Friday June 3rd, 2016

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Everything you need to know about this weekend’s UFC 199 fight between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber. 

Overview

You hear professional fighters say it all the time. I’d fight that guy for free! They utter those words with a vengeance, but they don’t mean them. They might think they mean what they say, all amped up in the churning cacophony of prefight trash tossing, but they don’t really. They’re prizefighters, after all, so if there’s no prize, what are they fighting for?

Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, when thrust together, are an exception. They might or might not come to blows if no dollars were up for grabs, but they’d surely find some way to get a piece of each other. Neither pays any heed to the sticks-and-stones adage while they’re hurling insults each other’s way. The acrimony is palpable and unrelenting and not for show.

On Saturday night, in the co-main event of UFC 199 at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., they will tangle for the third time and be paid handsomely for it. Also at stake will be the bantamweight belt that Cruz recaptured in January after spending much of the previous four-plus years on the sideline, healing from knee surgery after knee surgery. On top of all this, there’s a glorious hunk of rubber hanging in the balance, ready to bend in one fighter’s direction, as Faber won the first meeting nearly a decade ago and Cruz took the rematch five years back.

Cruz (21-1) will be making either his first title defense or his fourth, depending on how you look at it. He first became champion in March 2010, when the 135-pound division was part of the WEC, then was awarded the UFC strap later that year when the behemoth promotion absorbed its little cousin. His career was put on hold in the spring of 2012 when he tore his right ACL. Over a year later, after he experienced a setback that necessitated a second surgery, Cruz vacated the belt.

MMA
Crash Course to UFC 199: Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping

He made a comeback in 2014, wrecking Takeya Mizugaki in just over a minute. But then he tore the ACL in his other knee, and was sidelined until January’s challenge of T.J. Dillashaw, which he won via split decision. Cruz is 31 years old and sits at No. 7 in the SI.com pound-for-pound rankings.

For the 37-year-old Faber, title fights have become part of his routine, frustratingly so. This will be his fourth shot at the UFC bantamweight belt; he lost the other three, to Renan Barão in 2014 and 2012 and to Cruz in 2011. He also made two unsuccessful challenges for the WEC featherweight strap he once wore, losing to Jose Aldo in 2010 and Mike Brown in ’09. Faber (33-8) is No. 4 in SI.com’s bantamweight rankings.

In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of Saturday night’s five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the event’s first four bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass streaming service at 6:15.

Background

The animosity between Cruz and Faber can be traced to the days prior to their first fight, which was for Faber’s WEC featherweight belt. At the time, Cruz was an undefeated 22-year-old. He took one look at the promotional fight poster, which featured Faber’s face but not his, and felt disrespected. So when he was asked to autograph posters for charity, he signed his name right across Faber’s face, obscuring it from forehead to cleft chin. And so was born a bitter rivalry.

Last Five Fights

 
CRUZ (21-1) fABER (33-8)
1/17/16 T.J. Dillashaw W SD 5 12/12/15 5/16/15 Frankie Saenz W UD 5
9/27/14 Takeya Mizugaki W KO 1 5/16/15 Frankie Edgar L UD 5
10/1/11 Demetrious Johnson W UD 5 12/6/14 Francisco Rivera W Sub. 2
7/2/11 Urijah Faber W UD 5 7/5/14 Alex Caceres W Sub. 3
12/16/10 Scott Jorgensen W UD 5 2/1/14 Renan Barão L TKO 1

Tale of the Tape

 
CRUZ VS. FABER
Sept. 3, 1985 BIRTH DATE May 14, 1979
Santa Diego, Calif. BIRTHPLACE Isla Vista, Calif.
Chula Vista, Calif. FIGHTING OUT OF Sacramento, Calif.
21-1 RECORD 33-8
135* WEIGHT 135*
5’8” HEIGHT 5’6”
68” REACH 67”

* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)

Other Numbers to Count on

6:Consecutive unsuccessful title shots for Urijah Faber.

1,569: Duration, in days, of Dominick Cruz’s injury-related inactivity. Prior to January’s title fight, he had spent barely a minute in the octagon (the time it took him to defeat Mizugaki) since October 2011.

Greatest Hits

Dominick Cruz reclaims his belt:

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMSuGwsVE18]

Urijah Faber shows off his submission game:

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ABmtnoopck]

Matchup

Cruz is a master of modern interpretive dance like Cecil Taylor is a piano player. Go ahead and try to figure him out. No one has … except Faber. But his victory over “The Dominator” came nearly a decade ago, back before “The California Kid” was at an age when he’s more “The California Middle Ager.” Faber, at this point, has to hope he can turn this fight ugly, perhaps drawing the champ into a grappling scramble that brings his opportunistic submission game into play. How does he do that? He has to engage in the standup dance and risk being picked apart, in the hope that he can clip Cruz with the right hand he always has cocked.

The Odds

Cruz is the significant favorite, with a money line ranging from -525 (bet $525 to win $100) to -700 (bet $700 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Faber ranges from +360 (bet $100 to win $360) to +530 (bet $100 to win $530).

Prediction

Though Cruz had spent the previous four-plus years out of the cage, he somehow managed to look better than ever in his January bout with Dillashaw. Prior to that, he had briefly but impressively come back from his long spell of inactivity with a 2014 thrashing of Takeya Mizugaki. Is it possible that, even with his career -- and title reign -- having been so rudely interrupted by significant injuries, he’s actually at the top of his game now? Yes, it’s possible.Cruz by decision.

Fighting Words

Urijah Faber (during a conference call with reporters … and with Dominick Cruz): “It’s an interesting psyche to get up for. When you’ve got Dominick Cruz, who’s been getting on your nerves for 10 years, a guy that you feel like you could have very easily got the nod [against] the last time we fought, a guy that’s very elusive and hard to hit but I didn’t have any trouble hitting him, I get excited for that.

Cruz: “Oh, my gosh. No troubling hitting me? Man, you missed so much. And I’m going to make you miss again.”

Faber: “I hit you. I did damage. When you hit me, I mean, we saw your highlight video you put on Instagram. It was like a couple like jabs and my hair moving, that was it.”

Cruz: “You got one punch.”

Faber:  “Really, dude?”

Cruz: “The fact is, you didn’t hit me in the face once.”

The Rest of the Card

Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping, middleweight championship (main event); Max Holloway vs. Ricardo Lamas, featherweight; Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard, middleweight; Dustin Poirier vs. Bobby Green, lightweight.

Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): B.J. Penn vs. Cole Miller, featherweight; Brian Ortega vs. Clay Guida, featherweight; Beneil Dariush vs. James Vick, lightweight; Jessica Penne vs. Jessica Andrade, strawweight.

Online prelims (6:15 p.m., UFC Fight Pass): Sean Strickland vs. Tom Breese, welterweight; Jonathan Wilson vs. Luiz Henrique da Silva, light heavyweight; Kevin Casey vs. Elvis Mutapcic, middleweight; Polo Reyes vs. Dong Hyun Kim, lightweight.

Programming Notes

Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. There will be an hour-long postfight show on Fox Sports 1, starting at 1 a.m. ET.

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