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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Former Aggie standout to take on featherweight champ

Urijah Faber can’t hold in his excitement.

This is because the former UC Davis wrestler and current Mixed Martial Arts fighter will take on current featherweight champion Jose Aldo in a World Extreme Cage fighting match on Saturday at Arco Arena, a mere 20 miles from his hometown of Lincoln.

“It’s going to be one for the ages,” Faber said. “It will be insane. It seems that every time I fight, it gets more and more electric. I look forward to the [home] crowd.”

The UC Davis standout, also known as “The California Kid,” graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s of science in human development. He soon picked up mixed martial arts and has become one of the most recognized fighters in the world.

A win over Aldo would give him the same belt that he had successfully defended for over two years. In order to do that, Faber will have to beat the man who made short work of Mike Brown, an opponent that has bested Faber twice in the past.

When Faber and Brown fought last, the judges determined the outcome – a unanimous decision in favor of Brown. Despite the loss, Faber’s performance is impressive due to the fact he resorted to throwing kicks and elbows after sustaining injuries to both his hands.

“I had to push through 21 minutes of not having my hands available,” Faber said. “It was a moral victory for me, and reassured me that I was still tough enough. It was a fight I’m proud of.”

Faber’s former wrestling coach, Lenny Zalesky, added that despite losing two of his main weapons, Faber still showed competitiveness and talent.

“Urijah Faber is tough,” Zalesky said. “In the second fight against Brown, he still won a round or two with broken hands.”

Coming off two straight losses to Mike Brown, Faber looked to show he still could win. With rehabilitated hands, Faber took down fighter Raphael Assuncao in January of this year.

To close the second round, Faber threw a huge over-hand right into the chin of Assuncao, showing the MMA community that his hands were still strong enough to deliver punishment.

In the third round, Faber delivered another vicious right that knocked Assuncao to the ground. Faber finished the fight with nearly a minute to go as he managed to get behind Assuncao and finish with a rear naked choke.

“[My hands] feel great now,” Faber said. “I was very active making sure that I’ve been on track. My hands feel as good as normal.”

With the win, Faber padded his already impressive resume. He is now 23-3 and has made a career of taking on tough opponents using his incredibly quick hands, wrestling techniques and unbelievable conditioning.

“He’s really powerful and lightning fast,” Zalesky zaid. “He’s extremely explosive. He picked up Muay Thai and is a pretty good boxer.”

Faber now looks to stop Aldo’s recent dominance of the featherweight division. Three months after Mike Brown took the belt from Faber, Aldo defeated Brown with a second-round TKO.

Aldo, like Faber, is a very explosive and exciting fighter. He rides a nine-fight win streak into Arco Arena and has not lost since 2005. The Brazilian is 16-1 has used a flurry of punches and kicks along with knee-strikes to defeat his last six opponents by technical knockout.

“His biggest weapons are his kicks and knees,” Faber said. “He’ll try to bait me into bringing my head down.”

While Faber acknowledges Aldo’s abilities along with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, the former Aggie remains confident.

“I know him better than a lot of fighters,” Faber said. “I want to strike first and challenge him on the ground. I enjoy the standup game and I really enjoy the ground game. I don’t think he’s been in any danger on the ground yet.”

Zalesky agreed with Faber’s strategy, saying he wanted to see Faber engage Aldo on the ground.

“Faber has a variety of different techniques,” Zalesky said. “Still, I would love to see him put [Aldo] in a submission hold so both guys come out looking clean and not too hurt.”

Still, this fight will certainly be one for the ages.

“It will be an exciting fight,” Faber said. “Aldo is definitely the type of fighter where I need to bring my best game.”

MATT WANG can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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