The first round of Faber's UFC 128 bout with Eddie Wineland was a frustrating experience for Faber, as nothing worked the way he wanted it to: Wineland took the center of the cage at the start, tied Faber up, pressed him against the cage, and generally did what he wanted to do. When Faber dropped down to get Wineland on the floor, Wineland wouldn't budge, and he made Faber eat a punch for his efforts. Wineland commanded the first round.
So we saw Faber have to resort to Plan B, and that's where he shined: Faber found another way to win, and he showed off the scrappy determination that makes him a fan favorite, and now makes him the No. 1 contender in the UFC's bantamweight division.
In the second round Faber turned things to his advantage with a flashy move that you don't often see: He grabbed Wineland's lead leg on a single-leg takedown attempt, then tripped Wineland by kicking his trail leg. From there he battered Wineland with ground and pound, and wearing Wineland down in the second was what turned the tide and led the way to Faber's unanimous decision victory.
Faber attacks relentlessly when the fight is going on, which is one of the reasons fans love him, but the other reason is that he's got the personality of the class cutup once the fight ends. In his post-fight interview, Faber channeled Antoine Dodson in challenging bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz to a fight.
"Dominick, if you're out there, hide your kids, hide your wife, hide that UFC belt," Faber said.
Cruz won't be able to hide the UFC bantamweight belt for long: Faber is the next champion of the 135-pound division.
Notes from UFC 128
-- The UFC light heavyweight belt has been a hot potato in the last four years: Chuck Liddell lost it to Rampage Jackson, who lost it to Forrest Griffin, who lost it to Rashad Evans, who lost it to Lyoto Machida, who lost it to Shogun Rua, who lost it to Jon Jones. But does anyone think Jones will lose it any time soon? Liddell successfully defended the light heavyweight belt four times, and I could easily see Jones topping that.
-- Seeing Mirko Cro Cop and Brendan Schaub standing next to each other was a reminder of how much bigger heavyweight mixed martial artists are getting. The 245-pound Schaub isn't even all that big by modern heavyweight standards, but he dwarfs the 229-pound Cro Cop. Great heavyweights of a few years ago like Cro Cop, Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko just can't match up to the bigger, stronger, better heavyweights of today.
Quotes from UFC 128
"You're the reason I got started, Mirko." -- Schaub, hugging and congratulating Cro Cop moments after brutally knocking him out -- and knocking him out of the UFC.
"On Saturday, April 9, from Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, it's Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley." -- Mike Goldberg. Yes, the UFC's announcer read a Strikeforce promo. Welcome to the new world of MMA.
"Bones vs. Silva? Who wants it?" UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta on Twitter, suggesting that a Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva superfight could be coming. If the boss wants it, the boss should get it.
Whoever produced the promo for the UFC 129 fight between Jake Shields and Georges St. Pierre did a great job -- it's one of the best commercials I've seen the UFC run. It would have been nice to see some Strikeforce highlights featuring Shields, though -- apparently the commercial was made before the UFC bought Strikeforce.
Herb Dean is the best ref working in MMA today, but I didn't like his handling of the Cro Cop-Schaub fight: He was inconsistent in his decision to deduct a point from Schaub for multiple blows to the back of the head but not deduct a point from Cro Cop for multiple illegal kicks, and he was out of position when Schaub knocked Cro Cop out, resulting in Schaub hitting Cro Cop with an extra punch on the ground before Dean could get there.
Jim Miller won his seventh straight fight, and his TKO victory over Kamal Shalorus was his second consecutive exciting finish. He shouldn't be fighting anyone other than Top 10 lightweights anymore.
Eliot Marshall was brought back to the UFC on short notice to fight Luiz Cane, and he showed that he simply isn't up for a fight with an opponent of that caliber. I expect the UFC to cut Marshall again.
I heard from a lot of MMA fans last week who thought Jones was getting over-hyped. At the time, there was some validity to that point of view -- Jones hadn't yet proven his greatness against elite opposition. But there's really no way to overly hype Jones after what he did on Saturday night. We're watching a great fighter just entering his prime.