SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sporting his traditional look of cornrowed hair and movie star smile that made him one of the sport’s most popular figures, Urijah Faber proved he can still get it done in the octagon.
The California Kid also showed he has a pretty good chin, too.
Faber survived being knocked down in the third round and beat Brad Pickett by unanimous decision to win in the final fight of his career at UFC Fight Night on Saturday night.
“Sac-town, I love you guys,” Faber said as the crowd at GoldenOne Center gave him a rousing standing ovation.
The 37-year-old Faber, who announced his retirement earlier this year, repeatedly took Pickett to the mat throughout the fight and scored with crisp, hard head shots that opened a gaping cut on the Englishman’s left eye before Pickett landed a sharp straight left that put Faber down with 1:22 left in the third.
Faber (34-10) quickly got to his feet and smiled before chasing Pickett (26-13) down and trying for a final submission attempt as a raucous, near-sellout crowd at GoldenOne Center roared.
“This guy was coming for my head and I knew that,” Faber said. “It’s a great way to go out. I could very well compete for another 10 years ... but I’m choosing to wrap it up and head into whatever’s next.”
Pickett, nicknamed One-Punch Pickett, never could mount much of an offense. He spent the early rounds trying to fend off Faber’s takedowns and didn’t score significantly until late in the final round.
By then, Faber had built too big of a lead.
All three judges scored the fight 30-26.
Michelle Waterson (14-4) won with a rear-naked choke over Paige VanZant in the first round of their scheduled five-round fight in the main event.
Waterson, No. 11 in the strawweight division, took VanZant down midway through the round and quickly got both of her arms locked around VanZant’s neck.
VanZant (7-3) tried to work free and at one point had one of Waterson’s arms away before Waterson got it locked in again to win at 3:21 after VanZent’s hands went limp and she fell unconscious.
“I think that me switching to southpaw really threw her off guard,” Waterson said. “That was our game plan from the beginning, to just stop her momentum, and going southpaw did exactly that. She’s a fighter. She wasn’t going to tap out.”
In the co-main event Mickey Gall (4-0) submitted up-and-coming Sage Northcutt in the second round of their welterweight bout to stay unbeaten.
Northcutt (8-2) controlled the first round and was still in charge in the second when he got caught from behind by Gall, who scored the takedown and got Northcutt to tap out by a rear-naked choke at 1:40 left.
Faber had lost his previous two fights including a five-round unanimous decision loss to UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz in the third of their three classic bouts this past June.
This one went to a decision as well, though the outcome was clear — at least among the pro-Faber crowd that repeatedly chanted his name throughout the night.
Getting through the fight actually was easier for Faber than it was making his way to the ring. A video tribute including footage of some of his previous bouts were shown before the fight with Pickett, and Faber admitted he had to turn away because it made him emotional.
“I had to stay focused,” he said. “I kept it together and I’m proud of that.”
Faber staggered Pickett with a sharp left hand midway through the first round and immediately went for the takedown. With the crowd chanting his name, Faber got Pickett’s back and twice went for a submission before landing 15 consecutive right hands on Pickett’s head during one stretch.
“I’m ready to go forward,” Faber said. “I love this sport, I love my team coming up. There’s nothing like (fighting) but I’m ready to move forward and do some big things.”
That includes continuing to mentor some of the younger fighters on his Team Alpha Male. Faber also has a clothing line, a supplement business as well as a family construction business.