Takeya Mizugaki (right): Sherdog.com
Takeya Mizugaki holds former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber in the highest regard and understands what a win over the Team Alpha Male founder could do to raise his profile in America.
The Japanese standout will welcome Faber to the 135-pound division in the WEC 52 “Faber vs. Mizugaki” headliner on Thursday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. In “The California Kid,” Mizugaki does not see a man who has lost three times in the span of five fights. He respects the history Faber carries into the cage with him.
“Urijah Faber is the face of the WEC,” Mizugaki said during a Nov. 1 teleconference to promote the event. “I feel like I’m challenging a champion. That’s the feeling I have facing Urijah.”
Faber -- who owns a 2007 submission victory over current WEC bantamweight king Dominick Cruz -- has never before competed as a bantamweight. The 31-year-old last appeared at WEC 48 in April, when he dropped a one-sided unanimous decision to reigning featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif.
Mizugaki believes he has an edge in the stand-up department.
“This being the first fight for Urijah at 135, it’s kind of hard to tell what kind of bantamweight fighter he’s going to be,” he said. “I have to believe my striking, my favorite part of the game, is better than his.”
Mizugaki has posted seven wins in his past nine fights, losing only to former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and the world-ranked Scott Jorgensen in that span. The 26-year-old last fought in April, when he outpointed 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships winner Rani Yahya en route to a unanimous decision at WEC 48. Mizugaki has picked up two “Fight of the Night” performance bonuses in four WEC appearances. The 2008 Cage Force bantamweight tournament winner has been finished only once in his 19-fight professional career.
His defeat to Torres still haunts him.
“That was my first fight in the WEC, and I lost a decision in a title fight,” Mizugaki said. “It was a great opportunity, and I couldn’t capitalize on it. Anytime I approach a fight, I always remember that feeling of loss.”