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WEC 52 Main Event Breakdown: Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki

One last time, Urijah Faber will put on the WEC's bright blue gloves and close out a show. While it would be a more poetic ending for Faber and the WEC to have him turn the lights out on the promotion at next month's final event, it's still fitting to see him get one more turn in the spotlight before the company officially merges with the UFC on Jan. 1.

When Faber steps into the octagon to face Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 52, it will be his 12th time in a WEC cage, and his eighth main event (his other four fights were all co-main events). By and large, he was the main building block for the WEC during its Zuffa era.

His fight against Mizugaki is on paper one he is well equipped to win, and one he is expected to win.

Mizugaki (13-4-2) has split his last four fights, beating Rani Yahya and Jeff Curran while losing to Scott Jorgensen and Miguel Torres. All four bouts have gone the distance, including the five-round affair with Torres in April 2009, which was largely considered one of the best bouts of the year and was contested for the bantamweight belt.

It's very difficult to ascribe a specific style to Mizugaki, as he tends to tailor his game to circumstances and opponents rather than focusing on a particular strength. But if you were to point out his biggest strength, it is his striking.

Mizugaki usually features crisp, technical punching, keeping his arms in tight and defending the counterpunch quite well. He's varied in his approach, sometimes going heavy on leg kicks to wear down on opponents, sometimes leading with hooks to the body, and other times going straight to the head.

Like many lighter weight fighters, Mizugaki is not a one-punch knockout fighter. In fact, in his 13 wins, he has only four finishes via TKO or KO. What he does do is throw combinations, unafraid to let his hands go as he trusts his defense and that he will be able to withstand counter attacks. As a result, he can be aggressive at times, particularly when he feels he can eat his opponent's shots with little concern of being hurt.

Mizugaki doesn't spend a lot of time on the ground, though he does seem to be a strong defensive grappler. On top, he favors ground and pound over submissions, and if he finds his back on the mat, he's much more likely to try to work his way upright rather than look for a fight-ending submission.

When it comes to clinchwork, he has good technique and sometimes looks for lateral drop takedowns, though he sometimes has trouble with stronger opponents.

One thing he lacks though is Faber's dynamic ability to change a fight through improvisation. The 31-year-old former featherweight champ is making his move down to bantamweight after a long and storied career at featherweight. It is rare to see fighters move down in weight as they get older; it's usually the opposite, but the 5-foot-6 Faber has never been one to do the expected.

Faber (23-4) was once arguably considered the most dominant lighter weight fighter around, but he's lost three out of his last five bouts. But anyone ready to write him off should reconsider that; all three losses were to former champions (two to Mike Brown and one to Jose Aldo).

While Mizugaki may be a better technical striker than Faber, the "California Kid" has more power and is accurate enough to make his shots count. Faber is an unpredictable striker, often throwing combinations that seem to flow directly from his imagination rather than appearing practiced.

Faber's big advantage is going to come on the ground. His wrestling pedigree is often forgotten, but he was a collegiate star capable of putting his opponent on the ground. He sometimes abandons his wrestling in favor of a striking-heavy style, but if he dusts it off against Mizugaki, that should tilt things in his favor.

On the mat, Faber is a finisher. Five of his last six victories have come via tapout, including a rear naked choke finish over jiu-jitsu black belt Raphael Assuncao in January. This finishing instinct is one of the big things that separates Faber from most lighter weight fighters.

Mizugaki has proven to be extremely durable in his time in the WEC, and I expect that trend to continue against Faber, but Faber is too strong and dynamic to be handled here. Some have questioned how the weight cut might effect Faber, but he's always taken top-notch care of his body, and he's not likely to be slowed down a step.

Mizugaki will have his moments in the standup, but Faber will land the bigger scoring shots and control the action on the ground off any scrambles and takedowns. Faber is well aware that Mizugaki is hard to tap, so expect him to go with ground and pound. Faber closes out his WEC career in style and heads to the UFC with the momentum of a third-round TKO win.

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