Wednesday night, World Extreme Cagefighting rolls into Las Vegas for a mid-week card sure to deliver the non-stop action fans of the WEC have come to expect from the UFC’s little brother.
The main event of the evening features a fight for the Featherweight Championship, as 15-1 challenger Jose Aldo brings his dynamic striking into the cage against defending champion Mike Brown and his 22-4 record.
Despite this being the American Top Team product’s third title defense, Mike Brown is a champion who somehow doesn’t always get the respect he deserves. Though he is currently riding a ten-fight winning streak and hasn’t tasted defeat since December 2005, Brown is dogged by critics quit to wonder “What If?” about his two fights against WEC poster boy and divisional darling Urijah Faber.
When they first met just over a year ago, Faber was the one with the shiny, gold belt around his waist, the heavy favorite against the blue-collar underdog from Maine. To that point, Faber had lost just once in his career, a stoppage against UFC lightweight star Tyson Griffin some three years earlier.
Just over two minutes into the first round, Brown handed Faber the second loss of his career in the form of a powerful right hand to the jaw. In as quick an instant as the fight had ended, some began questioning the outcome. “What if Faber hadn’t tried such an unorthodox move?” they asked, believing Faber simply got caught coming out of an attempted spinning back elbow.
Some chalked it up as a lucky punch, believing they had just witnessed the featherweight equivalent of Matt Serra catching Georges St-Pierre on his heels, ignoring the fact that Faber was backed against the cage by the stronger Brown before the fight-ending right connected flush.
While Faber would steamroll Jens Pulver in his next bout, Brown did the same to #1 contender Leonard Garcia, stopping the Corpus Christi native in just over 90 seconds in his hometown in the main event of WEC 39.
Despite defending the belt and beating the man who went through Pulver to earn his title shot the same night Brown earned the title, Mike Brown was still looked at as the underdog heading into his rematch with Urijah Faber.
Seven months after they first met, Mike Brown once again defeated Urijah Faber, retaining the Featherweight title in a Unanimous Decision victory at WEC 41. Once again, questions clouded the victory.
Early in the first round, Faber broke his hand, giving doubters all the ammunition they needed to continue denying Mike Brown the respect he had earned.
“What if Faber hadn’t broken his hand?”
“The guy couldn’t put Faber away despite the fact that he had a broken right hand.”
The win became secondary, just as the first victory had earlier.
Even though Mike Brown had defeated Urijah Faber twice in a seven month span, sandwiching them around a punishing performance against Leonard Garcia in his first defense, a series of hypothetical questions kept the champ from getting his due in some people’s eyes.
Now, heading into his third title defense, some are bestowing the same superlatives used to describe Faber on Brown’s current opponent, Jose Aldo; he’s too fast, too dynamic, too many weapons.
Mike Brown has heard it all before.
He heard it the first time he faced Urijah Faber, and again when the met for a second time. He still hears it now as people pine for a third fight despite Brown being ahead 2-0. Third fights are for rubber matches, not for answering hypothetical questions.
While Aldo certainly present an interesting set of problems once the cage door closes, you can be sure that Mike Brown will be ready.
If he emerges victorious, he’ll be ready for the usual string of questions once again; the ones about Faber, the elbow, the broken hand and the belt.
Should Mike Brown comes away with the Featherweight title still wrapped around his waist on Wednesday night, there is one question I would like to ask all of those who offer hypothetical questions to the best 145 pound fighter on the planet:
What does Mike Brown have to do to get some respect?