ByDanny Acosta, writer at
Danny Acosta

Justin Buchholz decided to come to Team Alpha Male after watching Urijah Faber and Master Thong do a Muay Thai mitt session almost 10 years ago, where Faber must have thrown 300 kicks.

The long-time teammate of Faber and now head coach at Team Alpha Male insisted Master Thong become a fixture for Faber’s trilogy camp. When they reunited, Thong was overweight in the midsection and now he’s back with his trademark abs, at 47-years-old, doing headstands and acting as the gym’s secret weapon.

Buchholz is fashioning “Team Alpha Male attack style.” He watched Faber’s final sparring session and was reminded of the Faber he saw with Thong that inspired him to join the team: “He’s hitting faster and harder than I’ve ever seen him hit.”

It’s Urijah Faber’s positive thinking and self-belief that’s kept Faber on top, according to Buchholz. He’s there to assist Faber, but Faber knows how to run his program. Their joint work will result in “hunting for Dominick Cruz’s teeth.”

Buchholz is defiant of the Vegas oddsmakers. It’s a dead even fight in his estimation. Faber is being undersold because he fought unheralded Frankie Saenz in his last fight. It went the distance, so talk Faber has slowed down circulated because he didn’t rip Saenz’s “head off in the first minute.” Cruz’s route to victory is to survive and outpoint Faber, but Faber has the finishing ability on his side.

“There’s a big difference in Urijah Faber getting up for Frankie Saenz and Urijah Faber getting up for Dominick Cruz,” Buchholz told “Just the fact that it’s Dominick Cruz, his preparation, I think all that’s irrelevant, it doesn’t matter, Cruz could be levitating in practice, Faber wouldn’t care. He’s got one thing on his mind.”

Photo by Amy Kaplan
Photo by Amy Kaplan

It’s a young sport so Buchholz affirmed this is one of the best rivalries we’ve ever seen. It’s the biggest fight at 135 pounds. If Faber pulls it off, it’s a Cinderella story to win end his title fight drought against a legit rival. To ensure Faber will earn the crucial victory, his typical flow with the fight is taking a backseat to executing a game plan. It was lacking in their second fight.

What went wrong in the second fight, Buchholz said in all seriousness, Faber’s “Cali schoolboy haircut” worked against him. “He hit Cruz, Cruz fell down. Faber got hit, his hair moved around, swaying the judge” because he “didn’t have it long enough to dread up.”

Buchholz -- from Charlie Valencia to Joseph Benavidez to Faber and Dillashaw -- has coached 23 rounds against Cruz. Cruz has won each contest. Buchholz like Faber is unwilling to give up rounds 24-28. It’ll be the second title fight this year alone he’s coaching to take the belt from Cruz. In Dillashaw’s corner, he felt Cruz slow down in the championship rounds because he was “broken down, beaten up” after “TJ took that leg away.” He knew it’d be to the bitter end once Dillashaw landed his first thudding low kick. Buchholz saw Cruz bite down his mouthpiece and start moving around with more fervor. He has immense respect for Cruz. So he assured none of this is hype. This is real deal mixed martial arts.

“You’re seeing who has evolved the most. You’re seeing the mental warfare over years in and out of the cage,” Buchholz said. “You’re seeing one guy against a dynasty in MMA, Team Alpha Male. You’re seeing the one guy who we can’t take out and we’re putting the General up against him again, the one guy who’s beaten him, our fearless leader. It means everything for the division. The guy who wins this fight is the greatest 135-pounder in the sport.”


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