Bantamweight fight to open then and damn are these guys tiny. Particularly Banuelos, who looks like he might even be able to make 125lbs. Banuelos I believe was the guy who Chuck Liddell was saying would kill Floyd Mayweather in a real fight during the whole “boxing vs. MMA” debate that went on in 2007. Tapia was unbeaten coming into this one though and was looking to cement himself as a possible title contender.
Round 1 begins and right away they’re at one another exchanging quick, quick combos. Nice one-two from Tapia is the first one to land really cleanly. Good overhand right puts Banuelos down momentarily but it looked more like a slip, and as he comes up they trade wildly with both men looking stunned. Big body shot from Tapia. Banuelos clinches and forces Tapia into the fence, but Tapia reverses and digs at the body as Banuelos throws some knees. Tapia drags him down and punches at the head, but can’t take the back and Antonio drops to his back with an upkick. Tapia ends up on top with an over/under and lands some punches and knees to the body. Back elbow from Banuelos to answer. Tapia tries to get top position and then goes back to the over/under as Banuelos turns. They come back to their feet and circle off, and Tapia deflects a big high kick. Overhand right from Tapia puts him off balance and Banuelos grabs a bodylock and looks for the takedown, but Tapia decides to roll through to attempt a kneebar. The cage gets in the way however and Banuelos lands some heavy punches including a big uppercut before Tapia stands. Bodylock from Banuelos but Tapia uses a kimura to reverse position and gets *his* back instead. Knees to the legs from Tapia and then they break, and it’s another exchange into the clinch. Tapia goes for a takedown but Banuelos reverses on the way down and ends the round on top. That was a hell of a pace to set.
2nd round and Tapia presses forward, and then lands a combo that stuns Banuelos. Banuelos tries to answer back but he’s clearly got less power than Tapia and another flurry puts him down. Tapia pounds away looking to finish, but Banuelos ends up in the turtle position and Tapia’s stuck elbowing the body from an over/under. Tapia takes the back but doesn’t bother sinking the hooks in or anything, just holding a rear waistlock, and Banuelos gets to his feet and lands a spinning elbow to break. Tapia pushes forward and lands a nice uppercut and then both men flurry at one another again before clinching. They exchange knees inside and muscle around the cage before Banuelos gets a takedown and passes to half-guard. Tapia uses a good butterfly guard to defend though and works back to his feet before throwing Antonio off. Leg kick from Tapia, answered by a stiff right from Banuelos. Pace stays high and they continue to exchange, with Tapia landing the better shots by a pinch as the round ends. This is a very close fight but I think I’d give the advantage slightly to Tapia for doing a little more damage.
Third and final round now. Banuelos comes right out with a front kick to the face. These guys are just not slowing down for anyone. Exchange continues with neither guy backing down an inch and then Banuelos manages to get a takedown and takes the back with one hook in. Tapia defends well and blocks the second hook from coming in, but he can’t seem to escape to his feet completely. Tapia keeps rolling to try to reverse, but Banuelos holds a nice bodylock until Tapia manages to hit a scramble and get to his feet. Tapia stalks forward and it’s a big one-two from him. Nice body punch-high kick combo from Banuelos to answer. Tapia blocks a takedown and they clinch, muscling for position into the cage, before breaking off and it’s another open trade with both men landing. Banuelos looks for the takedown again but Tapia blocks and breaks off, and now Banuelos begins to look tired, dropping his hands a little. And for once I’d completely understand someone gassing in a fight like this! Tapia keeps pressing, landing the cleaner combos, but Banuelos doesn’t stop and keeps throwing back to answer. Exchange continues with Tapia pushing the pace and stalking forward, and Banuelos misses a wild wheel kick on the buzzer.
Close fight but I’d give it to Tapia based on the fact that he never stopped coming forward, did more damage with his strikes, and while Banuelos did get him down a couple of times he never had him in danger. Judges score it 30-27 Tapia, 29-28 Banuelos, and 28-28 for a split draw! Wow, did not expect that outcome.
Post-fight Tapia admits he took Banuelos a bit lightly but thought he won anyway, before thanking his family and his training partners. Banuelos apologises to his team, family and friends for not winning. I don’t think he’s got anything to apologise for though, this was a tremendous fight.
BUT WAIT!~! Apparently there’s a scoring issue and one of the judges miscalculated. The judge who scored it a draw actually had it 29-28 for Tapia, so he gets the win, and rightfully so. Big crowd pop for that and Tapia gets emotional. That was one hell of an opener as they kept a sick pace and never stopped coming forward for a second. Some awesome exchanges in there and although the groundwork left a little to be desired I’m not complaining about a fight like that. I love the Bantamweight division.
First title fight of the night then, with Beebe making his second title defense against the man who hardcore fans considered the best US-based Bantamweight in Miguel Torres. Beebe had looked impressive in his defense against Rani Yahya, but it was pretty clear that Torres was something special even seeing his debut fight, and so I was picking him to become the new champ.
Then-Featherweight champ Urijah Faber joins us on commentary and reveals Beebe told him that he thinks his size and strength advantage should play into his hands.
First round gets underway and Faber talks up “the power of the dirty moustache and the mullet”. Woorrrd. Circle off and Torres begins with a couple of leg kicks. Beebe answers with one of his own but Torres comes back with a one-two and another leg kick. Torres looks far more comfortable standing, got to say, and he’s using his reach advantage big time here. BIG LEFT HEAD KICK hurts Beebe and he shoots in out of instinct, tackling Torres down to guard. Torres immediately goes for a triangle but Beebe drives his knee through to half-guard. Torres quickly gets back to full guard though and lands a NASTY upkick to force Beebe away. Torres pops back to his feet and lands a left to the body and a body kick. Body kick answer by Beebe, and he gets another takedown to guard, but Torres ties him up right away with a high guard. Beebe tries to posture up to deliver some elbows, but Torres catches him in an armbar from the bottom and then switches to an oma plata which he uses to sweep! Beebe goes for a kimura but Torres easily slides free and then grabs a front facelock as Beebe tries another takedown, before transitioning to a D’Arce choke. He falls back and uses it to go into a mounted choke, and then rolls from THAT into a sick choke, almost a reverse rear naked choke (!~!), and finally Beebe taps. New champion! Holy God.
What can you say about that fight? There is awesome, and then there is Miguel Torres. I mean Chase Beebe is no slouch on the ground – he went for twenty five minutes down there with ADCC champion Rani Yahya and more than held his own – and Torres made him look like an amateur down there, and that’s after lighting him up standing too. I mean his one weakness seems to be his wrestling, but when he’s that good standing and that good on the ground does it really matter? This would prove to be Torres’ coming out party as he’s been one of the WEC poster-boys since, and quite rightfully so – the man is simply one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Incredible stuff.
-WEC Light-Heavyweight champ Doug Marshall joins Todd at cageside to talk about his upcoming title defense against former Marine Brian Stann, saying he wants to knock Stann dead.
Takaya at the time was ranked pretty highly at 145lbs if I recall correctly. Garcia meanwhile was following in Jens Pulver’s footsteps in dropping to 145lbs and moving to the WEC from the UFC. In another example of hardcore fans underrating US-based fighters and overrating Japanese-based ones, most fans were somehow expecting Takaya to murder Leonard, despite Roger Huerta and Cole Miller being unable to do so in their fights with him. Takaya naturally gets booed out of the building. Well, he is fighting an Albuquerque-based guy I guess. Garcia physically looks fantastic at 145lbs.
They begin and Garcia immediately lands a nice leg kick. Takaya answers with one of his own and then Garcia comes back with another one. They exchange some heavy punches but neither man lands cleanly and then Garcia NAILS him with a beautiful body kick! Straight right from Garcia puts Takaya DOWN, and he quickly follows up with a flurry for the stoppage!
Hell of a knockout for Garcia to announce his arrival in the Featherweight division. Post-fight he wastes no time in saying that he wants a title shot. I enjoyed this fight greatly for personal reasons, not only because I like Garcia but because it showed again that the hardcore fans shouldn’t underestimate the US-based fighters in situations like this.
-They show a segment about the fighting history of Albuquerque, mainly concentrating on the Greg Jackson camp, well, duh. Right now that’s arguably the best team in the whole of MMA, well, you could maybe argue American Top Team over it but personally I’d go for the Jackson team.
Razor Rob at this point had a TON of hype around him and his fans were calling him one of the best Lightweights in the world, etc, which really, and no offense meant to Rob, proves the “big fish in the small pond” theory correct as in reality he hadn’t faced any elite-level competition at this stage. Varner meanwhile had looked solid in his brief UFC run and with his strong wrestling and boxing game looked like a decent opponent for McCullough on paper. Things get personal in the pre-fight package with McCullough calling Varner cocky, while Varner says he thinks Razor Rob is one-dimensional and can’t match him in any area.
They get started and Varner opens with a right hand-left hook combo. Straight right from Varner and he uses it to set up a double leg takedown. Razor Rob uses the cage to get to his feet, but Varner keeps driving for the takedown. Good sprawl by McCullough to avoid but Varner keeps going for it and eventually he transitions to take the back. McCullough manages to twist his way free but Varner’s on him again looking for the double leg. Varner gets him down this time and tries to keep him down as Razor Rob again uses the cage to post his way back to his feet. Good sprawl from Rob this time but Varner just keeps on going for the takedown. McCullough sprawls out again and finally he manages to get some separation. Right hand from Varner and both men try to throw knees before Rob avoids another shot. Varner actually lands the better punches in an exchange, but McCullough manages to sprawl again to avoid another takedown. Good knee to the gut from Razor as he avoids another takedown. They trade some punches and Varner cracks him with a couple of rights, but McCullough seems alright and comes back with a body kick. Varner drives him into the cage again looking to get him down, but McCullough avoids and shoves him off. Round ends shortly thereafter. Probably Varner’s round based purely on aggression as McCullough did little outside of defending.
2nd round and Varner continues to get the better of the punching exchanges, landing a nice right to the gut early on. Crowd begin to boo randomly, no idea why as this is a perfectly acceptable fight in my opinion. Pace does slow as Varner keeps on landing the odd combo before backing up, and really McCullough hasn’t done much at all thus far. Crowd get really restless now – they’ve obviously been spoiled by the Bantamweights! – as they continue to circle around with the odd combo being thrown. Beautiful combo by Varner knocks McCullough off balance momentarily. Good low kick by McCullough but surprisingly he doesn’t follow it up and Varner comes back with another solid combination. Round continues with more of the same and this is all Jamie Varner. Round ends with a good leg kick from Razor Rob. Not the best round to be fair, but not one of the worst of all time even if the crowd made it sound like it was.
Third round and Varner comes out swinging combos again, but walks into a HUGE RIGHT from McCullough that sends his mouthpiece flying! Varner retreats immediately and eats a flurry before shooting in, but McCullough sprawls and breaks off...and Varner calls time to get his mouthpiece back. Huh. Can he actually do that? Ref seems okay with it though and steps in to a chorus of boos to replace the mouthpiece. Mazzagatti warns Varner to “not let that happen again”. Well, dude, I don’t think he meant to get whacked so hard to send his mouthpiece flying, do you? They restart and Razor Rob looks more confident now as Varner gets back to throwing the combinations, landing a beautiful left hook to the body. Big knee from Varner coming forward too. They continue to circle and throw combos and suddenly Varner DROPS him with a straight right! Varner closes in to look for the finish as McCullough somehow gets to his feet, only to get dropped again by a big left hook! This ought to be stopped, but it’s Steve Mazzagatti so of course he lets it go. McCullough staggers to his feet but continues to get the hell beaten out of him, and finally a big right hand KILLS HIM DEAD and Mazzagatti stops it.
Second new champ of the night and despite some dull moments in the second round that was a hell of a performance from Varner as I could’ve seen him beating Razor Rob on the ground, but in fact he outstruck the champion from the start and ended up finishing him with a seriously vicious combo. Ending was terrible of course as Mazzagatti stopped it way too late, but that’s to be expected at this point I think. Not sure about Varner calling his own time out but I guess if the ref allows it, it’s cool. As a fan of Varner and his team (Arizona Combat Sports) this was a lot of fun to see him win the belt, but more than anything I think this showed what level the WEC lightweights are on – just a step below those in the UFC.
Show being in Condit’s hometown of Albuquerque, naturally he gets the biggest pop of the night. Prater was making his WEC debut in this one but was immediately given a title shot, mainly because well, WEC had so few decent Welterweights and also because he’d beaten Condit earlier in their careers – Condit’s first professional loss in fact - and so the ‘Natural Born Killer’ was looking for revenge. Prater gets like twice as much boos as Takaya got earlier, lord.
Round One gets started with Condit throwing out some low kicks. They clinch up and Condit throws a knee to the body, but Prater delivers a big throw into Condit’s half-guard. Condit immediately looks for a kimura and then works back to full guard as a big “CARLOS!” chant erupts from the crowd. Prater looks for some ground-and-pound as Condit stays active from his back, avoiding any damage. Prater leaves his head out for a second and Condit clamps on an arm-in guillotine, but can’t get it quite locked up and lets it go. Condit tries a triangle now but Prater postures up to avoid. Surprisingly though he leaves his head out again and this time Condit gets the guillotine deeper this time, forcing Prater to tap out with about a minute left in the round!
Very surprising ending to that one – Prater is a solid brown belt in BJJ and you don’t expect a guy like that to get caught with a guillotine in that way, especially after he’d just been caught in it moments before and narrowly escaped. Shit happens though I guess. Good win for Condit to avenge an earlier loss for sure, even if it wasn’t exactly done in the most flashy fashion.
Post-fight Condit puts over Prater as a very tough opponent, calling him a badass, and says that he’s completely comfortable fighting off his back.
-The announcers recap the show, talking about the dominance of Miguel Torres, Jamie Varner’s stand-up and of course Carlos Condit defending his title in front of his home crowd. They plug the next WEC show with Filho-Sonnen II and Marshall-Stann.
-Show ends with a highlight package.
This was a hell of a show from the WEC, one of the best shows they’ve put on in fact. The second round of Varner-McCullough was a little slow, but literally everything else is gravy, from the incredibly fast-paced opener, to Garcia knocking Takaya dead, Torres’s ridiculous showing of skill against Beebe, and Condit’s slick submission over Prater. No real FOTYC or anything means it’s slightly behind a couple of the other shows WEC put on in 2008, but overall WEC 32 is tremendous fun. Two thumbs up.
Best Fight: Torres-Beebe
Worst Fight: Varner-McCullough
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 86-96, Fight Nights 14-17, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, and the Openweight Grand Prix.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.