This was McCullough’s comeback fight following the surprising loss he suffered at WEC 32 at the hands of Jamie Varner. Alexander meanwhile had lost his WEC debut to Donald Cerrone in September ’07, but the result had been overturned when Cerrone tested positive for a diuretic. He’d been training with Urijah Faber for this fight. Interestingly enough Alexander actually held a win over McCullough from back in 2002, which is why they threw this fight together I’m guessing. Pre-fight Mir defends McCullough for coming into the Varner fight out of shape. Well, he would know about that I guess, heh!
First round starts and they circle around looking to gauge the distance. Nothing lands for the entire first minute and right away the crowd sound restless. Alexander shoots in but McCullough stuffs it and reverses, ending up on top in Alexander’s guard. They come back to their feet swiftly and Razor breaks off with a knee to the gut. High kick from Alexander is blocked. They continue to circle and throw out strikes, but neither man lands a thing cleanly. Alexander takedown attempt is stuffed and Rob clips him with a right on the way out. Decent low kick from McCullough. Crowd are beginning to boo with two minutes remaining in the round. Left hand into a body kick from Razor. Alexander manages to clinch with about a minute remaining, but he can’t get Rob off his feet and McCullough easily shrugs him off. Alexander catches a low kick, but McCullough again displays some nice takedown defense to avoid. Good counter right lands for McCullough as Alexander whiffs on an overhand right. Buzzer sounds after. That was a nothing round really.
Into the 2nd and Razor paws out with the jab. Right hand lands for Rob but Alexander gets a bodylock and finally takes him down. McCullough uses the underhooks to get to his feet quickly though and breaks off. Rob continues to work the jab and another Alexander takedown attempt is stuffed. Crowd are sounding really annoyed now but this isn’t the worst fight of all time even if it isn’t great. Decent left high kick clips McCullough on the side of the head, but it landed with the foot rather than the shin and McCullough doesn’t look hurt. Good uppercut from Alexander, answered by a leg kick from Razor. Another good leg kick lands for McCullough. Action really slows up now as they circle around while throwing one strike at a time. McCullough tries a big knee, but Alexander ducks under it and gets a takedown momentarily, but again he can’t hold Razor down and the former champ pops up quickly. Another takedown follows, and this time Alexander keeps him down in half-guard for the remainder of the period. This is a close fight as neither guy has done much of anything really.
Third and final round begins with both men picking up the pace slightly and exchanging some strikes. It’s soon back to circling and throwing one strike at a time however. McCullough is probably landing the slightly better shots I would say but neither fighter is actually getting hurt as such. Crowd begin a chant of “FIGHT, FIGHT”, clearly frustrated now. Superman punch from Alexander glances off Razor. Combo lands for McCullough and he nearly lands a big kick as Alexander ducks down. Couple of leg kicks and a right hand-knee combo land for Razor and then he stuffs a takedown. They exchange knees and an inadvertent one catches Alexander in the groin, so referee Josh Rosenthal calls time to let him recover. They restart and Razor pushes the action but still nothing major is landing. Takedown attempt is easily stuffed by McCullough and they wind up clinched for a moment again. Break and Razor fires off a decent combo. There’s some blood on McCullough’s face but he’s not hurt. Another takedown is avoided easily. Mir compares the fight to a light sparring session and he’d be right. Alexander finally hits a double leg with 50 seconds to go and seats Razor up against the cage. Quick wall-walk for McCullough brings it back to standing though and then he sprawls to avoid another takedown. Crowd are booing wildly now as Razor stuffs another shot to finish the fight.
Awful opening match. I’d have to give the decision to McCullough as he was a bit more aggressive and stuffed the takedowns, but it’s one of the least damaging wins I can recall. Judges score it a split decision, 30-27 McCullough, 29-28 Alexander, and 30-27 for ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough. Crowd do not like that. Well, that sucked.
-Craig Hummer (!~!) interviews WEC Lightweight champ Jamie Varner, asking him how his life has changed since he won the title, to which Varner calls it the best moment of his career. They discuss Varner’s upcoming title defense against Marcus Hicks, with Varner putting him over as a tough opponent, and then he picks Faber in the main event despite explaining that Pulver’s his favourite all-time fighter.
Amateur wrestling champ Munoz was coming in with quite a bit of buzz if I recall correctly, as he’d been training with Urijah Faber for this, his fourth MMA bout. With his Filipino background I think Zuffa were hoping to build him into a star in the relatively thin WEC LHW division. Opponent Grigsby is an unknown to me but he stands at 6’6” so he has a HUGE height and reach advantage over the more squat Munoz. Mir tells us he has the same reach as Lennox Lewis (82”) which is insane.
First round begins and Grigsby paws out with the jab looking to use his reach. Munoz fails on the first takedown attempt and Grigsby lands a one-two. Takedown attempt from Munoz and Grigsby tries for a D’Arce choke, but Munoz avoids and they come back to their feet. Grigsby continues to use his range to fire punches and Munoz looks horribly uncomfortable standing. He shoots in on a double leg again and then switches to a single, forcing him into the cage before finally muscling him to the ground. Munoz lands in side control and lands a couple of strikes before Grigsby does a good job of spinning to full guard. Munoz stands up in the guard and lands a couple of overhand rights before passing the guard momentarily. He stands over Grigsby again and lands another right before hopping into half-guard. Grigsby turns for a kimura but Munoz pulls out and lands a heavy elbow. Munoz passes to side mount again and begins to land some strikes before standing to drop a big right into the guard. Munoz stands over him and lands a big right hand down into the guard, and this time as Grigsby goes for a kneebar Munoz nails him with some punches that knock him clean out. Referee Steve Mazzagatti steps in as soon as Grigsby’s gone. Excellent stoppage actually as from where The Mazz was it wasn’t clear that Grigsby was unconscious.
Munoz’s ground-and-pound looked pretty solid and he certainly packs power in his punches on the ground, but this fight made it clear that his overall game has a long way to go yet as he looked horrible standing and didn’t really use any strikes to set up his takedowns. Definitely a prospect though if he’s brought on properly.
This is a prelim fight taped earlier in the night. Castillo was making his WEC debut while ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone – undefeated at 7-0 - was coming back from a suspension due to being busted for diuretics. For those who don’t know, Cerrone trains with GSP, Jardine, Evans et al at Jackson’s Submission Fighting. Big pop for Castillo as he’s a hometown boy.
We begin and they press forward, with Cerrone landing a knee to the midsection to avoid a clinch. High kick misses for the Cowboy and Castillo gets a takedown. Cerrone works full guard and goes into the rubber guard, and Castillo avoids an armbar attempt. Castillo stands over him and tries to drop some punches, but gets caught in a quick armbar and Cerrone tightens it up for the tapout. Replay seems to show it might’ve been a verbal tapout, but whatever, the fight was clearly over.
Quick and easy win for Cerrone who looked excellent off his back. Ring announcer tells us it’s a win in 30 seconds, but it was blatantly 1:30 so who knows what he’s on? Post-fight Cerrone tells the crowd that he doesn’t care about their boos, they can boo him, hate him, whatever. He confirms it was a verbal tapout as Castillo was yelling tap, tap, as he rolled over. Cerrone’s TapouT cowboy hat is ill.
-Craig Hummer now joins WEC Welterweight champ Carlos Condit, asking him about the upcoming fight with Japanese challenger Hiromitsu Miura. Condit tells us he’s expecting a tough fight but he wants his fans there to see him knock Miura out.
Originally Torres was supposed to defend his title against Manny Tapia here, but the Mangler got injured during training and so Maeda, who had defeated Charlie Valencia with a sickening body kick at WEC 32, stepped in to replace him. Tough fight for the champ as I believe Maeda was unbeaten at 135lbs, but since when has Miguel Torres cared about things like that? Dude is a badass. Torres’ mariachi music is like the least threatening entrance theme in MMA but hey, since Diego Sanchez gave up using it someone has to do it, might as well be Torres!
First round begins and they circle off before Torres throws a low kick. Maeda counters by catching it and throwing a right hand and Torres goes down. Maeda tries to throw some punches but wants nothing to do with Miguel’s guard and he lets the champ back up. Both men block high kicks and then Torres wades in with a pair of hard knee strikes. Maeda gets on the retreat and Torres chases after him for a moment before slowing up. Couple of low kicks land for Maeda before Torres charges into the clinch with a knee. Torres is sporting a bloody nose already, which is what might’ve made him angry I think. They break off and Torres pumps out a jab before pulling guard. Oma plata attempt from Torres but Maeda does an excellent job of defending and steps free. Maeda kicks away at the legs with Torres in the crab position before the champ pops up. They slow down somewhat and Maeda has his hands by his waist as Torres throws out some kicks. Good low kick from Torres but a high kick is blocked and then Maeda misses a Cro Cop-style axe kick. Big “Torres” chant starts from the crowd as he lands a knee and a kick to the body. Low kick and superman punch from Maeda and he follows with some punches that anger Torres and cause him to charge into the clinch and land a knee to the body. Big right hand from Torres and he throws another high kick and then a low kick that Maeda catches. Torres pulls guard and he’s using the old Royce Gracie trick of kicking the kidneys with his heels. Maeda passes momentarily but Torres sweeps him and comes back up, where he covers to avoid a flurry from the challenger. Torres lands some strikes now including a heavy knee to the body, but Maeda is still there as the round ends. Great opening round!
Into the 2nd and Maeda lands with a low kick. Torres throws out a pair of high kicks but Maeda blocks and shoves him down for a second before he pops right up. Leg kick and body kick land for Miguel but Maeda shoves him down again and then kicks away at the legs with Torres in the butt-scoot position. Torres looks PISSED OFF now and nails him with a BIG CRAB KICK from his back! The champ pops up to his feet as the crowd erupt, and now he charges forward with a combo that Maeda manages to avoid. Good body kick from the challenger but Torres comes back with a leg kick. Brutal combo from Torres ends with a body kick and these guys are swinging now. Fight slows down slightly before Torres swings a left hook into the clinch and works knees to the body. Big combo hurts Maeda badly and Torres follows with knees, but Maeda fires right back and now they’re openly trading. Crowd are going crack. Torres falls to his back and Maeda rolls for a heel hook, but Torres seems calm and punches at the ribs before Maeda changes for a toehold. Now Torres goes for a toehold of his own and we get the classic duelling leglock spot, with Torres kicking away at the body with his free leg for good measure! This fight RULES. Miguel finally rolls out and looks to take the back, but Maeda hits him with a reverse elbow and gets on top. Triangle attempt from Torres and it almost looks sunk, but Maeda slips free and they come back to their feet. Torres wades in with another combo and then grabs a guillotine as Maeda clinches, and he changes it to a D’Arce and takes him down before giving it up for the full mount. BIG elbows land for the champ and he takes the back with a body triangle, landing more elbows and then heel kicks to the side as the buzzer sounds. Mir is totally marking out on commentary for this and quite rightly so. I’ve got Torres ahead by a hair going into the third.
Third round and Torres looks to have found his range now, landing with several stiff jabs to open as well as a knee. Low kick from the champ but Maeda almost lands with a big right counter. High kick glances off Maeda’s arm, and Torres works the jab again before landing a straight right flush. Maeda looks stunned and Torres flurries, but the Japanese challenger hangs tough and eats another pair of stiff jabs. Maeda tries to fire back but his right eye is looking really swollen now and Torres is landing the left jab at will. Right knee and left uppercut connect for Miguel and he continues to pump out the jab. Maeda is looking in trouble now. Good kick to the body for Torres as the jab continues to land. Big flurry from Miguel but he misses a high kick. Maeda gets a takedown off a one-two and drops some hammer fists before Torres rolls to guard. Torres goes for a triangle off his back, but Maeda avoids it well. Torres is landing shots from the bottom though and that can’t be doing the swollen eye any good. They stand back up and Maeda’s eye looks closed now. Stiff right hand rocks Maeda’s world and a body kick follows for the champ. Torres’ jab is just killing Maeda now but to his credit he keeps swinging back. Round ends with Torres jabbing away.
Between rounds the doctor throws the fight out due to Maeda’s swollen eye, as it’s completely shut now and the guy wouldn’t be able to defend himself. Fight was a total war, definite high-end FOTYC as they came out at a ridiculous pace and never let up for a second, as Maeda put up a hell of a fight and got Torres angry which made for what was basically a street fight inside the cage. The second round particularly was phenomenal and you won’t see many better rounds than that. Maeda hung tough but once Torres found his range he used his length and striking skill to take over and just brutalized him with the jab. Tremendous stuff.
Zuffa built this up as the biggest Featherweight fight in MMA history and it certainly comes off that way, as both men are over HUGE with the crowd as genuine superstars. Amazing to see this kind of reaction for Faber (yeah, I know it’s his hometown) when you consider like a year before he got pretty much zero pop when they showed him in the crowd at the same arena at UFC 73. Just goes to show what marketing can do. Urijah comes out to Dr. Dre and Tupac’s ‘California Love’ here, with his hair tied up in cornrows, making him officially the coolest fighter ever in my book. Well, since the late great Evan Tanner did that with his hair anyway. Faber was coming in as the favourite as he’d run through pretty much everyone he’d had in front of him, including highly ranked guys like Jeff Curran, but Pulver was unbeaten at 145lbs and had quickly dispatched of Cub Swanson in his previous fight, so there was definitely intrigue around how Urijah would deal with the former UFC champion.
First round gets underway and both men look somewhat tentative. Big overhand right lands for Faber though and they muscle in the clinch before Faber breaks off with a left elbow. High kick for Urijah is blocked and they go back to the clinch and Pulver forces him into the cage. Big chant for Faber as he reverses and lands an uppercut inside. They break off and Faber CRACKS him a couple of times with the right hook and looks to have Lil’ Evil stunned. Big knee from Faber lands from the clinch but he tries a high kick and slips to his back, and Pulver leaps on him into the guard. Faber ties him up from the bottom and kicks Jens away, but an inadvertent eye poke from Faber causes a quick break. They restart and Faber lands a right to the body, but Pulver answers with a quick flurry. Faber’s right hand is really landing in these exchanges. Pulver comes back with a couple of heavy hooks and they exchange knees in the clinch briefly before breaking off. Right hand lands flush for Faber and he follows with a combo, but Jens answers with a left hook and then Faber misses a high kick. Body kick from Faber but Pulver grabs a bodylock, trying to muscle Faber down. Faber breaks with a spinning elbow but Pulver lands his best shot of the round, a short right hook. Round ends with Faber landing the right a couple more times. Great round. 10-9 Faber.
Round Two begins and Faber comes forward with a hard kick, but it lands to the groin and the ref calls time. Pulver recovers pretty quickly though and they restart the action, with Faber using the right hand to set up a takedown. Pulver immediately works to escape to his feet, but Faber keeps him down in the guard. Jens does a good job of tying Faber up and neutralizing his nasty ground-and-pound, although Faber does catch him with a couple of short elbows. Pulver wall-walks to his feet and they break off. Jens pushes forward and lands a short uppercut to counter a bodyshot. They continue to exchange and a right hand and left hook combo hurts Pulver BADLY and he stumbles to the ground! Faber bombs away with hammer fists and Jens somehow gets to his feet, but Faber OPENS UP with a huge flurry that somehow Pulver survives! Insane stuff. Jens manages to clinch for a moment but they break quickly and now Pulver is throwing back! Good left uppercut lands for the challenger! Single leg for Faber brings Pulver to the ground again but Jens is looking to switch to the back and he ends up getting a front facelock. It looks like Jens is going for the anaconda choke ala his fight with Cub Swanson, but Faber works free and gets a standing rear waistlock! Awesome. Big uppercut in the clinch from Urijah and they break off where Faber hits him with another combo that hurts the challenger. Pulver comes back and they go toe-to-toe again, and the round ends with Pulver, looking exhausted, backing up a little. Incredible round but it goes to Faber again.
Third round now and Pulver begins with a left high kick that Faber deflects. Good body kick from Faber and he shoots for a takedown but Pulver sprawls well. Faber transitions to a rear waistlock and gets a suplex, but Pulver pops back up to his feet right away. Pulver keeps pushing forward, but Faber appears to be on another level speed-wise and he lands the jackhammer right again. Nice uppercut coming forward from Jens but Faber fakes a takedown and lands a right hand. Faber is ducking his head a lot now and Jens has landed with some uppercuts. Pulver closes in as Faber looks maybe hurt, but then it turns out he’s playing possum as he throws a crescent elbow. Body kick from Faber as Pulver comes forward and he looks for a takedown, but Jens reverses and gets on top in half-guard. Short elbows from Pulver but Faber reverses from the bottom and sweeps him into top position. Faber ends up in Pulver’s guard where he lands a hard elbow strike. Big elbow looks to have cut Pulver as he visibly checks himself, but no blood is drawn. His right eye is swollen though. Short hammer fists for Urijah as Pulver holds on for a stand-up, and sure enough Rosenthal obliges. Front kick to the body from Faber and they continue the exchange with Jens landing a left hook before the buzzer sounds. This fight rules.
We’re into championship territory now, fourth round. Pulver looks to strike but Faber just charges him down, but it’s a mistake for the champ as Pulver avoids the takedown and opens up with a combo that has Urijah covering up! Faber answers with a big uppercut that causes Jens to grin and nod his head, and then they trade for a moment before backing up. High kick from Jens is blocked. Pulver keeps coming forward, but he’s eating punches on the way in. Pair of left hooks land heavily for Faber. Flurry from Pulver but Faber answers with a right hand. These guys are basically going toe-to-toe now. Takedown from Faber puts Pulver on his back in closed guard. Faber grinds out the rest of the round in Pulver’s guard, landing short elbows and hammer fists while Pulver looks to be stalling for a stand-up that never comes. This is a close fight but I’ve got it 40-36 to Faber at this stage.
Fifth and final round! Faber still looks incredibly fresh and he comes out striking, throwing a body kick before going for the takedown. Pulver avoids it and we’re back to the stand-up. Faber’s lead right hand and right body kick are doing the majority of the damage in this fight. Left hook from Faber visibly hurts Jens and he touches his swollen eye for a second. The dude is a warrior though and he’s continuing to bring it. Faber continues to beat Jens to the punch, although the challenger does catch him with a good left. Faber begins to throw out some more kicks now, landing a front kick to the body. Big right hook lands for Faber coming forward but Jens answers with another combo. Knee from the champ snaps Pulver’s head back but he shrugs it off. One minute to go now and the crowd are still hot as hell. Faber goes for a takedown and manages to muscle him to the ground, getting in a half-guard where he gives the hang loose signal to the camera. Jens tries to kick him off but the fight finally ends inside the challenger’s guard.
Hell of a fight. I’ve got it 50-45 for Faber to retain the title and the judges score it a unanimous decision for the California Kid, 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44. This was a war from start to finish but although he put up a brave, brave fight – exactly as you always expect from him – Pulver was faced with an opponent who was younger, stronger, and more importantly quicker, and that made him a target for the majority of the fight as Faber showed much-improved stand-up and worked Jens over with the jackhammer right hand from the opening round onwards. Many other fighters would’ve buckled under the pressure but not Jens, and that made for a classic FOTYC level war.
Post-fight Faber puts Pulver over hugely and says this was the biggest test of his career as he’s never been five rounds before. Pulver meanwhile admits he was a bit surprised by Faber’s speed, then puts him over as a deserving champion. Pure class from both men. Jens then says Sacramento’s the best crowd he’s ever fought in front of, and announces the birth of his child, how can you not love Lil’ Evil?
-Harris and Mir wrap up the night’s action, and we finish off with a highlight reel.
Sure, McCullough-Alexander stinks but who cares when you have a pair of fights like Torres-Maeda and Faber-Pulver? Take out the McCullough fight and replace it with, well, anything even half-decent and this is a contender for the best MMA show of all time. Even with that fight it’s still one of the best shows of 2008 and is an easy thumbs up. Bravo WEC, bravo Zuffa. Awesome stuff.
Best Fight: Torres-Maeda
Worst Fight: McCullough-Alexander
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 94-98, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 12-13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.