class displayed as these two veterans throw down.