On Saturday, July 2, UFC will showcase its first major bout for the bantamweight title when champion Dominick Cruz takes on fan favorite Urijah Faber. No strangers to fans of World Extreme Cagefighting, both competitors were brought into the UFC fold when the two companies merged and the WEC bantamweight title became the UFC bantamweight title. This much-anticipated bout will headline a card filled with strong matches and here’s our picks for the top three fights.
Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
The first bantamweight title fight in UFC history is actually a rematch. Urijah Faber beat Dominick Cruz by submission in March of 2007 when “The California Kid” was the defending WEC featherweight champion. That fight may have been over four years ago, but we’re thinking Saturday’s results may be the same. Cruz has been undefeated since that night, but “The Dominator” has scored the majority of his victories via decision and Urijah Faber is not the type of fighter who likes to go to decision. An aggressive submission specialist, Faber may have some trouble avoiding Cruz’s strikes, but he should control the bout on the ground before nailing a tap out victory.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Chris Leben
Once looked at as the overly emotional headcase from the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Chris Leben became a surprise fan favorite after defeating Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama in a two-month span in the summer of 2010. A disappointing loss to Brian Stann earlier this year slowed much of Leben’s momentum, but he has a chance to turn things back around with this bout against Wanderlei Silva. But can “The Crippler” stop “The Axe Murderer?” Most experts are saying no, pointing to the superior experience and knockout power of the Brazilian who has been busting heads since the mid-90s. They may be selling Leben short, though. The kid has an iron jaw and he’s going to be hungry for this victory. When his heart’s in a fight, Leben is hard to stop — and we think his heart is going to be in this one.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader
Not taking away from any of Tito Ortiz’s past accomplishments (former UFC light heavyweight champion, five successful title defenses, three huge victories over Ken Shamrock), but the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” hasn’t won a fight since October of 2006. That’s five long years without a victory. Tito’s fighting prime may be behind him, but the brawler still has big name value, which is why UFC is putting him in the cage with Ryan Bader. A powerful wrestler who holds notable wins over Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria, “Darth” Bader should be able to add Ortiz to his list of victims after Saturday’s showdown — and that’s exactly why Dana White and company booked this fight.