Opinion: What’s Next for Urijah Faber?
The main event of UFC 149 saw the continued rise of one of the sport’s greatest talents in Renan Barão, but it also witnessed the storied career of long-time WEC kingpin, Urijah Faber, slip further into uncertainty.
Barão astutely implemented the strategy required to defeat a fighter like Faber, keep him on the outside, in particular, keeping him off-balance with kicks. The end result being a technical fight, albeit coming well short of winning fight of the night, in which Faber was cleanly controlled and dominated for five rounds. Even the judges, who are generally inconsistent, scored the fight pretty evenly at 50-45, 49-46, and 49-46.
The fight against Barão did indeed dash Faber’s hopes of capturing the interim UFC bantamweight crown, but the lopsided loss also did well to darken the chances that Faber could make a successful run at the bantamweight championship when it’s eventually unified.
Should Faber work his way back into title contention, a rematch with Barão promises essentially the same outcome as was witnessed at UFC 149. Conversely, should Dominick Cruz–the current UFC bantamweight champion mount a successful campaign and unify the title under his control, I’d argue that in the case of a Faber-Cruz rubber match it would be an uphill battle for Faber. Cruz proved in their entertaining UFC 132 bout that he was no longer the 22 year-old inexperienced fighter that Faber had quickly dispatched over four years prior.
As it stands, the bantamweight division of the UFC has two men in Barão and Cruz standing atop it that more than likely can keep an aging Faber from capturing gold. The question becomes where does Faber go in the bantamweight division? Does he become a veritable gatekeeper like so many other former champions have gone on to be after finding an opponent they were unable to defeat?
Perhaps Faber takes another stab at glory by making a return to his old stomping grounds in the featherweight division. Although after convincing losses to Mike Brown and Jose Aldo at WEC 36, WEC 41, WEC 48, respectively, one can’t envision a scenario in which success could be found in the featherweight division.
This leaves Faber in the position that most every fighter finds themselves in at one point or another. Where to go and what to do when one is late in their career. Faber is 33 years old, with over 30 professional bouts under his belt. Perhaps most importantly, he’s 5-5 in his last 10 fights. This after cruising to a record of 21-1 prior to the aforementioned stretch.
This is no indictment of Faber. His recent fights still show him to be physically capable of capturing a title, not to mention putting on tremendous fights. If he can find the stroke that allowed him to wear the WEC featherweight strap for over two-and-a-half years, then there’s still a chance that he can enjoy a championship resurgence.
Although there is one thing that I do know, that time is running short. If he can’t close the distance and get on the inside where his skill set makes him exceptionally dangerous, he’ll be relegated to the dreaded gatekeeper status, determining which up-and-coming talent gets a shot at the position he once held.
As a fan, I hope that Faber can find the second wind that is so rare in combat sports. I sincerely hope that his career has another title reign left in it.