While last weekend it was the big boys that stole the show, this week the main event features a couple of bantamweights battling for the 135 lbs. title. However, don't think for a minute this fight takes a backseat in any way, because this fight has the potential to be the best fight in bantamweight history thus far. Why? Because it features a rematch of arguably the best two fighters of the weight class in the world.
UFC champion Dominic 'The Dominator' Cruz (17-1, 6 KO's 1 sub) is not only defending his belt, but has a chance to avenge the only blemish on his record. That is because his challenger Urijah 'The California Kid' Faber (25-4, 7 KO's 13 subs) defeated the current champ via guillotine choke in a fight they had four years ago. At that time though things were different; Faber was one fight away from becoming champion in World Extreme Cagefighting at featherweight (145 lbs.). Cruz meanwhile was fighting in only his 10th professional fight. A lot has happened since then.
Faber has gone 7-3 in 10 fights, including losing his title and going down in weight. Cruz meanwhile has won eight fights in a row, including the WEC 135 lbs. championship, defended it and became the initial UFC bantamweight champ. As much as I like Urijah Faber, it is for those reasons, plus some others, that I am picking Cruz to defeat Faber in the rematch via unanimous decision.
Cruz is a much improved fighter since then, not to mention more experienced now. He's learned how to use his size and reach to his advantage, as he's extremely tall for this weight class, and is much improved in his takedown defense. Plus, he's had two fights against Joseph Benavidez, one of Faber's primary training partners and teammates at Alpha Male. As great as Faber is and continues to be, I think he's met his match at featherweight Jose Aldo and now at bantamweight also in Dominic Cruz. We'll see if I'm right or wrong come Saturday.
In the co-main event, it's the return of a legend as Wanderlei 'The Axe Murderer' Silva (33-10-1, 23 KO's 3 subs), who hasn't fought in nearly a year and half, faces off against the always dangerous Chris 'The Crippler' Leben (25-7, 13 KO's 6 subs) at middleweight (185 lbs.). This one is a tough call for me as a huge Silva fan because I believe his best days are behind him. By the same token, I was never fully impressed by Leben, but the guy always seems to find a way to win. Yet, I'm going to let my heart get in the way and say that I think the time off may have been good for 'The Axe Murderer', which is why I'm picking him to win by second round TKO.
The other fight of note on this card features the return of yet another legend. Only this time the legend faces a rising star and I don't think the fairy tale ending is in store. Former light-heavyweight (205 lbs) Kingpin Tito Ortiz (15-8-1, 8 KO's 2 subs) meets budding superstar Ryan 'Darth' Bader (12-1, 5 KO's 3 subs) in what will likely be his last fight in the UFC. Ortiz AKA 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' is 0-4-1 in his last five fights and has not won a fight since October 2006; sadly, I don't think it will happen here either.
Bader, who is just 28 years old compared to Ortiz's 36, was on the verge of a title shot till he lost to eventual champion and fellow young stud Jon 'Bones' Jones in February. Ortiz's forte has always been his wrestling, but it can't compare to Bader's, a former two-time All-American while at Arizona State University. That, plus the game has obviously passed Ortiz by and I believe he's only in it for a paycheck is why I'm picking Bader by TKO in the third round. A sad end prediction for a true pioneer of the sport, but that's what happens when you hang on too long; just ask Ortiz's long time nemesis Chuck Liddell.