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WEC 30: McCullough vs. Crunkilton review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on March 1, 2009, 2:20 PM

WEC 30: McCullough vs. Crunkilton

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir. They run down the card, talking about the return of Brian Stann, and the two title matches in the double main event. Mir says he’s most looking forward to the Bantamweight Title match, with the wrestler Chase Beebe against the submission expert Rani Yahya.

Bantamweight Fight: Miguel Torres vs Jeff Bedard

This was Torres’s WEC debut and as soon as it was announced the online fans in the know were hyped beyond belief, telling everyone who would listen that Torres was by far the best 135lbs fighter in the US. WEC bills him as 18-1 coming into this one, with his lone loss being avenged, but the word was that Torres had far more fights than his record suggested, with some of his earlier fights coming against fighters as heavy as 185lbs. That’s insane. For his part even though I don’t know much about him, Bedard was undefeated at 10-0 and I believe he was quite highly ranked at Bantamweight himself. I must point it out, Torres’s Euro-mullet is something to behold.

They begin and the size difference is evident instantly – Bedard is a squat, powerful looking wrestler while Torres is skinny as hell with a sick reach. Torres closes in, but Bedard drops for a takedown and Torres is happy to oblige and quickly gets to full guard. Torres throws his legs up for an armbar and then uses his legs to avoid being pinned into the cage, as Bedard keeps top position but doesn’t really do much with it. Torres lands some elbows from the bottom, and as Bedard looks to posture up for some punches Torres quickly clears the shoulder and locks up a triangle from the bottom for the tapout.

Post-fight Torres gets straight to the point and says he wants the winner of the title fight, dude doesn’t beat around the bush.

Quick and easy win for Torres who took zero damage from the guard and didn’t mess around in locking up a submission to get Bedard out of there. Extremely impressive stuff and this would only be a taste of what the guy’s capable of.

Middleweight Fight: Jesse Forbes vs Bryan Baker

Forbes had previously competed on TUF III as a Light-Heavyweight, and was making the move down to 185lbs for his WEC debut. Baker meanwhile was also a WEC debutant, and was undefeated at 4-0. I believe he fights out of Thomas Denny’s Wildman camp.

Round 1 and Forbes lands a combo right away to drop Baker. He closes in but Baker goes for a takedown, only for Forbes to stuff it and land another combo during a trade. Baker looks in trouble early but he fires back with some punches into a clinch. Big slam from Jesse puts Baker on his back in half-guard, and he looks for a guillotine from the top, but Baker works to his feet. Big slam from Baker lands Forbes on the bottom in side mount, but he works to half-guard and goes for a kimura. Baker avoids it and lands some shots from the top, but Forbes gets a reversal from underneath and takes the back with both hooks in! Baker rolls and shakes him off, but Forbes gets one hook back in. Baker keeps trying to escape, almost hitting a switch, but as Forbes goes for a triangle Baker slips free and ends up on top in the guard, where he lands some pretty heavy punches. Weak armbar attempt by Forbes lets Baker land a series of heavy hammer fists. Baker passes to side control and pins the arm down to deliver some more shots, and then goes to a high full mount. Announcers mention Baker headbutted him but I didn’t spot it. Punches from the mount for Baker, and then Forbes rolls and gives his back, where he takes more punches as Baker flattens him out, and Herb Dean steps in to call the TKO.

Good, fast paced fight with some great reversals and swings in momentum.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Brian Stann vs Jeremiah Billington

US Marine Stann was still undefeated at this stage and WEC were really trying to push him as the star of their 205lbs division despite his inexperience. Billington was another debutant, but he had more experience than Stann at 10-1, and really that’s the sort of opponent Stann needed at this stage to gain more experience. Long video package pre-fight talks up Stann’s career in the Marines and his rise up the WEC rankings. Billington is TINY for a LHW, coming in at only 195lbs and a chubby 195lbs at that.

Billington throws out a couple of leg kicks, but Stann grabs a clinch and forces him into the fence. Some big knees land from inside the clinch for Stann, and then he breaks off and stuns Billington badly with a heavy combo. Jeremiah reaches for a takedown, but Stann stuffs it pretty easily and shoves him back into the cage. More knees to the body from Stann and then a combination stuns Billington again. Jeremiah falls to his back and ends up in guard, but Stann chooses to stand instead. Billington stays down on his back, so Stann just stands over him and drops some bombs down onto him for the stoppage.

Total squash, Billington was horribly overmatched in all areas, but really I’m not complaining as why not build a marketable guy like Stann up slowly? Granted at this point there were no real monsters in WEC at 205lbs anyway, but even so.

Post-fight Stann says Billington’s punches didn’t hurt him because, well, “I’ve been blown up twice, he’s not going to hurt me”. Ha, word.

-Cameras spot Clay Guida in the front row. Wouldn’t be worth noting but honestly watch any UFC or WEC show that he’s not fighting in and for the majority of them, you will spot Clay Guida in the front row. Love that guy.

-They run down the WEC champions list and then Harris gets an interview with Urijah Faber to talk about his upcoming title defense against Jeff Curran, who Faber respects but says he’s going to finish.

Welterweight Fight: Blas Avena vs Joe Benoit

Ha, man, being named Benoit on a show in September 2007 is pretty bad luck when you consider what’d happened that summer. And as for Avena they *still* don’t explain what his nickname refers to. Whose ‘Disciple’ is he, damnit?! I’m reaching here folks, sorry. This is a prelim taped earlier in the night. Evidently before Guida took his seat in the front row as he’s actually in Benoit’s corner.

Avena pushes forward with some punches and Benoit ducks for a takedown but gives his neck, and Avena secures a quick guillotine and pulls guard for the tapout.

Really quick stuff as Avena got the guillotine instantly. Not much else to say really. Classic bit of crappy commentary post-fight though as Harris asks Mir “what did Benoit do wrong? Well outside of getting choked out in thirty seconds”. Ha.

WEC World Bantamweight Title: Chase Beebe vs Rani Yahya

This was, I believe, the first time a Bantamweight (135lbs) Title fight was ever aired on a live MMA show in the US. Beebe, a wrestling-based fighter who basically fights like a miniature Sean Sherk, had won the title on one of the early Zuffa WEC shows from reigning champion Eddie Wineland, and was originally scheduled to fight...I think it was Manny Tapia, but my memory is foggy, but whoever it was ended up injuring themselves and so Yahya, who had won his WEC debut at 145lbs, stepped in, dropped the 10lbs and got the title shot. Announcers wonder pre-fight whether the wrestler Beebe will be better off trying to keep it standing than going to the ground with the BJJ expert Yahya.

We get underway and Yahya quickly pulls guard, and then gets a sweep into a kneebar! Beebe looks in trouble and grimaces, but slips free and Yahya can’t hold onto the leg and so the champ escapes to his feet. Pair of leg kicks from Yahya and he goes for a single leg, but Beebe sprawls to defend. Yahya gets him down eventually, but Beebe looks to get a switch and reverses into top position. Yahya spins for a leglock again, but Beebe slips free only to end up on his back. Beebe rolls, but Yahya grabs a guillotine and then pulls guard, sitting right back, but Beebe slips free again, ending up underneath Yahya. Yahya passes to north/south and looks to be setting up for a choke, but Beebe scrambles back to guard. He tries to work free again, but ends up getting guillotined for a second time. This time he pops his head out as Yahya looks to pull guard and stands up using the fence to post himself up. Yahya jumps to guard and tries to get a triangle, but Beebe throws the legs to the side and takes Yahya’s back! Whoa. Yahya ends up escaping to half-guard though and quickly gets a butterfly guard back in. Beebe finally lands a couple of punches as Yahya keeps looking for some sort of submission, and out of nowhere he uses an oma plata to sweep into top position. Yahya looks to lock up a D’Arce choke from north/south, but time runs out before he can close it off. Awesome round and it was quite clearly Yahya’s as Beebe couldn’t do anything but defend submissions.

2nd round and Yahya shoots, but Beebe gets a tight guillotine and pulls guard. Yahya pops free, but ends up on his back and Beebe avoids a sweep and ends up in side mount. Yahya keeps squirming and gets back to guard, but Beebe works to pass and ends up getting an odd mount position where he lands some backfists to the Brazilian’s face. He ends up in side mount and then takes Yahya’s back again, sinking the hooks in and looking for the rear naked choke. Real surprising to see Yahya give his back to a wrestler like that. Beebe lands some punches and keeps looking for the choke, but Yahya defends and manages to get rid of a hook. Beebe ends up on top in the guard, and now Yahya looks pretty exhausted, probably from blowing so much gas on the first round sub attempts. Beebe keeps looking to pass the guard, and he avoids an armbar right before the round ends. Round closes with Beebe almost in the full mount. Total switch from the first round with Beebe taking it easily.

Third round now and Yahya dives for the takedown again, but Beebe sprawls and uses the cage to post up to his feet. Yahya pulls half-guard and avoids a rolling reversal, and then looks to use his free leg to push the other one free of the half-guard. Full mount follows and Beebe lands some punches. BIG shots to the body land for the champion and Yahya’s going to be pissing blood the next day. Yahya gets back to guard and goes for an armbar, but again Beebe throws the legs to the side and passes the guard, taking an over/under. Beebe gets the back again and this time he locks up a body triangle to control him. He almost locks up the rear naked choke, but Yahya works to defend with his hands, only to take some punches from the back mount position. Beebe continues to land punches from behind, hitting some short, hard uppercuts, but he can’t lock up the choke and the round ends with Beebe on Yahya’s back.

We’re into championship territory now, Round 4. Yahya opens with a couple of stiff jabs and a leg kick, but he eats a left hook that makes him shoot. Beebe sprawls to avoid it and pulls Yahya down, but Yahya keeps looking for the takedown. Beebe uses a whizzer to avoid it and then switches from a quarter-nelson to take the back again. Beebe almost gets full mount, but Yahya slips in a half-guard, only this time for Beebe to spin out to side mount. Full mount follows despite Yahya’s desperate attempts to get half-guard, and Beebe looks to be setting up an arm triangle. Instead he lands some short strikes and ends up back in half-guard. Yahya works a full butterfly guard back in, but Beebe pins him into the fence and lands some elbows. Beebe tries to pass again, but Yahya keeps the butterfly hooks in, although he looks to exhausted to go for a submission now. Beebe ends up getting an over/under again until Yahya rolls to half-guard to attempt a sweep. Beebe’s having none of that, and he continues to land punches to finish the round. I have this 39-37 for Beebe at the minute meaning Yahya needs to finish him in the fifth to win.

Fifth and final round and Mir cannot believe how Beebe has dominated the grappling aspect of the fight. Yahya throws a couple of kicks and shoots, but ends up on the bottom again and Beebe looks to be going for a guillotine from the top. Yahya uses a butterfly guard to avoid though and ends up in the guard taking some hammer fists. Yahya keeps going for sweeps and reversals, but Beebe’s having none of it and stays firmly inside the guard landing shots and working to pass. Yahya’s face is bloodied up now from the nose as Beebe is just owning the guy at this point. Fight ends with Beebe pounding away from top position.

I’ve got this 49-46 for Beebe to retain his title. Judges have it 49-46, 49-46, and 49-45 for Beebe, pretty great performance from him.

Post-fight Mir asks Beebe how he got through the twelve (!) submission attempts in the first round to which Beebe said he was close to quitting but just couldn’t, and it was his conditioning that won him the fight.

Well, I was remembering that fight as being a horrible smaller copy of Sherk-Franca from UFC 73 but aside from the final round that was a totally false memory, as this was quite the tremendous grappling match. The first round was unbelievable with Yahya going for submission after submission and Beebe somehow avoiding them all, and then from there Beebe’s relentless conditioning took over and *he* almost ended up subbing the ADCC veteran, which was amazing to see. It does get a little repetitive in parts admittedly and the lack of effective strikes keeps it from being a FOTYC or anything, but this was far better than I remembered and ended up being a really good title fight.

WEC World Lightweight Title: ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough vs Rich Crunkilton

Razor Rob was positioned as the face of WEC’s 155lbs division from day one really, as he was one of the bigger names Zuffa picked up from the WFA deal, with his sick kickboxing game and marketable metrosexual look. The questions surrounding McCullough were mainly about his ground game though, and American Kickboxing Academy’s ‘Cleat’ Crunkilton was hoping to test Razor there, bringing in a record of 15-1 with six submissions and seven TKOs, with his lone decision loss being an infamous UFC fight with Hermes Franca that saw his elbow joint pop out of place during the fight. Pretty solid main event for a WEC show when you consider the majority of the talent at 155lbs is locked up with the UFC or in Japan.

We begin and Crunkilton throws out a body kick that Razor catches and answers with a pair of straight rights to the face. Crunkilton continues to throw kicks with very little defense, odd tactic and the announcers are calling him on it right away as it seems only a matter of time before McCullough cracks him with a counter. Sure enough BOOM, a pair of right hands drop Crunkilton to the mat and Rob bombs away trying to finish. Crunkilton survives and gets back to his feet, but he’s out of it now and Razor drops him with another straight right. Cleat tries to get a takedown now but McCullough sprawls to avoid it and lands a knee to the face and another to the gut. Razor breaks the clinch and he’s bleeding somehow, surprising as I didn’t see Crunkilton hit him really. Series of punches stuns Crunkilton further but he just tries to trade leather back, and finally a HUGE RIGHT HOOK puts him down for good.

Good performance from McCullough but Frank Mir sums it up by saying why would Crunkilton want to try to trade with Razor Rob? I mean seriously, the guy is a sick kickboxer but supposedly has a ton of holes in his ground game. So why not try to take him there? Possibly one of the worst gameplans in a big fight that I can remember in a long time. Highlight reel KO though so hey, it entertained me enough.

Post-fight McCullough says he expected Crunkilton to trade in order to set up a later takedown, but he made a bad choice in doing that. You don’t say!

-We end with a plug for the upcoming Faber-Curran show and then hit the highlights.

Final Thoughts....

This was another very good show from the WEC. From Torres’s debut, another fun squash for Brian Stann, the Baker-Forbes fight being pretty damn good where I expected nothing, and a great highlight reel KO for Razor Rob in the main event, the majority of this show is a total thumbs up. Beebe-Yahya though is a long fight (five rounds, duh) and even though for the most part it’s seriously slick grappling, it might not be everyone’s kettle of fish and so your enjoyment of the show would likely hinge on that fight. If you’re seriously into your grappling you’ll love it and thus the show is a total thumbs up, but if you prefer brawling or striking then you’ll probably want to skip over that one fight and just check out the other cool finishes. Either way it’s a recommended show and it’s amazing to think that WEC wasn’t even close to hitting its stride at this point.

Best Fight: Forbes-Baker
Worst Fight: Avena-Benoit

Overall Rating: ***

Coming Soon....

UFC: 83-95, Fight Nights 14-17, and TUF VII and VIII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, and 33.
WEC: 31-38
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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