What may possibly be the most compelling featherweight bout in American MMA history will headline Sunday's WEC card from the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. Jens Pulver, still undefeated at 145lbs, but will be playing the role of challenger for the first time as he takes on a dedicated and destructive Urijah Faber for the most coveted featherweight championship in the western hemisphere. If that weren't enough, WEC's new bantamweight champion, Miguel Torres will hold his first title defense against the talented and explosive Yoshiro Maeda. The remainder of the card is filled to the brim with both foreign and domestic talent, promising a night that is sure to leave fans with something to talk about.
Jens "Little Evil" Pulver (22-8-1) vs. Urijah "California Kid" Faber (20-1-0)
Jens "Little Evil" Pulver is still undefeated at featherweight, and has a shot at cementing his legacy with a win over Urijah Faber. Pulver has built his career on quick hands, slick boxing and massive KO power, and there's no reason to believe that has changed. Any opponent who's eager to stand with him better come equipped with elite striking or a cast-iron chin. His style is fast, constant, and oppressive and he hasn't had a fight, win or lose, go to the judges in almost six year. He's fought and beaten the best, and there is no doubt in anyone's mind of what he is capable of.
However, he isn't as young as he used to be. Many agree that he is no longer at his peak, but a great many also point to his recent bouts at lightweight to show that he is on the decline. A first round spanking of Cub Swanson allayed such talk, but how much of the young Jens Pulver still remains is a key question going into the match up.
Urijah Faber, though, is probably expecting to fight the best Jens Pulver ever. The 145-pound wrecking machine has a legendary work ethic and it has been well on display in preparation for this fight. In addition to his usual body-breaking routines, he's spent some time in Hawaii to train with the last two men to defeat Pulver ? the legendary BJ Penn and his developing pupil Joe Lauzon. Faber is determined to retain his title and wants to make it look as easy as possible.
He will probably succeed. As crafty and talented as Pulver is, Faber has proven to simply be too much for everyone. He's managed to submit each of his last four opponents before the third round, and made a very good Jeff Curran look clumsy. Faber is the real deal. Pulver should be able to get off a shot or two as Faber darts about looking for openings, but as soon as he shoots, he should be too strong a wrestler to be denied. By the end of the first round, an overwhelmed Little Evil will succumb to a rear naked choke, allowing the California Kid to retain his title and solidify his position atop the division.
Miguel Torres (33-1-0) vs. Yoshiro Maeda (23-4-2)
Miguel Torres had a long, hard career in the shadows, quietly dominating opposition with incredible Jiu-jitsu and intelligent application. Now he's on the big stage, finally showing to the world the talent he's always possessed. In his most recent outing, he became the WEC Bantamweight champion by completely outclassing former champion Chase Beebe on the ground en route to a quick and tidy first round guillotine.
Maeda made his WEC debut in exciting fashion, dropping rising star Charlie Valencia with a brutal body kick in the first round. Before coming stateside, he ran the tables in the Japanese Pancrase promotion, becoming its first featherweight champion. Maeda is an excellent striker with smart movement and serious stopping power. The experience he brings to the ring may be his greatest asset, though, as he's battled and defeated some top talent.
This fight could go either way, as each fighter has a substantial advantage in one area. However, Torres should finish it early. Though his striking itself isn't as complete or powerful as Maeda's, he's great at using strikes to flow into takedowns, guard pulls, or whatever else he wants to happen. Maeda will be worried about the takedown and allow Torres to control the pace and positioning of the fight. After it hits the ground, Torres will keep it there by flowing beautifully from submission to submission, eventually locking on a fight-ending triangle early in the second.
Also on the main card is a light heavyweight bout between Chuck Grigsby (15-3-0) and Mark Munoz (3-0-0). Both are making their WEC debut, and both will be looking to impress. At 6' 6", Grigsby has the frame and reach to cause damage on the feet. The former basketball player has developed a dangerous striking game and has shown it can deliver. Munoz is a former Division I wrestling champion and a training partner to WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber. In his few fights, his high caliber ground game has prevented him from tasting the sting of defeat.
Though he's the more experienced of the two, nothing seems to indicate that Grigsby will be able to stop Munoz from taking him down. Power and technique will give Munoz the edge once it hits the mat and he'll score a first round TKO over the unlucky Grigsby.
"Razor" Rob McCullough (15-3-0) only has three losses in his career, and two came in the WEC. The third loss, back in March of 2002, was to a powerful grappler named Kenneth Alexander (5-2-0). Alexander managed to get the decision then, but McCullough has a shot at revenge and its unlikely he'll let it slip.
However, Alexander is no slouch. His wrestling should be strong enough to put and keep "Razor" on his back and he shouldn't have to worry about being submitted. McCullough, though, has to expect this strategy and will come prepared. He'll land shots before he is taken down and will defend well from the bottom. By the second, the accumulated damage will slow Alexander enough for Razor to take the upper hand. Alexander will be smart enough not to get finished, but he won't be able to match McCullough's aggression enough to outpoint him. Razor by decision.
The rest of the card:
Donald Cerrone vs. Danny Castillo
Jeff Curran vs. Mike Brown
Chase Beebe vs. Will Ribeiro
Tim McKenzie vs. Jeremy Lang
Alex Serdyukov vs. Luis Sapo
Jose Aldo vs. Alexandre Nogueira
Charlie Valencia vs. Dominick Cruz