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This day in MMA History: Urijah Faber wins WEC title, Leon Edwards and Paul Craig get last second stoppages

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March 17th was a date that saw the arrival of the California Kid. It has also played host to two record finishes.

WEC: Aldo vs. Faber Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

With COVID-19 ruining our future MMA plans, we at Bloody Elbow are taking a look back on some of the most notable people and events in the sport’s history. On this day, we are reminiscing on two amazing finishes that took place at the same event, a match-up of legendary kickboxers and the coronation of the California Kid.

March 17, 2006: Urijah Faber becomes the WEC bantamweight champion

WEC 19: Undisputed was the kind of card that put WEC on the map. This was before the UFC had seized US dominance over the sport. Though, that wasn’t too far away. ZUFFA would acquire WEC in December 2006. The Fertitta’s were undoubtedly drawn to WEC’s small cage because of its loyal following, big characters and thrilling fights. Those characters and fights were on full display on March 17th, 2006.

The event, which went down at Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California, featured eight fighters who would at one point hold WEC titles. The event also saw 9 finishes, with just two contests going the distance.

Headlining the event was a bout for the WEC featherweight title. It pit Cole Escovedo (11-1) versus Urijah Faber (11-1).

For Faber, this was his first WEC appearance. Before this he had competed at Gladiator Challenge and King of the Cage (KOTC), where he won the bantamweight title. Escovedo had been with WEC since 2001 and won the featherweight crown at WEC 5.

Faber vs. Escovedo is available on UFC Fight Pass (along with the rest of WEC’s library).

In the first round of the fight, Faber took just ten seconds to knock Escovedo down to the canvas — with a looping right hand. Faber then swarmed on Escovedo; landing ground and pound and dragging his opponent to the fence. Escovedo regained some composure and was able to defend well there, with his legs. Faber then opted for a heel hook, but that only resulted in Escovedo getting top position, where he could then land ground and pound. Faber took some stiff shots, but was then able to scramble and get back on top. Faber controlled the remainder of the round, bloodying Escovedo with brutal elbows in the process.

In the second round it took Faber 20 seconds to land his big right hand and send Escovedo to the canvas again. After that he took top position and landed big elbows and punches, turning Escovedo into a bloody mess. Escovedo tried to put up a fight, but he could barely see his opponent through all the blood. When the round ended Escovedo went to his corner, pouring blood and with a big hematoma forming on his forehead. Escovedo’s corner had seen enough and they called an end to the contest.

Escovedo was disappointed, but showed class in raising Faber’s hand and placing the belt around his waist.

Faber would go on to defend the belt six times, versus opponents like Dominick Cruz, Jeff Curran and Jens Pulver, before dropping the title to Mike Brown at WEC 36 on November 5th, 2008.

March 17, 2001: Mirko Cro Cop defeats Peter Aerts in Yokohama

When it comes to kickboxing greats Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic is the first name on many MMA watcher’s lips. The Croatian amassed a 26-8 record with primarily K-1. He started kickboxing all the way back in 1996, five years before he made a name for himself as the most dangerous kicker in MMA.

One of his last kickboxing bouts before he competed under MMA rules came against another legend of the sport: Peter Aerts.

Whereas Cro Cop is known as a kickboxing great by MMA fans, real kickboxing-heads salute Aerts above him (and most others). The Dutchman’s record stands today at 106-35-2 with well over a dozen titles.

At K-1 Gladiators 2001 Aerts was already a 86 fight veteran. Cro Cop was just 14-6. You can see how the clash between these legends of the future went below (via Artur Lysenko/YouTube) and see how Cro Cop was able to pull out the victory over his far more experienced opponent.

March 17, 2018: Two last second finishes at UFC London

Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards is one of the fighters missing out on a bout thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend he was due to face former champion Tyron Woodley in a bout that could have launched him into a title fight in the very near future.

Edwards is currently on an eight fight winning streak. None of those wins were as dramatic as what went down at UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov, though. Edwards took on Peter Sobotta that night and the pair engaged in a fun back-and-forth battle. Both fighters probably had a round each heading into the third. With the fight up in the air it was the English fighter who was able to pull out the stoppage with just one second to spare. Here’s how Bloody Elbow’s Tim Burke covered the action as it unfolded:

Round 3 - Edwards whiffs on a head kick and gets popped with a couple of counters. Long left lands for Edwards. Edwards clinches up briefly. A left scores for Sobotta. Uppercut from Edwards. Left lands glancingly for Edwards. Sobotta shoots in and gets a brief takedown. Sobotta has a body lock and he’s on Edwards’ back. But Edwards is on his feet. Now Edwards ends up on top. He’s being active but the referee is warning them for inactivity. Sobotta is bleeding from some short elbows. He rolls over to his stomach and Edwards lands a bevy of punches. He’s still going, and...the fight was waved off right before the horn. Another 4:59 finish! Crazy.

Notice how Burke wrote “Another 4:59 finish!” That’s because a few fights before this, Scottish fighter Paul Craig pulled off an improbable submission victory over Magomed Ankalaev. Craig, a relative newcomer to the UFC at this point in his career, sustained an incredible amount of punishment in this fight, but somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with one second left on the clock. Here’s Burke’s play-by-play of that moment:

Round 3 - Head kick from Ankalaev right away. Craig looks for a takedown but can’t get it. Ankalaev makes him stand back up. Craig with a head kick. Body kick from Ankalaev. Ankalaev with a nice straight left. Craig tries for another takedown but there’s nothing there. pushes his head down and lands some punches. Craig escapes briefly but they’re in the clinch. Craig exits with a spin, then falls downs. Ankalaev lands a hard knee and he’s got Craig turtled up. Knees to the body. Craig rolls to guard. Hard elbow from Ankalaev. He’s working Craig over against the fence. Craig throws up a desperation triangle at the 10-second clacker, and he locks it up! ANKALAEV TAPPED! HOLY COW! THAT WAS INSANE! Literal last-second finish.