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WEC 31: Faber vs. Curran review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on May 26, 2009, 9:57 AM

WEC 31: Faber vs. Curran

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir. They discuss the three title fights and Pulver’s debut, and thankfully Mir doesn’t call Doug Marshall the #1 guy in the world at LHW like he calls Filho the #1 MW and Faber the #1 FW. I guess saying that was fair enough at this stage though as a lot of people did have Filho ranked as #1.

WEC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Doug Marshall vs Ariel Gandulla

‘Rhino’ Marshall as LHW champ was pretty much the only thing left over from the pre-Zuffa days of WEC at this point, just a large brawler with some skill but more just a penchant for swinging wildly. Personally I will never forgive the dude for a fight I saw him in at an older WEC that saw him take a beating before using about four low blows to turn the tide (somehow getting away with it). Cuban wrestler Gandulla was unbeaten but had only one win in the WEC, so I’m thinking he just ended up being given the title shot while the company built Brian Stann up as the real guy to take the belt. Fun fact – Gandulla once went to a no-contest with TUF VIII’s Tom Lawlor when both men fell out of the cage.

Touch of gloves and they throw out some feeler strikes before Marshall tries a sloppy superman punch. Gandulla catches him and gets a takedown, works some punches, but leaves himself way too open and Marshall actually locks up an armbar from the bottom for the tap.

Really surprising ending in that one as I never expected Marshall to pull out an armbar like that, but Gandulla left himself wide open for it to be fair. Post-fight Marshall cuts a goofy promo about preferring the “KD” or something, just awful stuff.

Bantamweight Fight: Charlie Valencia vs Ian McCall

Prelim taped earlier in the night. Valencia is a guy who’s been around FOREVER and has fought mainly at 145lbs, including a KOTC match with Urijah Faber. Which he lost, duh. Don’t know much about McCall really but he’s sporting an absolutely ridiculous hairdo, almost like a greaser even. Pre-fight McCall says Valencia knocked out his best friend, Antonio Banuelos, so he’s after revenge.

They come out throwing combos, with McCall looking to push the pace. BIG RIGHT rocks McCall badly though and he stumbles before looking for a takedown. Valencia stuffs it and breaks off, but McCall looks recovered now. Mir points out that McCall’s jab is coming back too low and leaving him open for the right, and sure enough Valencia almost clocks him with it again just a while later. McCall continues to circle off and throw combos out, with Valencia playing counterpuncher. MASSIVE right hook drops McCall like a sack of potatoes, and Valencia closes in, takes the back and delivers a RELEASE GERMAN SUPLEX!~! Jesus H. Christ. Few more punches hurt McCall further and the ref looks like he’ll step in, but then McCall somehow gets up and comes back firing! He gets desperate and shoots in though, and Valencia clamps on a guillotine to finish things.

Well, that was a dope fight. Ending was absolutely insane, never seen anything like that suplex in MMA since well, Dan Severn at UFC 4. This was even better too as McCall landed right on his head. Sick stuff.

WEC World Middleweight Title: Paulo Filho vs Chael Sonnen

Looking back I still shake my head over the decision to put Filho in the WEC, even if he wouldn’t fight Anderson Silva. I mean, think about it – Filho vs. Marquardt, Franklin, and Okami, or Filho vs. Joe Doerksen and Chael Sonnen? I mean sure the guy ended up being a bust in the long run, but with his reputation coming out of PRIDE I would’ve liked to see him fight the UFC’s top dogs. Sonnen was returning to the Zuffa umbrella for this fight after some time in smaller promotions like BoDog, and actually he’d reeled off five victories there, not losing since a 2006 sub loss to Jeremy Horn. My personal feeling was that although Sonnen could perhaps outstrike Filho to a decision, somehow he’d end up getting caught in a submission like he’d done against Jeremy Horn, Babalu, Forrest Griffin, et al.

Pre-fight video shows Filho sporting an awful porno tache, too. And Sonnen calls him a “knucklehead”. Hilarious!

We get underway and Sonnen looks to use his reach advantage to land punches from a distance, before Filho closes the distance. Sonnen gets a waistlock slam and as Filho hits the mat Sonnen starts to yell at the ref that he’s out, weird stuff as then Sonnen starts dropping shots and Filho instantly moves. Sonnen keeps him on his back though and lands some punches from the top, as Filho goes into defensive mode and tries to reclaim full guard. Filho tries to roll for a takedown of his own, but Sonnen grabs a front facelock and then looks to be setting up a D’Arce, surprisingly. He decides to let it go and they come back to standing, where Sonnen cracks him with a flying knee and continues to land punches. Sonnen then decides to go for a takedown, but leaves his head out and gets caught in a TIGHT guillotine on the way down. Mir is instantly like, “why would he do that?” Uh, because he’s Chael Sonnen, dude, and that’s what he does. Sonnen has an arm in the guillotine though and looks okay, eventually popping out to the guard. Chael stands again and then stands over him looking to avoid upkicks, and then he drops a hammer fist back into the half-guard. Sonnen lands some more punches, but Filho goes for an armbar ala Jeremy Horn in his fight with Sonnen, but Chael manages to slip free as the round ends.

Second round, and they exchange some strikes into a clinch. Filho muscles him to the cage and looks for a takedown, but Sonnen blocks it tremendously and lands a knee to the body to break. They exchange some strikes and then Sonnen takes him down again, completely mystifying Mir. Couple of nice elbows land from the guard for Sonnen, as Filho ends up pinned into the fence. Sonnen keeps chipping away from the guard, landing some good shots, but with fifteen seconds remaining Filho locks up an armbar from nowhere, and the referee steps in as Sonnen screams out in pain.

Post-fight we get a ton of controversy, as Sonnen is claiming he didn’t tap out and the replays seem to confirm that; looks like the ref made an early stoppage. Sonnen is FUMING but the announcer calls it a verbal tapout – it’s a difficult one to be fair because if a guy screams out in pain is the ref supposed to take that as a verbal submission? Although having said that, Sonnen screamed in pain in Babalu’s heel hook and didn’t tap out there.

Big “bullshit” chant as Sonnen admits the hold was deep but says he told the ref he didn’t want to submit, and says he’s disappointed in both the result and himself. Fight itself was an eye-opener as Sonnen was all over Filho from the start and Paulo just didn’t look like the same guy who overpowered his opponents in PRIDE, but Sonnen for whatever reason kept taking Filho down despite beating him on his feet, and controversial finish notwithstanding it caught up with him badly in the end.

Featherweight Fight: Jens Pulver vs Cub Swanson

Pulver’s drop to 145lbs and move to the WEC was the first real sign I would say that Zuffa was taking WEC seriously and pushing it as a big deal. I mean you can’t get a much bigger star at 145lbs than the first ever UFC Lightweight Champ, can you, even if he’d looked bad in his last couple of fights? Jens was undefeated at 145lbs at this stage, too. His opponent, Cub Swanson, fighting out of Erik Paulson’s camp, had looked impressive in his previous WEC fights and was looking like one of the hottest prospects at 145lbs too, so this was win-win for WEC – if Pulver won then he’s an instant title contender, and if Swanson won then he’d made himself into a star. Swanson is SERIOUSLY lean for 145lbs too. Like zero bodyfat whatsoever.

Cub shoots in for a takedown right off the bat, but Pulver defends the single well and then forces Swanson down in a front headlock position. From there it’s a quick transition to an anaconda choke, and Cub taps!

Wow, did not expect that to be so quick and so easy for Jens at all. Well, I could’ve seen a quick knockout for Pulver but I never saw him subbing Cub out like that. It’s odd because people always see flash KOs as anticlimactic, but when it’s a flash sub like this it’s pretty much as climactic as it comes. Really sweet finish for Lil’ Evil.

Post-fight Jens credits Swanson for lighting a fire under him, and then calls out the winner of Faber-Curran.

-Harris joins Carlos Condit who says he’s sick of being on the shelf, and he’s training hard for his upcoming title defense in February, though they don’t name his opponent.

Bantamweight Fight: Brian Bowles vs Marcos Galvao

Another prelim from earlier in the night, featuring Nova Uniao standout and Shooto veteran Galvao taking on the Hardcore Gym’s young lion, Brian Bowles. Bowles had beaten Charlie Valencia last time out but Galvao was bringing in quite the reputation from Japan and I figured he’d roll right over Bowles here.

They begin and Bowles presses the action with punches, with Galvao looking a little stiff on his feet. Knee by Galvao into the clinch and Bowles spins him around and pushes him into the fence. Errant knee lands low from Bowles and the ref calls time to give Galvao a break. They restart and exchange some combinations, with Bowles getting the better of it, stunning Galvao with a right. Body kick by Galvao, countered by a right from Bowles. Galvao shoots, but Bowles stuffs it easily and they end up in a clinch. NICE inside elbow from Bowles cracks him loudly. Galvao tries a whizzer takedown, but Bowles is having none of it and breaks free. Right bodyshot and left hook from Bowles. Bowles stuffs another takedown and breaks a clinch, but then Galvao lands a nice right hand that has Bowles checking his nose for blood. Galvao grabs a plum clinch to land some knees, but Bowles clocks him with a right to break and then they exchange some punches. Takedown from Galvao off the exchange, into Bowles’ closed guard, but as Galvao tries to pass Bowles slips to his feet. Couple of shots exchanged and the round ends.

Round Two and Bowles comes out aggressively with punches. Galvao tries a takedown but Bowles avoids it again and they end up clinched. Break and Galvao clips him with a right, but misses a head kick. They exchange some winging hooks and then Bowles comes in with a wild combo that snaps Galvao’s head back and stuns him badly! Bowles drops him with a flurry and pounds away, passing the legs, but Galvao rolls for a kneebar. Bowles does well to avoid and then they come back up to standing. Another combo lands for Bowles and the American avoids another takedown. Galvao begins to back up, and a big left hook hurts him again. Bowles keeps coming forward and throwing punches, and finally a BIG RIGHT HOOK lands flush and ends Galvao’s night.

Post-fight interview is hilarious as not only do we get a weird visual as announcer Mir DWARFS Bowles, but Mir is all like “Sherdog had that guy ranked #2 man!” and Bowles says he feels so happy for stepping up the competition.

Really good win for Bowles as Galvao came in with a big reputation from Japan (as Mir hinted at) and just couldn’t do a thing with Bowles as he couldn’t get him to the ground and was badly outgunned standing. Really opened my eyes to Bowles that’s for sure.

WEC World Featherweight Title: Urijah Faber vs Jeff Curran

Despite Faber being pushed as the King of the Featherweights before this, really he hadn’t beaten any of the very top guys and so Curran, as a proven talent, was almost certainly his toughest fight to date. Not that Curran was the favourite or anything – Faber had looked *so* good in beating practically everyone else that he was believable as the top 145lbs guy anyway even if he hadn’t fought some of the best guys – but the Big Frog was definitely a viable challenger for the belt. Huge main event then, no doubt.

Round 1 and Faber comes right out and clips him with a right hand, but Curran trips him to the ground. Quick guard pass from Curran to full mount, but Faber immediately gets butterfly hooks back in. Curran passes to mount again though, and then takes the back as Faber turns. Both hooks are in for the Big Frog and he begins to work for the choke, but Urijah stays totally calm in the position and defends. Body triangle from Curran for more control, but Faber doesn’t look in real trouble just yet. Curran begins to land some punches from the back but can’t get the arm under Faber’s chin. Really excellent control from Curran, however. Faber stands up with Curran on his back and tries to spin him over with a slam, but Curran stays on the back despite hitting his head. The slam loosens Curran’s body triangle though and Urijah manages to wriggle free into Curran’s guard. Faber gets to half-guard and then stands to drop a diving elbow onto the head, before finishing the round standing above the challenger. Got to be Curran’s round really for the back control.

2nd round and Faber throws a wild right and then shoots, but Curran blocks it and they end up clinched. Big knee to the gut from Faber as he muscles Curran into the cage. Nice elbow inside from the champ. Curran trips him down and Faber goes for a heel hook, but Curran defends and ends up in a really odd position, almost a triangle with his leg stuck in there too. Backfist from the bottom from Faber, but Curran switches position and manages to take the back again. Faber slips free this time though and gets into Curran’s guard. Faber pins him to the fence and looks to work some elbows, as Curran is cut now. Faber stands over him and lands a nice upkick, and then Urijah lands an ax stomp to the body. Hard leg kicks from a standing position onto the downed Curran. Curran uses the opportunity to pop up and go for a single, but Faber HITS HIM WITH A JUMPING KNEE WITH THE OTHER LEG IN THE AIR!~! Jesus Christ. Knee appears to have Curran stunned and Faber locks up a guillotine and pulls guard for the tapout!

Great fight with an unbelievable ending from Faber. Curran fought a very impressive opening round, but couldn’t finish the champion off and Faber came out far more aggressively in the second round and made Curran pay. The jumping knee was one of the most insane things I’ve seen in the cage and set up the submission beautifully.

Post-fight Mir says it’s as if Faber is making things up in there and Faber’s like yeah, I am making things up. He puts Curran over as a tough challenger and then says he wants Pulver next.

-And we roll the credits after a plug for the next WEC show.

Final Thoughts....

WEC really hit its stride with this show, they positioned it as the biggest show in company history and it delivered in spades, with every televised fight being really good, particularly the main event. Sonnen-Filho was somewhat disappointing for fans of the Brazilian but it was still a solid fight, Marshall-Gandulla and Swanson-Pulver both featured mega-quick submission endings, and the two prelims that aired were great too, especially Valencia-McCall with the sick German suplex. Honestly I don’t have a bad word to say about this show and the amazing thing is that WEC’s managed to top it a few times since. Thumbs way up.

Best Fight: Faber-Curran
Worst Fight: Marshall-Gandulla

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: 32-39
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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