Earlier this week I dissected the style of Renan Barao and contrasted it with that of Jose Aldo in an attempt to disprove Mike Goldberg's continual assertions that Barao is the bantamweight Jose Aldo. It was also to assess if Barao actually showed signs of the ability to beat Urijah Faber up in the same way that Aldo did. With UFC 149 so close it seems only appropriate that we turn our attention to the other fighter in the main event, Urijah Faber.
Urijah Faber has been near the top of every division he fights in since 2006, having a remarkable term as WEC featherweight champion. Often criticized for the fact that he rarely has to win more than one fight to get another title shot, Faber reinforces his case for constant title consideration by dramatically finishing most of the men he fights. The most recent victim of this was Brian Bowles, whom Faber convinced to duck into an uppercut before roughing him up on the ground and submitting him with a guillotine choke.
Yet for every amazing stand up performance against well known punchers such as Brian Bowles and Eddie Wineland, Faber has a lackluster outing on the feet such as he did against Jose Aldo, Mike Thomas Brown and arguably Dominick Cruz (though some felt he should have won this fight on power punches connected). Today we'll look in a little depth at why it might be that Faber is so hit and miss in his stand up performances.
To summarize Urijah Faber's weaknesses in advance they are that he:
- Relies on his right hand almost exclusively
- Rushes in without head movement or a jab
- Stands in range of his opponents but outside of his own range.
Urijah Faber is an explosive athlete and a proven power puncher, having stunned dozens of fighters on the feet, often to finish them with his trademark guillotine choke. Faber's reputation of a well rounded game was largely due to the powerful stand up game he added to his strong wrestling base. Faber's striking is led by his right hand - which he uses almost exclusively despite a significant lack of reach in many encounters.
This reliance entirely on the right hand was clearly visible in his most recent fight against Brian Bowles. Faber's inside slip was on top form as he attempted to Cross Counter everything that Bowles threw. Notice in the stills below that both times as Bowles steps in, Faber ducks to his left and throws a right hook.
Faber was able to completely stifle Brian Bowles with these sorts of counter, and to a degree Eddie Wineland was confused by Fabers counter as well. This sort of counter is excellent for Faber, who's lack of reach means that he needs to be in close and exchanging to connect, and who can often set up a takedown or clinch off of this counter if it misses.
Unfortunately Faber's offense is entirely right hand driven as well. The most important point to pick up from this article is that Urijah Faber refuses to use a jab. I'm sure that this is largely due to his reluctance to involve himself in jabbing battles at range when he has limited reach, but to close the distance it is necessary to either have outstanding, constant head movement (which Urijah Faber does not posses), or to jab one's way in. Even Mike Tyson utilized the jab against much, much taller fighters to close the distance and keep them from hitting him as he did so.
Notice here how Faber insists on leading with his right hand. Leading with the right hand is slower, more telegraphed, and lacks the reach of a jab. Notice in the top stills how Faber leads with a right straight - something he could get away with against the ageing southpaw, Jens Pulver, but that even the flat footed Brian Bowles was able to evade. In the bottom two stills Faber attempts to lead with a right uppercut - eventually he did catch Bowles with an uppercut, having noticed that Bowles was constantly ducking and looking downward, but a look at the sheer amount of distance Faber has to cover and how exposed he is to Bowles left hook should tell you why good strikers do not tend to lead with right uppercuts.
Against Dominick Cruz in their second meeting, Faber had some success in rushing Cruz with his right hand - dropping the champion with a left hook to the body and a right hand to the head (mainly as a result of Cruz's often being off balance). Thirty seconds later Faber tried exactly the same thing and got hit hard in the chin. This just demonstrates how easy it is to hit Urijah Faber when he is rushing in without head movement and with no jab to keep his opponent on the defensive. The top stills show Fabers successful rush, while the bottom two show him attempting exactly the same strategy and getting hit clean by Cruz.
Against Jose Aldo the story was much the same. Faber was fighting a longer, taller opponent and instead of attempting to jab his way in he stood at ranged then attempted to throw single right hand leads at Aldo, who was simply never there to be hit. When Faber rushed Aldo with his head straight up in the air, Aldo threw hard knees to the body.
This reliance on the right hand exclusively may stem from Urijah's desire to appear flashy (every Ali fan has watched the scene from When We Were Kings where Norman Mailer talks about the difficulty of landing the right hand lead - and Urijah's back elbow attempt against Mike Brown tells us that Faber's attempts to appear flashy can go wrong), or Faber may genuinely have a bad boxing coach. At any rate, leading with one's face is never a good plan.
Urijah Faber's other great technical sin is that as a small fighter he should either be way outside of his opponents range, or close enough to land his own punches. Yet Faber spends a great deal of time in range of his opponent, staring at them. Against Aldo, Faber spent the vast majority of the fight standing it stance, extending one hand or the other and staring into Aldo's eyes, only to be answered by a huge low kick, knee or punching salvo.
Faber spent huge portions of this fight, and others, standing in range of his opponent but too far apart to land his own punches, extending one or other hand and acting as if he was going to counter - then when an attack came he failed to do anything. Against Aldo in the above stills, at the start of the second round before Faber's legs were injured, Faber stands in range of Aldo for about three seconds, just staring at him until Aldo kicks him in the body.
When Urijah Faber meets Renan Barao at UFC 149, the fight could unfold any number of ways if it stays on the feet. The most likely seem to be that Faber will use his great right hand counter over Barao's frequent jab to stun the Brazilian, or he will stay on the end of Barao's reach, getting hit and rushing in wildly as the fight progresses. For all the talk of evolution after each loss, Faber still fights very similarly on the feet to how he did in his losses.