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Hostility Remains for Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, but Only Issue Is Who's No. 1

<! mediaid=4246865 Eric Jamison, AP: img vspace="4" hspace="4" border="1" align="right" alt="" src="" />It is a feud born of the simplest motive: revenge, and man's simplest desire: to be the best. Many moons ago, Urijah Faber beat Dominick Cruz in a championship match, a loss that stung Cruz deeply but helped mold his future. They parted as enemies, Cruz dropping down a division to find his fortune as a bantamweight, Faber continuing on as the biggest name in the WEC even after losing his belt.

Four years later, Faber continues to see Cruz's reaction to the loss as immature, but Cruz has a trump card, his current view from the top as UFC bantamweight champion.

UFC 132's main event storyline is diametrically opposed to that of their first bout. In March 2007, Faber was the established champion facing down a young upstart. For Cruz back then, the question was, at 21 years old, was he just too young to win it all? Now though, the evolved Cruz is at the heights of his power, staring back at a veteran. For Faber, the question is, at 32 years old, and with losses in his last three title bouts, is he facing his last chance to reach for gold?

These questions have fallen into the background of the enmity between them, but larger questions remain about how the two will actually stack up against each other in the cage. Cruz used the loss as a lesson, re-tooling his game to emphasize speed and footwork in the standup, occasional takedowns and an endless gas tank.

Faber, meanwhile, has continued along with the same style that made him a champion, innovating offense but focusing mostly on his striking game. According to Cruz, that learning curve over the last few years is just one of many factors in his favor.

"The haircut and the years, that sums it up," Cruz said when asked about Faber's evolution. "With me you can look at my seven fights and see a big difference since I fought him. Kicks, ground game, wrestling. My body's changed. You name it. It's been four years. Everything's different in this fight, and he's fighting a completely different person."

Faber though, says that while he excelled at featherweight all those years, 135 is his true competitive weight, and that he's faster with less mass.

Complicating it all is the emotion of the bout. Can Cruz fight his disciplined style with his enemy standing across from him? Will Faber use his veteran wiles in an attempt to goad Cruz into a brawl? That remains to be seen.

"I've never been really an emotional fighter but that's because I usually feel kind of indifferent or kind of like the guy I'm fighting," Faber said. "But in a real situation, if I were to fight, the only reason I would fight is if I didn't like somebody. So, I think it makes it easier."

"For me, I do a pretty good job not making it emotional in my brain," Cruz said. "While I'm not real fond of Faber, at the same time, once I get in a fight, I fight just as hard with somebody I don't like as somebody I have no problem with. Once I get in there, it's no big deal. I just do my job and try to beat the crap out of whoever is in the cage with me."

That Cruz-Faber is a grudge match is welcome news to the UFC, which just recently added the bantamweight class to the promotion after absorbing the WEC. This makes UFC 132 the first UFC event ever to be headlined by a division smaller than lightweight.

Historically, grudge fights sell better than ordinary championship matches simply testing No. 1 against No. 2. But while Faber came into the UFC (he already fought at UFC 128) with a measure of fame, Cruz also faces the added pressure of trying to introduce himself to some of the sport's less fanatical fans who may have not yet seen him compete.

Cruz says he won't be "shell-shocked" by his UFC debut, but admits it's an honor to be at the top of a major pay-per-view card. But when it comes down to it, there are much more simple things at stake. There may be bad blood, but it all stems from the most basic reason fighters get into the sport in the first place, to find out just how good they are.

"Bottom line is, I'm the best 135-pounder in the world, and it's my time to prove it," Faber said.

Even as the champ, Cruz has more to prove here. Faber is the bigger name, he holds a head-to-head win, and he may even have the crowd in his favor. That's what this all comes down to. Asked if the two would get along and shake hands following the conclusion of the bout, Cruz agreed there would be no problems before boiling this feud down to its real essence.

"I don't hate the guy, and I don't wish him ill will," he said. I just want to go prove that I'm a better fighter than him."