As far as featherweight superfights go, the ultimate matchup had always been stateside champion Urijah Faber against Japanese knockout artist Norifumi Yamamoto. However, after Mike Brown pacified "The California Kid" and Joe Warren outpointed the Japanese "Kid", the idea of the clash lost some of its significance. Now, WEC 41 presents us with the new most anticipated fight at 145 pounds ? a rematch between Faber and Brown. The championship bout headlines a card that includes two top featherweight prospects in Jose Aldo and Josh Grispi, a rebounding contender in Donald Cerrone, and a fading veteran in Jens Pulver. More importantly than the names, though, the card features competitive matchups that are sure to bring about some fantastic action.
Mike Brown (21-4-0) vs. Urijah "The California Kid" Faber (22-2-0)
Eight months ago, Mike Brown went into his title shot against Urijah Faber as a massive underdog. In less than three minutes, Brown's hand was raised as the new WEC featherweight champion. Any echoes of the word "fluke" were emphatically dispersed in Brown's first title defense. The American Top Team featherweight again displayed crisp, heavy hands and sudden finishing ability in a two minute blitzkrieg of the ever-tough Leonard Garcia.
Though he took the defeat well, it was quickly obvious that The California Kid wanted his title back. Two months later, in a completely unnecessary rematch, Faber submitted Jens Pulver and earned himself another shot at the first man to beat him since September of 2005.
Faber wins this fight if he doesn't make any mistakes. He's the quicker, more versatile, and more explosive fighter. On the feet, he can land strikes and continually dance out of range before Brown's technically sound, but slightly slower, hands can counter. In the clinch, he can beat Brown to the punch and stay active enough to negate the leverage and strength disadvantage. On the ground, he can use his superior scrambling ability to regain, maintain, or advance his position.
These are all things that can happen. Unfortunately, they are not things that will happen. Faber will control the fight early, but he will make a mistake. Against an opponent as technical and powerful as Brown, the mistake will cost him, though not as much as in their first encounter. Expect Faber to hit the canvas a few times, but it is very likely that he plays it a bit more cautiously and survives to hear the final bell. A five round war ends in a unanimous decision for the fighter who lands the more damaging blows at a distance and outmuscles his opponent in close quarters. Mike Brown retains.
Jose "Junior" Aldo (14-1-0) vs. Cub Swanson (13-2-0)
Not too long ago, Cub Swanson was the favored young prospect in the featherweight division. The 26-year-old entered the WEC on a nine fight win streak, and extended that further withs wins over solid opposition in Tommy Lee and Micah Miller. His strong striking skills and sound grappling were touted as ingredients to a complete fighter with limitless potential.
Enter Jose Aldo. The Nova Uniao black belt and BJJ world champion announced his presence by knocking out all four opponents the WEC threw at him. Not only did he knock them out, but he did so with an ease and style that got people talking about more than his ground game.
Ironically, it may be more cost effective for Swanson to take the Brazilian as it is cheaper to tap out from a submission than pay hospital bills from repeated punches to the face. Swanson will put up a tough fight through the second round before eating strikes until the referee stops the bout. If Cub Swanson didn't already dislike Jose Aldo, he probably will after Sunday.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (9-1-0) vs James Krause (10-0-0)
Undefeated in ten professional bouts, James Krause carries the distinct advantage of being taller than a Donald Cerrone who probably hasn't faced many in his weight class who can boast that. Additionally, Krause has a solid striking game that will allow him to utilize this benefit.
Cerrone will be attempting to get back on the winning path after dropping a controversial decision in a controversial stoppage to WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner. Cowboy was simply unable to fight off Varner's formidable wrestling and, despite solid striking in his own right, ate too many shots on the feet.
In the search to find the world's greatest lanky lightweight, Cerrone will walk away with the victory. Krause doesn't posses the offensive wrestling assault of Varner, doesn't have the power to put Cerrone away standing, and doesn't have the ground skills to avoid the submission super combo Cowboy will unleash once it hits the mat. A knockdown and first round submission for Cerrone puts him back in title contention while Krause gets an easier opponent that allows him to show off his skills.
Josh "The Fluke" Grispi vs. Jens "Lil' Evil" Pulver
With five losses in his last six outings, Jens Pulver's career is on the ropes. What was once a textbook sprawl and brawl style has devolved with age, becoming more brawl than sprawl and without the speed and accuracy it used to have. To be fair, Pulver's losses have come to some of the best fighters in two weight classes, so it may not be all over yet. A solid right hand could rejuvenate his career and get him a much needed "W".
Thus far in his career, "The Fluke" has looked very much like the real deal. Two stoppages over tough opponents in the WEC cap an eight fight win streak that Grispi brings into this bout. He has run through opponents with a formidable ground game that could match him up favorably with almost anyone in the division.
Unfortunately, it looks like "Lil' Evil" may suffer another defeat. Grispi has the takedowns to put Pulver on his back and the grappling to make him tap. A first round rear naked choke wins it for "The Fluke". Where Pulver's career goes next is very much up in the air.