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Urijah Faber Not Promised Title Shot After Divisional Debut, but It's Coming

Urijah Faber might not intentionally seek out the spotlight, but he never seems to be too far from it, either. For the final time, the most valuable athlete in World Extreme Cagefighting history strapped on his blue leather gloves, and for the final time, he emerged with a dominant win.

This one was a little different than all those that have come before it though. It came during his first try at bantamweight, and it came just a month and a half before the WEC officially merges with the UFC. The combination of the two perfectly sets up Faber's entry into the world's biggest promotion.

Whether or not Faber will get an immediate bantamweight title shot remains at least officially a question mark. But given his performance and the circumstances, you have to assume he's probably leapfrogged to that top slot.

"I think I'm the best guy in the division," Faber said on Versus' WEC 52 post-fight show just after defeating Takeya Mizugaki. "I don't care when I get to prove that. I'm just going to keep fighting and beating people up."

The last part at least was an accurate description of the ending of his fight with Mizugaki, a durable Japanese fighter who had only been finished once in his career -- in a match four years ago -- prior to colliding with Faber.

The first round was relatively even when Faber jumped to Mizugaki's back off a scramble. The two fell to the ground and Faber repositioned his rear naked choke twice before he sunk it in completely. Mizugaki bravely tried to fight off the hold, but Faber wasn't to be denied. Mizugaki never tapped, and by the time referee Josh Rosenthal pulled Faber off of him, he was unconscious.

It was a rather scary scene as Mizugaki stiffened up and took a few seconds to regain consciousness after being attended to by medical personnel. By the time he came to, though, attention had shifted back to Faber.

"I wanted to make a statement in my first fight," he said. "Mizugaki's a guy who's tough to finish. [Miguel] Torres went five rounds with him, didn't finish him. [Rani] Yahya is a great grappler and didn't finish. I was able to do it and it felt good."

Faber seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time and capitalizing on the opportunity. Back in 2006, he'd captured the WEC featherweight title just before the promotion was bought by UFC parent company Zuffa. Under new management, the WEC scored a TV deal with Versus, and Faber immediately became one of the promotion's building blocks. In 12 fights under the UFC banner, Faber was in the main event eight times and the co-main event four times. He finished with a record of 9-3, and he successfully defended the belt five times before dropping it to Mike Brown.

All along though, Faber was undersized for the division. Though he worked hard to gain muscle, he rarely got much bigger than 156 pounds. But with his success at featherweight, there seemed to be no reason to make a change.

But after a mini-slump, he made the move.

"They're bigger than I am, but I'm a bad dude," Faber said with a smile. "I can hang with the 145 class, too, but here I am."

Here he is, indeed.

The timing of Faber's showcase win perfectly leads into the merger. While current 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz already has his next title challenger lined up in Scott Jorgensen, if he wins, the WEC would have an easy sell in a Cruz-Faber rematch. The two met in March 2007, with Faber winning in a first-round submission.

The usually mild-mannered Faber has made no secret of his disdain for Cruz, who he says disrespected him the first time around. The smaller weight divisions haven't seen a great deal of grudge matches over the years, so how likely would it be for the UFC be to bypass one now, as they try to establish the lower weight classes with many fans who are unfamiliar with them? Not likely at all.

If Cruz wins at next month's WEC 53, expect a Faber-Cruz matchup to follow shortly. Zuffa officials may not be willing to confirm it now, but it's a fight both men want and it's an easy sell. And after his most recent statement win, it would only be right to let the man who put the WEC on the map to be among the first lighter weight fighters to challenge for a UFC belt.

"I'm a finisher and that's what this division needs," he said. "This is what the UFC needs. It's time to step it up and live the dream. I've been in title contention like six years now. When I started fighting, there was no 135-pound class. Now it's time to shine. New era, baby."

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