Try as they might the UFC has yet to crown Urijah Faber champion. If we travel back to his WEC days the man has now lost 5 straight title fights but there he still is, hanging around the top of the division poised to earn another potential title shot. And now thanks to the UFC’s newly minted official rankings he can see just how close he actually is to the top. But where does this story go from here? Still better than pretty much every other Bantamweight on the planet Faber does have losses to both interim champ Barao and proper champ Dominick Cruz. He’s also lost to current Featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo so moving up in weight wouldn’t do much for the guy either. I would never rule him moving down in weight but I haven’t heard him speak on the matter plus that would put him directly onto Joseph Benavidez’s territory and we know how those Team Alpha Male guys like to spread their talent out amongst the lower weight classes. Of course working in his favor is the fact that if for some reason Cruz doesn’t make it back in time for this summer’s super unification fight the UFC would be left with few compelling options to put in there against Barao. Nobody in their right mind would give Faber a real shot at pulling it off but what are they gonna do, throw Eddie Wineland in there just to see him embarrassed? That fight is a no win situation and everybody knows it, Zuffa most of all.
Of course before we get too far ahead of ourselves we should look at the roadblock that is standing directly in front of Faber this weekend at UFC 157 in the form of Ivan Menjivar. The 12 year veteran of the sport has comprised a 4-1 record inside the Octagon since being imported over from the WEC with his one loss coming to Mike Easton (he also had one a time showing back at UFC 48 where he lost to Matt Serra but that is, for all intents and purposes, ancient history). Most recently he went to the bank thanks to a first round armbar victory over Azamat Gashimov that won him Submission of the Night honors. He had a crack at Faber back in 2006 but lost the bout due to an illegal kick. It’s a very interesting battle here between two guys who will be more than happy to keep things standing and can both keep a frantic pace. Menjivar will be more reliant on the big power punches and elbows and will be more vulnerable if things hit the mat (think of what happened to Mizugaki once Faber was able to ground him). To win he will have to batter Faber the way Aldo did (leg kick, leg kick, leg kick) as opposed to the way Cruz did because if this turns into a dance routine/point fight expect Faber to walk away with an easy victory.
It won’t necessarily be by choice but I do expect this fight to eventually boil down to a boxing match and it will be one that Faber should be able to dominate. I think that in general the narrative of the Bantamweight division will be richer and far more interesting in the coming year if we were to have the seasoned veteran Menjivar suddenly thrust into the title picture as opposed to us all pretending to get psyched over another Faber humiliation but I just don’t see things going down that way. Faber is far too crafty to get caught in one of Menjivar’s submissions and his speed and slight cardio advantage should be enough to earn him 29-28 scorecards come Saturday night.