After watching last night's championship bout between Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver, I'm convinced that Urjiah Faber is the greatest American featherweight in the history of MMA.
Faber is 21-1 (9 TKOS, 9 submissions, 3 decisions) against quality opposition. His opponents have a combined 273-135-12 record with a winning percentage of almost 67%. His only loss came to Tyson Griffen a top fighter in the 155lb division.
Against Pulver, Faber deployed a great game plan featuring straight rights and body kicks against the left-handed Pulver. Faber's quickness was absolutely devastating, Pulver just couldn't get off the first shot, ever. He stunned Pulver repeatedly and nearly finished him in the second. He showed a strong chin too, repeatedly surviving power shots from the feared former UFC champ.
It goes without saying he dominated on the ground. Pulver has a good wrestling game and sprawled out of trouble several times, but Faber also got several takedowns and managed to do some damaging ground and pound in the later rounds.
The only question mark in Urijah's career right now is, who should he fight next. He's thoroughly cleared out the American 145lb ranks.
Over a year ago, Faber was calling out the man he wanted in the LA Times:
Faber's international counterpart as the best 145-pound fighter is Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto of Japan. The two have a lot of similarities, in that both came from a wrestling background, and then learned to excel in the other aspects, Muay Thai, boxing and submissions. Yamamoto, however, is a national hero, whose fights headline prime-time network spectacles in Japan and are often viewed by as many as 25 million people. Yamamoto also fights in the 154-pound weight class even though his fighting weight is about 141 pounds, simply because Hero's doesn't have any lighter division. Yamamoto, who took most of last year off in a failed attempt to make the national team in wrestling, is under contract to the Hero's promotion. But Faber is hoping Zuffa can put such a match together.
"That's the fight I want," he said. "That's the guy people think can beat me. His name is out there so much. Most people say we're the two best guys at the weight. "
Nothing has really changed. Yamamoto is still the biggest challenge out there for Urijah, and vice versa. It doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon, but never say never.