Highlighting the depth of the UFC 139 card in San Jose on Saturday night is the fact that a title eliminator is taking place, and it’s neither the main event nor the co-main event. Instead, it’s the third fight which will feature former WEC bantamweight champion Brian Bowles taking on former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber. There is a tiny bit of controversy about Faber’s participation in this fight, as he seems to need to do less to earn title shots than his peers, but if he can beat Brian Bowles, then it would be very hard for the UFC to resist promoting the rubber match between Faber and UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
The problem is that I’m not so sure Faber will beat Bowles. Faber is a very visually impressive fighter. The guy is absolutely shredded, and he brings a lot of energy into the cage, as he may be the best scrambler in the sport. Faber is a strong wrestler, and has decent striking to go along with it. Here’s the thing: Faber may not be as good right now as everybody believes he is. For evidence, let’s look at Faber’s recent fight history. In his last eight fights:
- Loss – Dominick Cruz – UFC 132
- Win – Eddie Wineland – UFC 128
- Win – Takeya Mizugaki – WEC 52
- Loss – Jose Aldo – WEC 48
- Win – Raphael Assuncao – WEC 46
- Loss – Mike Brown – WEC 41
- Win – Jens Pulver – WEC 38
- Loss – Mike Brown – WEC 36
Now, don’t get me wrong… there’s no shame in losing to Dominick Cruz, and there’s no shame in losing to Jose Aldo. But the losses to Mike Brown are a little more troubling, and the fact remains that Faber is 4-4 in his last eight fights. Moreover, Faber’s best win is your choice of Takeya Mizugaki or Raphael Assuncao, and while those are both solid fighters, the supposed #2 fighter in the bantamweight division should have a slightly stronger recent resume than Faber does.
The result is a shockingly low SILVA score of 47.21 for Faber. In the relatively thin bantamweight division, this still ranks 10th, but that’s still much worse than the public perception of Faber would indicate. Meanwhile, Faber’s been matched up against a very strong opponent in Brian Bowles. Bowles isn’t nearly as active as Faber is, but he’s a very good wrestler in his own right, and supplements that base with a very good power striking game, rare to see at 135 pounds. Unlike Faber, Bowles enters this fight with only one loss on his record, a loss that came by doctor stoppage against Dominick Cruz. Bowles was well on his way to losing that fight, but when the only blemish of your career is a loss to Cruz by doctor stoppage, that’s pretty good, especially when you’ve also defeated Miguel Torres, Takeya Mizugaki, Damacio Page twice, Marcos Galvao, and Charlie Valencia.
The problem with Bowles is that he’s not the most natural striker in the world. Sometimes, it appears that Bowles is a bit too passive in his fights, as he hesitated quite a bit in his last fight against Mizugaki. When Bowles lands, he has a very good chance of scoring a KO, but he just doesn’t land as much as great fighters generally do.
SILVA PREDICTION: BRIAN BOWLES (78.59) OVER URIJAH FABER (47.21)
But then I go back to Faber, whose rate of strikes landed per minute is very similar to that of Bowles, and believe it or not, only lands 31% of his takedown attempts according to Fight Metric. If Faber is to win this fight, it’s mostly that it will be via being the more aggressive fighter and winning on points. Believe me, I was very shocked by Faber’s low SILVA score, and triple-checked it to make sure it was right. By the numbers, Bowles has a better record, is a better wrestler, and the striking is about even. Throw it all into a soup, and what you get is a predicted upset: a Brian Bowles victory.