Urijah Faber

If Urijah Faber manages to pull off the upset against Renan Barao, on Feb 1, he will be adorned with UFC gold. However, if he fails he may be the recipient of another crown ; the best fighter in UFC history to have never won a title.

This unwanted and unfortunate honor has a few potential candidates, Kenny Florian and Dan Henderson perhaps being the most noteworthy. Faber is slightly unique though, he can’t quite win a world title but he is head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.

He is the best of the rest.

Faber has had 36 professional fights with 30 wins and 6 losses. All six of his losses came in title fights. In fact, he is 0-5 in his last five opportunities to become a world champion. Never though has he lost a non-title fight, those he usually wins comprehensively.

He occupies an unusual space in the MMA landscape, mere yards below the champions but a mile above everyone else. The Team Alpha Male leader is trapped in no-man’s-land.

It must be a frustrating position to be in, akin to finishing in fourth place at the Olympics. Good, just not good enough for something shiny.

His last successful title bout was a defence of his WEC featherweight championship against Jens Pulver. Yeah, it was that long ago. Since then Faber is 9-5. All nine wins were obtained in non-title fights and all five losses came when challenging for a belt – the story of Faber’s career.

Of those nine victories, seven were finished inside the distance – all by submission. The two bouts that did go the distance were unanimous decisions. This highlights Faber’s dominance – when not competing for a championship. He has strong boxing, wrestling and wicked chokes. There are no holes in his game which is why he is only ever beaten by pure class.

He may reign over the rest of the division but the fact that he has lost his last five title fights suggests that, maybe, he just isn’t at the level needed to be a UFC champion.

That might not be the whole story though.

Perhaps he is merely a victim of circumstance. Unlucky that the champions in his way have been as elite as it gets. Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, the men at the top of the bantamweight division, are unbeaten in the UFC and hold a combined record of 8-0.

UFC 169 will be Faber’s third attempt for the UFC bantamweight title. Considering he is 0-2 in his previous endeavors, it seems rather likely that this will be his last opportunity to take home the bantamweight strap.

That, however, was the consensus after his last failed attempt – a loss to Dominick Cruz – and yet here we are. His popularity and dominance over the remainder of the division continues to supersede his age and poor track record in title fights. So this may not be Faber’s last chance after all, if he continues to be the best of the rest.

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