Wins over two solid World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight contenders have put Takeya Mizugaki in position to challenge Urijah Faber in the main event of WEC 52 at the Palms on Thursday.
But it’s actually the two losses Mizugaki has suffered in the WEC that have helped return the 26-year-old from Japan to title contention.
Mizugaki made his U.S. debut in April 2009 with a tightly contested unanimous-decision loss to then-champion Miguel Torres at WEC 40 in Chicago. In defeat, Mizugaki won over many fans and earned a fight-of-the-night bonus with an impressive performance.
After beating Jeff Curran, Mizugaki lost another decision to Scott Jorgensen, now the division’s No. 1 contender, who will fight Dominick Cruz for the title next month. It was another close matchup that won Mizugaki and Jorgensen a best-fight bonus.
Mizugaki, who last competed in April with a decision victory over Rani Yahya, said the loss to Torres has helped serve as motivation as he makes his way back to title contention.
"Being able to fight in a title fight was a great opportunity and I couldn’t capitalize on it, so I was very, very disappointed, of course," he said through a translator. "I always wanted to remember the feeling that I came up short, so what I did is I put the banners I used for that fight with all my sponsors on it and I put it right by the bed and I’m looking at it every day."
With a win over Faber, Mizugaki could get another shot at the belt, though it will now be an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt because of the impending merger of the organizations.
Mizugaki-Faber was originally scheduled for August, but Faber had to pull out because of an injury. Rather than take on a new opponent, Mizugaki chose to wait for the former champion to get healthy.
"Urijah Faber is the face of WEC and he’s actually famous in Japan and even more famous in America. So I feel like I’m challenging a champion here," Mizugaki said. "By fighting Urijah Faber, I have nothing to lose. There is so many things to gain from every aspect of the fight so, of course, I choose Urijah, and that’s the reason I decided to wait."
A potential featherweight title shot could also be at stake on the card with Chad Mendes meeting Javier Vazquez.
■ TITLE SHOT TO BE DETERMINED — The UFC 122 card Saturday at Oberhausen, Germany, to air on tape delay on Spike (Cable 29) at 9 p.m., is far from the best event of the year.
In fact, with a middleweight bout between Jorge Rivera and Alessio Sakara filling the No. 2 slot on the card, it might be one of the worst on paper.
The main event has major ramifications, though. It will determine the next challenger for the middleweight title after champion Anderson Silva defends the belt against Vitor Belfort in February.
Nate Marquardt, 5-2 since losing in his bid for Silva’s title in 2007, will fight Yushin Okami, who has lost only a decision to Chael Sonnen in the past three years. Both Marquardt and Sonnen said they would rather fight Silva.
"That’s my dream to become the champion, and it doesn’t necessarily matter who (I fight)," Marquardt said on a conference call. "But at the same time, I would definitely prefer it to be Silva just because he’s been the champion for so long and he’s proven to be the top of the division."
Okami, through a translator, cited "unfinished business" as his reason for wanting to take on Silva. Okami is the last person to defeat Silva, though it was by disqualification on a card in Hawaii before either fighter was in the UFC.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.