Arguably the biggest news of 2010 was the merger of the WEC and the UFC. This new merger may bring a lot of confusion for the UFC faithful who are not familiar with the onslaught of names and faces of lighter weight talent. Who are all these guys running around in the cage, attacking each other like pupils of Bruce Lee and Royce Gracie? They’re throwing punches, kicks, flying knees, crazy submission attempts, they’re up and down and rolling around, and even doing flips. That does happen in these lighter weight classes - they flip.
But thankfully, one fighter has made it easy for the fans. His name is easy to remember, it’s only two syllables, and if things go his way at UFC 125 you’ll be hearing it a whole lot: Mike Brown.
WEC fans know Mike Brown all too well as their former featherweight champion and for his memorable physical appearance. Brown is 5’6”, 145 pounds, ripped with muscles, a giant tattoo of an angel on his chest, and he is usually getting his arm raised in victory. Two of his most famous victories came at the expense of another WEC household name: Urijah Faber. Brown took the WEC Featherweight belt from Faber by a vicious TKO in November of 2008 and, seven months later, Brown successfully defended that belt against Faber in a five round battle for the ages.
Most importantly, Brown is simply an exciting fighter to watch. “I come out aggressive and like to finish,” says Brown, and he means it, with 18 of his 24 wins coming by stoppage. “That's what I like to do. Swing hard and hurt him. The striking opens up my submission game. If they are scared of my strikes then that gives me the opportunity to get a submission as well.” The Portland, Maine native’s heavy hands and deadly submissions are now poised to attack Brazil’s Diego “The Gun” Nunes.
“He's only got one loss, being 15-1, so he’s tough,” states Brown, who is preparing for his fellow top 10 ranked opponent at the renowned American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek, Florida. “I've been training a lot with JZ Cavalcante. I've been training with a lot of southpaws because Diego can switch between southpaw and orthodox. I've been training a lot of defending kicks because he likes to kick. A bunch of Diego’s last fights have gone to decision, so we know he can go the distance.”
The 35-year old Brown is as familiar with his opponent's strengths as well as his weaknesses, “I see he gets tired when the pressure is on him and I'm going to continue to pressure him until I wear him out.” It is a gameplan that Brown knows and delivers excellently. “Diego's solid and he's got a couple things he likes to go for, but I'm aware of what he likes. We have a good gameplan for him. I think I can keep him from where he likes to be and I’m going to beat him.”
It’s simple, Brown is a power fighter who swings for the fences, bullies his opponents with his wrestling, and can end fights with a submission on the ground. “I'm a better overall fighter,” asserts Brown with the confidence of a former champion and nearly twice the experience of his opponent. “I'm good at pushing the pace and making things happen. That's what I have to do. I have to make something big happen. I can do it and I will do it.”
For Brown, making “something big happen” almost always starts with his right hand. Brown’s devastating right hand dropped Urijah Faber and also floored Leonard Garcia, which followed with Brown taking Garcia’s back for a rear naked choke. In Brown’s last fight against Cole Province in September, the right was also the deciding factor.
“I hit him with a shot, a little uppercut, that made his legs go,” remembers Brown. “His legs gave out for a second. Cole got his wits back to him quick, but I started to unload on him because I knew I had him hurt for that second.” The fight was called moments later. Province complained of an early stoppage, and Brown agrees with him. “When they stopped the fight it seemed like he had his mind clear and was all right - I think it was an early stoppage.” Even if it was early, Brown had Province against the fence and was raining down punches, “I think the result would have been the same. I was in a dominant position and I'm tough to get off in that position.”
On January 1st at UFC 125 in Las Vegas, Mike Brown will be looking to continue his trek back to the belt in the black UFC cage instead of the blue cage of the WEC, “I'm starting off a new chapter and I'm going after a UFC title now.” This will also be a return to the famed Octagon for Brown, although it has been awhile. “That was almost 7 years ago, so that was forever ago, a whole different career ago,” Brown reminisces about fighting legendary Genki Sudo in the UFC’s lightweight division in 2004. “I was fighting at 155 and walking around at 155. I was a little over my head. I did it because that was the opportunity. There was no WEC, there was no 145 pound division anywhere, so that was what you had to do back then.”
Times did change. The WEC became the premier organization for the lighter weight divisions and Mike Brown began fighting at his optimal weight of 145 pounds. The WEC was not as famous as the UFC, but it was the best competition for the lighter belts the UFC did not offer. “When I would win, people would ask me does this mean you can go to the UFC now,” Brown admits that it was confusing for some. “I would be like no - this is it. This is the most prestigious title in the world for my weight class.”
Now those fighters, including Mike Brown, and their belts will be showcased in the UFC and the UFC faithful have a lot to look forward to. “I think overall the fights are more exciting,” Brown candidly declares about the smaller fighters and Brown thinks they’ll win over the UFC fans sooner than later. “It’s the people who have only watched the UFC that it will take a couple of fights before they are like, ‘oh I've seen this guy, he's fun to watch.’ All they need to do is see these guys and they'll be very interested. It will snowball from there. The little guys are little cats and it is fun to watch.”
At UFC 125 against Diego Nunes, Mike Brown will be fighting for another 145 pound win. It sounds like just another day in the cage to him and another opponent for him to impose his will upon. “That's what I want to do,” Brown says, calmly describing what Nunes has in store in his near future and it's not for the faint of heart. “Grab him, push him around, pull him, hit him hard. Use my power and force on him. Make him afraid of it. That will find a hole in his game and I’ll end it there.”
Brown Reintroduces Himself to UFC Fans
“I'm good at pushing the pace and making things happen. That's what I have to do. I have to make something big happen. I can do it and I will do it.”