A lot of time you hear hyperbole that rings hollow from fight promotions for fights. However, in the case of Sunday’s main event matchup between Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver, the WEC is right on the money by calling it the biggest fight in the history of the featherweight title.
The show, will air live on Versus starting at 9 p.m. ET, will be held at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Built around the local drawing power of Faber, it truly will be the biggest show in the history of the WEC.
But in addition to Faber vs. Pulver, fight fans are also being presented a solid undercard, featuring a bantamweight title match between rising star Miguel Torres taking on Pancrase veteran Yoshiro Maeda. We’ll also get to see the return of “Razor” Rob McCullough and the debut of blue chip middleweight prospect and former NCAA champion, Mark Munoz, in separate bouts.
Below you will find our full preview of the event.
Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver for the WEC featherweight title - Jens Pulver is a consumate professional inside and outside of the cage. Undefeated as a featherweight, he will put that unbeaten streak to the test against Urijah Faber, a man that many consider to be the top 145 lbs. fighter in the world.
For Faber, who is a machine on the ground, Pulver will prove to be the toughest test of his ever-improving standup game. Pulver has competed as a professional boxer and not only has strong knockout power, but is a good technical boxer (i.e. footwork, head movement, combinations, and defensive ability). He’s much better on the ground than he gets credit for, as his original background is wrestling. Having spent years training under Pat Miletich at Miletich Fighting Systems in Iowa, he’s also managed to learn a couple of submissions along the way.
However, he will be no match for Pulver if this fight goes to the ground. Pulver must utilize his sprawl and keep this fight standing. He must control the distance and if he goes inside, he must remain busy. Trying to close the distance against Faber could put him at greater risk for a takedown, so if he assumes that risk, it better be for a purpose. Miletich’s M.O. when his fighters have gone against a strong fighter on the ground is to limit the combinations that they throw in order to reduce the risk. As such, don’t be surprised if Pulver paces himself during the fight.
For Faber, the game plan is also simple: avoid Pulver’s left at all costs. Faber’s lone loss was against Tyson Griffin, a much bigger opponent, whose boxing was tough for Faber to find an answer for. So while Faber causes a lot of matchup problems for Pulver, Pulver isn’t exactly the best matchup in a lot of aspect for Faber either.
I definitely think there is a chance for an upset here, because Pulver knows how to prepare for a fight and his punching power makes him a threat regardless of whether he’s up or down in a fight. However, I just think that Faber will eventually be able to get the fight to the ground and I think his cardio will factor into the outcome of this fight. There will be times where Pulver looks like he is in charge, but Faber will be able to turn the tide if this fight gets into the fourth round.
I’m predicting Faber to win via fourth round TKO.
Miguel Torres vs. Yoshiro Maeda for the WEC bantamweight title – Manny Tapia was originally supposed to face Torres, but was forced out of the fight due to injury. Maeda, a veteran of Pancrase, DEEP, and PRIDE will step in for him, and in some ways, it’s an upgrade because many people consider Maeda to be a top ten featherweight as opposed to Tapia, who is still currently unranked by many pundits.
Maeda made his WEC debut at WEC 32 in Albuquerque this past February, where he knocked Charlie Valencia out with a body kick at 2:13 of round 1. It was an impressive debut for Maeda, who doesn’t have the best record in the world, thanks in large part to competing outside of the bantamweight division. He’s taken on notable fighters such as Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett, Joe Pearson, Masakazu Imanari (he also holds a draw with him), and lost to each because he just didn’t have the size to hang with them. The thing is, size will be an issue against Torres, who, at 5’9”, is a giant at 135 lbs. Torres is a marvelous fighter who is finally starting to get some of the exposure he rightfully deserves.
Torres won the title by making quick work of then-champion Chase Beebe, choking him out with a guillotine at 3:59 of round 1. Having trained under the late Carlson Gracie in Chicago, Torres boasts slick submissions from the top and bottom. His standup is also very solid as well. With just one loss compared to 32 wins, he is without question the top bantamweight anywhere in the world.
I see him making quick work of Maeda with a first round submission. Even though he’s yet to make a successful defense of the title, it should be obvious to everyone that has watched him that Torres is set up for a pretty long run as champion.
“Razor” Rob McCullough vs. Kenneth Alexander - I am a big fan of “Razor” Rob, but I have to admit, something looked really off with him when he lost the WEC lightweight title in his last fight against Jamie Varner at WEC 32 in February.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, McCullough’s Muay Thai is world class. However, his ground game is an area of improvement. But the thing is, the ground didn’t factor into McCullough losing against Varner; it was Varner’s underrated boxing ability that did McCullough in.
Alexander is not an overly experienced fighter, and normally McCullough would be the obvious choice here. The thing is, Alexander fought McCullough during his third pro fight and won a two-round decision.
Despite having lost to Alexander previously, I still about McCullough to come out very aggressive and look to put this fight away early. As such, I am going with McCullough via first round KO.
Mark Munoz vs. Chuck Grigsby – The WEC’s middleweight division is in a time of transition right now. Chael Sonnen has really stepped up but it’s unknown when or if he will get a rematch for the WEC middleweight title against Paulo Filho. The WEC is looking for Munoz to step up and become the division’s rising star.
Already 3-0 as a pro in MMA, Munoz was an amateur champion in wrestling while competing at Oklahoma State, an NCAA wrestling powerhouse that has produced the likes of Randy Couture, Jake Rosholt, Shane Roller, and Johny Hendricks.
Grigsby enters this fight on the heels of an eight fight win streak and like Munoz, he’ll be making his WEC debut as well. He could be an interesting piece of the WEC’s middleweight puzzle, but a fighter like Munoz doesn’t come cheap and this fight wasn’t likely put together with the idea of Grigsby possibly winning. Then again, this is the WEC, which rarely promotes mis-matches, so you never know.
I am still going to pick Munoz to win via second round TKO.
Other notable fights (could be shown on tape delay):
Jeff Curran vs. Mike Brown - I’m kind of surprised that we’re not guaranteed to see this fight on television. Curran is a top ten featherweight even in spite of losing ro Urijah Faber in his last fight. But he has a tough battle on his hands in Mike Brown, a former BodogFIGHT competitor that has competed as a lightweight in the past. This is the same Mike Brown from American Top Team upset Yves Edwards via unanimous decision during Bodog’s St. Petersburg tapings in December of 2006. He’s only fought twice since then, so his addition to the WEC is a welcome one. I see this fight going to a decision, and I see Curran walking away with the win.
Alexandre Franca Nogueira vs. Jose Aldo - I had an opportunity to speak with Jens Pulver last week, and when I asked him if there was anyone specific he wanted to fight if he was able to beat Jens Pulver, without any hesitation he named Nogueira. Pulver isn’t the only one excited by Nogueira’s arrival in the WEC, as many hardcore fans have touted his addition to the WEC featherweight division ever since the signing was announced. The 32-year old Nogueira (no relation to Antonio Rodrigo or Antonio Rogerio) has been fighting since the age of 21 and holds the record for longest reign of a champion in any MMA organization, as he held the Shooto title for over six years. I expect him to make a big splash vs. Aldo, and finish him with a second round submission.
Donald Cerrone vs. Danny Castillo – Castillo is a local fighter that was just added to the fight last week after Rich Crunkilton pulled out due to injury. Cerrone is a strong lightweight prospect who is coming off suspension for testing positive for a diuretic following a win over Kenneth Alexander at WEC 30 last September. It’s important for him to bounce back here, because a win could put him at the front of the line for a shot at the WEC lightweight title currently held by Jamie Varner. But will the fact that he hasn’t had much time to prepare for Castillo be an issue? We’ll find out. But as of now, I consider him the heavy favorite to win this fight.
Tim McKenzie vs. Jeremy Lang - McKenzie is an outstanding fighter that was being groomed for a shot at the WEC light heavyweight title until he lost to Steve Cantwell at WEC33 this past March. The light heavyweight division isn’t exactly stacked in the WEC right now, so it’s possible that McKenzie will get a title shot here if he can beat Lang, which I fully expect him to do.