CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – After Mike Brown beat Urijah Faber for the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title last November, his thoughts were similar to those echoed around the mixed martial arts world.
"I didn't feel like the champion after I beat Urijah," Brown said. "I was wondering if I was going to be a one-hit wonder."
But few are going to view Brown as a fluke after his performance Sunday night. In front of a partisan crowd of 6,127 at the American Bank Center, the American Top Team standout ran right over a solid foe in Texas native Leonard Garcia. Brown retained his title via arm triangle choke submission at just 1:57 of the first round.
"I think this establishes me more," said Brown (21-4). "I've beaten Urijah and now I have a win over another elite fighter in Leonard. This time I don't think there's any doubt I'm the best in my weight class."
Garcia (12-4), a native of Lubbock, has a reputation as a go-for-broke fighter, with all of his career victories coming by way of stoppage. But Brown was ready for his foe's Wild West style. The former Norwich University wrestling standout belted Garcia with a right counterpunch seconds into the fight that dropped his foe.
While Garcia fended off Brown's initial ground onslaught and managed to pull guard, he never got back to his feet, despite the vocal exhortations of his Texas compatriots. It was simply a matter of time before Brown maneuvered him into position for the submission.
"I got a little too anxious," said Garcia, who trains with the Jackson's MMA camp in Albuquerque, N.M., home of UFC champs Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans. "I got too caught up in the energy of the crowd. I circled in the wrong direction, I circled left and he's a righty and he caught me. Whoever gets me next is going to be in big trouble, I'm going to climb my way back."
The win sets up a rematch between Brown and Faber, which has the potential to be the biggest money fight in WEC history. Though WEC vice president Peter Dropick said the match "makes sense," and also mentioned the company is targeting the fall for the company's first pay-per-view event, he has not yet officially committed to the fight.
Faber, whose fighting skills and charisma turned him into the WEC's biggest star and helped the company carve out its niche, wants the match.
"I've earned my rematch," Faber said. "They haven't said 100 percent sure they'll have the fight next, but it's the match I want."
Brown also thinks the rematch is due.
"I don't want to short-circuit guys who might be on the path to a title shot, top-notch fighters like Jose [Aldo] and [Wagnney] Fabiano," Brown said. "But it's obvious the fans really want this match. We fight for the fans and they want to see it. Urijah's the former champion and he deserves his rematch."
Though Brown's one-sided victory made Garcia look like a lesser fighter than he actually is, Sunday night was an affirmation that the WEC's featherweight division is rapidly developing into one of the sport's deepest.
Looming large is Rio de Janeiro's Jose Aldo (14-1), the brutal slugger from Brazil who has turned heads with four WEC victories in the past eight months, all via KO/TKO. With power that belies his lithe frame and an arsenal of kicks that compare favorably with anyone in the game, Aldo is forcing his way into the picture.
"He's legit," Faber said. "He hasn't been fighting chumps out there. He's been making some real solid fighters look bad. They should match him up against a top guy next, he's ready for it."
Aldo's latest victim was journeyman Chris Mickle (31-12-2), whom he stopped in just 1:39. Mickle made the mistake of taunting Aldo. He was nearly decapitated with a high kick in response, and though Mickle narrowly dodged that one, he couldn't escape a big right uppercut, which launched a brutal flurry that ended the fight.
"Every time I fight, I want to knock the [other] guy out," Aldo said through an interpreter. "I saw an opening and I took advantage. I do not care who I fight next, I feel like I can fight anyone in the division."
Faber has been the face of the company since it was purchased in 2006 by Zuffa, parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Since then, he's seen fighters like Brown, Garcia, Aldo, Fabiano and Jens Pulver flock to his weight class.
The former champ sees the division's increasing depth as a combination of an existing class of fighters finally getting their time in the national spotlight; and a bandwagon effect, as fighters who previously fought at lightweight saw the airtime and endorsement money Faber was making and decided they wanted their piece of the pie.
"There were always good fighters at 145," Faber said, "but there was never a place to put all of them under one roof. I think a lot of these guys saw where I was, saw that I was the face of the promotion, and decided that they wanted what I had.
"So you've got guys coming down, you've got big, tough guys coming in from everywhere. I'm glad to see it. I want to take on the best. I'm at my best when I know I'm fighting someone who can push me to the peak of my abilities."
- Urijah Faber
- Mike Brown
- Leonard Garcia