Skirmish in the Swamp

For a region so lush with MMA talent, there’s yet to be a real high profile bout held in South Florida. That is, until tonight’s WEC Championship Battle between the World Featherweight Champion and crowd favorite Urijah “California Kid” Faber and the relatively unknown, local contender, Mike “Thomas” Brown.

So just who is this Mike Brown, besides the man playing David to Faber’s Goliath (even if they both weigh in at 145 pounds)? A native of Maine, Brown was a high school and college wrestler who started fighting in small, Massachusetts shows in 2001. After some bouts in Japan and in the UFC, Brown left cold New England for the sunnier climes of South Florida, signing on with the Coconut Creek-based fighting group American Top Team. It was a huge breakthrough in training for Brown, and the start of his upward trajectory. “Before that I was taking on world class fighters, but I didn’t always have the world class sparring,” he says.

The move paved the way for Brown’s biggest stride yet: In June, in his WEC debut, he defeated seasoned fighter Jeff Curran by unanimous decision, earning a title shot against Faber. And although Faber is heavily favored to win the championship match, it’s hardly deterring the man who’s climbed so far up the ladder. “They chalk it up like I’m [Faber’s] next victim, but I like that,” Brown says. “The pressure is on him to win, I’m just going to go out and do my thing and see what happens.”

But just how will Brown manage to turn a victory against Faber from hope into reality? For starters, Brown is an impressively fast fighter, often employing aggressive slams and quick takedowns to get his opponents to the mat. And although he’s only a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Brown’s submissions and transitions are brutally fast. As for his strategy, Brown plans to impose his game on Faber, not the other way around. “I’m going to push forward and dominate the takedowns and strike hard,” he says. “ I don’t look to score points with strikes, I look to do damage and get on top.”

The fight promises to be one for the ages, along with a card featuring the likes of Paulo Filho, Chael Sonnen, and — yes — Jens Pulver. Be there when the first bell rings at 6 p.m. tonight at Hard Rock Live (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood). Tickets start at $50. Visit
Wed., Sept. 10, 2008

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John Linn