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WEC 29: Condit vs. Larson review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 7, 2009, 7:12 AM

WEC 29: Condit vs. Larson

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir. They talk up the debut of Paulo Filho and the Welterweight Title fight, but I have to admit it sounds pretty hokey for Mir to be saying the winner of the WW fight will be the “best 170lbs fighter in the world” when he fights in the same promotion as Georges St-Pierre, Matt Hughes, etc.

Lightweight Fight: Jamie Varner vs Sherron Leggett

Varner had been fighting in the UFC prior to this, and had picked up his first win there in March over Jason Gilliam. Probably a good move for him to come to the WEC though as the UFC 155lbs division is STACKED. Leggett’s last WEC appearance had seen him stop veteran Charlie Kohler with knees to the body. Pre-fight they show us a pull-apart incident at the weigh-ins, always adds an extra dimension to things.

Round 1 begins and they circle around with Leggett looking like he’s preparing to shoot. Varner instead closes the distance and gets a BIG SLAM down to the ground, landing in side control. Varner looks to mount but ends up hopping to the other side and looks to prep an arm triangle, but Leggett gets half-guard. Leggett works to his feet inside a clinch and uses a whizzer to get Varner down, but Varner pops right back up and then DUMPS LEGGETT ON HIS HEAD!~! Holy Christ that looked like a Death Valley Driver. Varner slugs at the head but referee Steve Mazzagatti calls time and takes a point for Varner striking the back of the head. I hate that rule as you can never see whether they’re actually hitting it intentionally or not. Leggett recovers quickly though and they restart. High kick from Varner glances off Leggett’s head and Leggett actually applauds, crazy guy. Another high kick lands but Leggett grabs the leg for a takedown, Varner defends but gets caught in almost a standing rear naked choke. Easy escape for Varner and he gets a nice single leg slam to side mount. Full mount for Varner and Leggett immediately gives his back. Varner sinks both hooks in and locks up a body triangle, working for the choke, but Leggett defends. Leggett rolls back to the mount and eats some elbows, and then he gives his back again and Varner flattens him out and drops punches until Mazzagatti steps in.

Post-fight Varner tells us he didn’t mean to hit Leggett in the head, but regardless he knew it wasn’t getting out of the first round. He then challenges the winner of the upcoming Rob McCullough-Rich Crunkilton fight for a title match.

Really fun fight as Varner brought in some great slams and solid jiu-jitsu on the ground too. Total domination for the most part but the sick slams made it entertaining to watch throughout. The Death Valley Driver-esque slam was terrifying.

Welterweight Fight: Blas Avena vs Tiki Ghosn

They decide to show a prelim from earlier in the night now. Man, Tito’s buddy Tiki seems to pop up everywhere, doesn’t he? He was still looking for his first win under the Zuffa banner too, after losing in his first attempt in the WEC against Dave Terrel (not the Soul Assassin I’m afraid...). On paper he held the advantage over the very inexperienced Avena, who had a 2-1 record and had lost his last WEC fight. Avena is nicknamed ‘The Disciple’, but they don’t say exactly whose Disciple he is. So it’s Tito’s Disciple against Some Other Dude’s Disciple basically.

Bodylock and quick takedown by Avena to begin, right into mount. Tiki rolls and gives his back and Avena looks for the rear naked choke right away. He loses a hook though and Tiki slips free, but Avena quickly gets the hooks back in and this time he locks up the choke cleanly for the tapout.

Well, Avena came out, took Tiki down and choked him out. Can’t get more climactic than that really. So Tiki still can’t win in a Zuffa promotion, poor guy.

-We get a plug for the new movie starring Jason Statham and Jet Li, War. Doesn’t look like a bad martial arts flick actually.

Featherweight Fight: Jeff Curran vs Stephen Ledbetter

Curran was one of the first “name” signings for the WEC as he’d been ranked in the upper echelon of the Featherweight division for some time and was immediately positioned as a future contender to Urijah Faber’s crown. Ledbetter meanwhile was bringing in a 5-0 record, but hadn’t fought anyone close to the calibre of the ‘Big Frog’ before. Big reach advantage for Ledbetter though, 5’9” to Curran’s 5’6”.

Round 1 gets started and they circle and look to gauge the distance before Ledbetter lands a one-two. Body kick from Ledbetter but Curran doesn’t seem hurt. Big right hand lands for Curran and snaps Ledbetter’s head back and stuns him bad, dropping him to a knee. Curran closes in with a left hook but Ledbetter clinches and looks for the takedown. They muscle for position along the cage and Curran lands a left elbow inside. Trip takedown from Ledbetter puts Curran on his back by the fence. Curran ties him up immediately in a tight full guard, and Ledbetter can’t do a thing so referee Yves Lavigne calls the stand up. Good low kick from Curran and he follows with a nasty superman punch, causing Ledbetter to dive for a takedown. Single leg puts Curran on his back and Ledbetter avoids a triangle but again can’t do much from the top. Round ends with Curran posting up the fence to stand. Curran 10-9.

Round 2 and Curran opens with a right bodyshot. Takedown to guard from Ledbetter but Curran ties him up again. Ledbetter pins him into the fence, but Curran works to his feet again in the clinch. They muscle for position again and Curran lands a nice right to the body from inside. They break and Curran lands an inside leg kick, following with a side kick to the gut. Ledbetter misses on a single leg attempt but tries it again, and Curran sprawls back until he ends up on his back going for a guillotine. Ledbetter works free but again can’t seem to do a thing from the guard. 30 seconds to go and he does land a couple of elbows, but Curran locks up a triangle choke and it looks deep. Ledbetter manages to hold on as Curran pulls down on the head, and the buzzer sounds, saving Ledbetter. Curran’s round again, though.

Circle to begin the third and Curran snaps his head back on a jab. Couple more solid jabs land and then Curran lands a glancing combo. High kick gets just about blocked and Ledbetter shoots for the takedown, putting Curran on his back in guard. Little happens again and Curran probably does more damage with elbows from his back. Ref calls the restart and now Curran shoots, but Ledbetter sprawls and gets a front facelock, landing a knee before getting the takedown himself. Curran locks on a reverse triangle from the bottom though, really slick stuff, and Ledbetter desperately tries to put Curran flat on his back to break it. Curran goes for a kimura now while still holding the reverse triangle, but Ledbetter rolls to attempt to get free. He ends up rolling into another triangle, but the horn sounds before Curran can lock it up.

I have Curran taking this 30-27 as Ledbetter did little outside of his takedowns. Judges score it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Curran. Ring announcer Joe Martinez actually drops the cards and we get a big pause between the scores and the announcement of the winner in a funny moment. Post-fight Curran says he felt he should’ve stayed on his feet and gone for the KO, but his wrestling’s his weak point and he needs to work on it. He then challenges Urijah Faber, saying he’s ready to fight him any time.

Decent fight if a little pedestrian, as Curran was too good for Ledbetter standing and on the ground, but couldn’t stop the takedown and wasn’t that offensive from his guard. Good introduction for Curran to the WEC though and it set up his challenge against Faber nicely.

-They show a couple of highlights from Urijah Faber’s appearance on the Howard Stern show and a competition to become the guest ring card girl.

WEC World Middleweight Title: Paulo Filho vs Joe Doerksen

With his powerful BJJ game and menacing look, Filho had become a personal favourite of mine in his PRIDE days and at this stage he was seen as possibly the top Middleweight in the world, as he held an unbeaten record and had ran through everyone put in front of him in Japan, including the likes of Kazuo Misaki, Amar Suloev, Ryo Chonan and Murilo Ninja. I was somewhat disappointed to see him head to the WEC rather than UFC when PRIDE folded, but I believe the reasoning behind it was because he would never fight UFC champ Anderson Silva anyway, so they may as well give some credibility to the WEC’s 185lbs division. Doerksen, a dangerous fight for anyone, was positioned as his first opponent for the vacant crown.

First round begins and Doerksen looks to keep his distance, landing a low kick early. Filho goes for a takedown, and lifts Doerksen up for a single, but Doerksen does an excellent job of stuffing it and breaks off. Inside leg kick from Doerksen and Filho tries to claim a groin shot, but McCarthy tells them to continue. Filho comes in for a takedown again but Doerksen again does well to avoid. Filho keeps working and finally gets the takedown to guard, but Doerksen tries to use the rubber guard to control him. Filho easily breaks free of that and works to pass, but Doerksen uses a butterfly guard to push off and escapes to his feet. Filho stalks forward but takes a low kick and a couple of glancing punches en route to getting the clinch. Doerksen goes for a trip, but Filho defends with a whizzer and they end up going into the cage standing. Doerksen breaks off and they circle before Filho lands with a wild overhand left. Doerksen looks stunned and dives for a single leg, but Filho defends it and flurries at the head, hitting Doerksen in the exact same spot as Varner hit Leggett earlier, but John McCarthy lets it go. Doerksen manages to get back to his feet, but he looks wobbly as hell and Filho keeps swinging haymakers, sloppy but powerful shots, and a right hand sends Doerksen crashing into the fence and McCarthy calls it there.

Post-fight they present Filho with the title and he says (through his translator) that Doerksen came in well-prepared on the ground and fought well, but he’s ready for any challenger.

On one hand Filho stopped a very tough guy in the first round with strikes standing, an area he wasn’t really known for, but on the other hand this version of Filho just didn’t seem quite the same as he had in Japan. In PRIDE nobody had been able to stop Filho’s takedowns like Doerksen had, nor had they really been able to escape from underneath him. Filho also looked quite a bit smaller than he had in his PRIDE days which really makes you question what was going on in Japan, whether certain supplements were involved or hell, maybe the weigh-ins weren’t entirely legit. Still, to give him some credit at least, Filho did stop Doerksen, one of his tougher opponents. Sloppy but cool finish to a decent enough fight.

-‘Razor’ Rob McCullough joins us to talk about his return from a knee injury and his upcoming title defense against Rich Crunkilton.

-Jens Pulver is also in the crowd and he discusses how great it is that he’s been able to move to the WEC and fight in his more natural weight class of 145lbs. He puts over his upcoming opponent Cub Swanson and says he’s excited to fight him.

WEC World Welterweight Title: Carlos Condit vs Brock Larson

As I noted in the last review, Larson was scheduled to fight Condit for the belt on the previous show, but Condit got injured and Larson ended up murdering poor replacement Kevin Knabjian instead. Condit had come to Zuffa through the WFA buyout and already held impressive victories over Frank Trigg and Renato Verissimo, and the ‘Natural Born Killer’ had choked out John Alessio to claim the Welterweight crown in the second Zuffa WEC show. Coming into this fight he was unbeaten in five. Larson meanwhile sported a strong 21-1 record with his only loss coming at the hands of Jon Fitch. It’s probably fair to say that these two were within the best five Welterweights outside of the UFC coming into this fight, so definitely a strong title match for WEC to put on.

Ring introductions are awesome, too – Larson might look more physically intimidating but Condit has the most psychotic pre-fight stare this side of Wanderlei Silva and Diego Sanchez. Looks so unassuming outside of the cage, too.

Round One gets underway and they press, both men looking tentative, before Condit throws out a high kick that just misses. Larson shoots in for a takedown, and Condit sprawls but gets caught in a bodylock coming up. Trip takedown from Larson into Condit’s guard, and the champion immediately goes for a kimura, but Larson avoids and gets to half-guard. Larson looks to be prepping an arm triangle choke, but Condit defends it nicely and gets back to full guard. Larson stands over him to drop some punches, and then drops down into the closed guard. The challenger opens up with some elbows and punches, but Condit catches him in a DEEP ARMBAR and really cranks on it, and Larson taps out as the arm looks to be at a horrible angle. Wow. Armbar literally came from nowhere and as soon as Condit had it locked in it was all over.

Post-fight Condit is *still* doing his mean-mugging for the camera like he doesn’t know the fight’s over or something. He says he thought he had the advantage standing, but figured he’d be fine wherever the fight went, saying it’s about technique over strength.

Technique over strength indeed. Very impressive performance from Condit as being on the bottom with Brock Larson on top is not the place you want to be, and yet Condit stayed calm from the bottom and didn’t take much time at all to lock up the armbar. Very slick, well-rounded guy and this was a tremendous win for him.

-Announcers plug the upcoming WrekCage shows as well as the TapouT reality show, and it’s time to roll the credits.

Final Thoughts....

This was a really good show from the WEC. Nothing in the way of a bad fight, and some seriously cool moments and finishes, particularly the slams from Jamie Varner, Condit’s armbar in the main event and Filho throwing haymakers to finish off Doerksen. Curran’s fight, as I said, was a little pedestrian and got slow in parts, but it still had its moments and overall the show was fun and fast-paced, which is what the WEC seems to be best at putting on. The kinks were still being worked out at this stage in terms of what kind of promotion WEC was heading towards being, but the potential was clear from this show and it’s certainly worth a thumbs up.

Best Fight: Varner-Leggett
Worst Fight: Curran-Ledbetter

Overall Rating: ***1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 79-94, Fight Nights 12-16, and TUF VII and VIII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, 32, and 33.
WEC: 30-38
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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