On this day, ten years ago, the highest level, most anticipated featherweight match up to date went down in Sacramento, California, as newly crowned WEC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo made his first title defense against the former longtime WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber at WEC 48. This was an incredible fight to witness for many reasons, and a painful fight to witness for some.
Faber had lost his WEC title about a year-and-a-half prior to his fight with Aldo to Mike Brown at WEC 36. After defeating Jens Pulver for the second time, finishing him in round one this time around, he was granted another title shot at WEC 41, a rematch with Brown. Their first fight saw Brown TKO Faber in round one, and their second saw Faber lose via unanimous decision after breaking both of his hands. ‘The California Kid’ was forced to take six months off considering.
Aldo took the strap from Brown in the meantime via TKO in round two at WEC 44 while Faber was rehabbing, and Faber made his comeback at WEC 46, where he met Raphael Assuncao. Faber defeated Assuncao via submission (rear naked choke) toward the end of round three, and he was granted another title shot.
This set up the pairing of Jose Aldo versus Urijah Faber at WEC 48, the WEC’s only pay-per-view event in history. It got a lot more attention considering, but also for other reasons. The WEC’s poster boy, ‘The California Kid’ was fighting for a title again, and against a real dangerous prodigy in Aldo. Of course everyone was going to watch it. On WEC.tv, the poll of fan votes were 65% in favor of Faber regaining the title, while just 35% thought Aldo would hold onto it.
Round one was relatively close, but ‘Junior’ started smashing Faber with nasty leg kicks in round two, where it all started to go downhill for ‘The California Kid’. The striking totals tell most of the story, but without watching, you could never quite know the pain Faber endured that night in his hometown of Sacramento. Round one saw Aldo out-strike Faber 9-8, round two 13-6, round three 27-5, round four 23-0, and round five 5-1. Aldo out-struck Faber in every round, each one seemingly worse than the last. Faber’s leg ended up giving out in round four, giving Aldo the chance to show off his grappling, where he held a mounted crucifix on Faber while reigning down vicious elbows until the round ended.
This showed us all just how tough Faber is, if his second fight with Brown hadn’t already done that. Some already knew who Aldo was, but this event got so much more attention than any other the WEC had ever put on. At the end of the night, Aldo was awarded the unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-45) victory. This was Aldo’s first decision win in the WEC, his first six were all knockouts. They each won their next, and last WEC fights before joining the UFC; Aldo defended his title for the second time against Manny Gamburyan via KO in round two, and Faber defeated Takeya Mizugaki via submission (rear naked choke) in round one.
Since this, Aldo defended his title another seven times before losing it, and Faber kept winning every non-championship fight he was in, being granted another four title shots in the time since, losing to Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao each twice. Faber took a two-and-a-half year break, but recently came back, and has gone 1-1 since returning. He scored his first knockout victory in twelve-and-a-half years in his return victory over Ricky Simon, before being finished by Petr Yan.
Aldo has gone 3-5 since his last title defense, losing to Conor McGregor, Max Holloway twice, Alexander Volkanovski, and Marlon Moraes. Most believe he won the Moraes fight, and though he’s not quite the same fighter he once was, he’s only lost to world champions to say the least.
From being the No. 1 and No. 2 featherweights in the world at this time, to being top 15, maybe even top 10 bantamweights today. It’s no wonder this was such a great match up, they’re two of the best to ever do it. Who remembers this epic clash?