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WEC 37: Torres vs. Tapia review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 17, 2009, 6:42 AM

WEC 37: Torres vs. Tapia

Las Vegas, Nevada

Bantamweight Fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Danny Martinez

Urijah Faber protégé Benavidez actually had a bit of hype behind him as I believe he’d been scheduled to fight Kid Yamamoto on a DREAM card earlier in the year before Kid dropped out injured. He was 8-0 here with all of his fights being finished. Opponent Martinez also had a solid record of 12-2, but his wins were largely against unknown guys. And strangely enough we’ve got a female referee in this fight which is the first time I’ve seen that. A tenner says she does a better job than The Mazz!

Tentative beginning before they lock up and Martinez looks for the takedown. Benavidez blocks though and they break off. Benavidez lands a couple of kicks and then stuffs another takedown as Martinez drives him into the cage. They break again and exchange some strikes, and Benavidez rocks him with a short left hook and follows with a left head kick. Martinez looks in trouble and manages to clinch again, but a quick combo breaks for Benavidez. Another combo lands for Faber’s protégé and then Martinez looks for the takedown again and this time gets him down. Benavidez quickly scrambles to his feet and Martinez gets a rear waistlock, but he can’t suplex him and Benavidez spins into him and narrowly misses a spinning backfist. Benavidez gets the best of a couple more trades and Martinez drives him into the cage again, but he can’t get him down and this time Benavidez hits a head and arm throw and goes into a side headlock from side mount. Round ends there. 10-9 Benavidez.

Second round and Benavidez begins with some kicks. Good right hand clips Martinez and Benavidez is totally outstriking him now, landing combos to Martinez’s one-punch style. They clinch up briefly but Benavidez breaks off. Benavidez is really using the front kick well too. Another swift combo lands for Benavidez. Two minutes to go in the round and Benavidez is consistently outlanding Martinez who appears to be a bit lost as to what to do. Pair of big knees from Benavidez as Martinez tries a takedown cause Martinez to backpedal, and Benavidez continues to push forward throwing combos. Martinez goes for a takedown again and Benavidez sprawls, but this time Martinez spins to the back. Nice hand control as they stand frees the Faber-trained fighter though and the round ends with another swift exchange. Benavidez is winning in all areas here.

Third and final round and Benavidez again lands a couple of front kicks. Good low kicks and swift combos continue to land for Benavidez and he’s shouting with each shot now too like he’s Jean-Claude Van Damme. Good body shot coming forward for Joseph. Martinez closes the distance again and drops for a single, but Benavidez is having none of that and he breaks off easily. Good overhand right and uppercut land for Benavidez and he follows with a flying knee that connects flush to the jaw. Martinez hangs in there but he’s largely taking a beating in this one. Left kick to the body and right hand by Benavidez. More of the same follows as they continue to exchange, but Benavidez is outlanding him everywhere. With just under a minute to go though Martinez finally catches him with a right that has Benavidez hurt. He closes in swinging but can’t really put Benavidez in trouble and they break after a brief clinch. Martinez keeps pressing, knowing he needs a finish to win, but he can’t get it and the round ends with a clinch.

I’ve got this an easy 30-27 for Joseph Benavidez and the judges all agree, unanimous decision for the Faber protégé. Not an outstanding fight or anything as Benavidez didn’t come close to finishing Martinez, but he fought impressively, showing skills in all areas, and he’s definitely one to watch out for in the future.

-Craig Hummer joins WEC Lightweight champ Jamie Varner to talk about his upcoming title defense against Donald Cerrone, and he also catches up with Urijah Faber to talk about his rematch with Jens Pulver, both fights coming at WEC 38 in January. Varner says he’s expecting a great fight, while Faber puts over the skills of Joseph Benavidez and then admits he’s surprised they’ve put him against Pulver again so quickly, but he’s motivated for it and is looking forward to fighting in San Diego.

Bantamweight Fight: Brian Bowles vs Will Ribeiro

This was basically a fight to decide the next Bantamweight Title contender, as Bowles had looked fantastic in taking out Marcos Galvao by KO and Damacio Page with a guillotine choke, while Ribeiro had made his debut in equally impressive fashion by beating former champion Chase Beebe. With Ribeiro being a former Olympic boxer everyone was expecting this to be your classic striker vs. grappler style fight. Physically Ribeiro is just about the most ripped guy I can ever remember seeing in MMA, unbelievable stuff.

First round begins and they circle off and throw out some feeler strikes. Big combo lands for Bowles and Ribeiro looks stunned, and then Bowles forces him into the cage. Ribeiro reverses but Bowles breaks with an uppercut. Big right hand lands for Bowles and he gets the better of another exchange, really surprising as Ribeiro is the Olympic boxer of the two. Good left hook from Bowles but Ribeiro comes back with a one-two and these guys are seriously trading. Good low kick from Ribeiro and then he lands a spinning back kick to the body, but Bowles fires back with a combo. Ribeiro shoots for a takedown and gets it, but Bowles locks up a guillotine and pulls guard, then sweeps into the mount position! Ribeiro looks in deep trouble, gritting his teeth, but Bowles decides to relinquish and takes back mount instead, where he lands punches. Ribeiro turns to guard and lands an upkick he’s warned about as Bowles was on his knees. Bowles works with some short elbows from the top to finish the round. Good action in the first, 10-9 for Bowles.

Into the 2nd and both men push forward with Bowles landing a good left uppercut. Big right glances off Bowles’s head. They continue to exchange and Ribeiro misses a big spinning back kick. Ribeiro throws a low kick but Bowles catches it and spins him around, looking to hop onto the back, but Ribeiro shrugs him off and Bowles ends up on his back. Ribeiro stands over him but eats a big upkick, and ends up dropping down into the guard. They come back to their feet and exchange punches, and then Bowles shoots and gets a takedown to half-guard. He works to pass, looking for the full mount, but Ribeiro does a good job of blocking it. Referee ends up standing them with seconds remaining, and they trade off with some wild punches before Bowles takes him down to end the round. Bowles 10-9 again.

Into the third round and Ribeiro immediately presses with punches, but Bowles avoids any damage. Big left hook lands for Bowles in an exchange and then he counters a low kick with a heavy right hand. Combo from Ribeiro and he goes for a takedown, but Bowles counters by locking up a guillotine and this time it’s tight, forcing the tapout with just over a minute gone.

Excellent fight as Bowles really showed what a talented guy he is, standing and beating an Olympic boxer to the punch before finishing things with another impressive submission. The pace was high throughout and Ribeiro was game, but in the end Bowles looked the better fighter from the start and was able to put him away. Bowles has really been one of the WEC’s success stories, coming literally from nowhere to beat all of these ranked, name fighters.

Post-fight Bowles challenges the winner of the main event for a title fight, saying he thinks he’s earned it now. You and me both!

-They do a quick rundown of all the Featherweight contenders, listing Urijah Faber, Leonard Garcia, Jose Aldo, Jens Pulver and Wagnney Fabiano. Damn is that a stacked division and since then they’ve added even more talent!

Featherweight Fight: Wagnney Fabiano vs Akitoshi Tamura

In a similar fashion to how PRIDE Bushido went on a signing spree and got pretty much all of the world’s top Lightweights in 2005, WEC’s goal in 2008 seemed to be signing all of the top Featherweights in the world. These pair were certainly ranked amongst them, with IFL champion Fabiano – a BJJ expert from Nova Uniao with equally dangerous striking skills – bringing in a 10-1 record, while Japan’s Tamura had wins over the likes of Rumina Sato and ‘Lion’ Takeshi Inoue. My pick was Fabiano as I honestly think he could be the top guy in the world at 145lbs if he’s given the chance to prove it, but on paper this was a close fight. Strangely enough Fabiano uses the Rocky theme as his walk-in music, didn’t expect that at all!

First round begins and the crowd are mad quiet here, like a Japanese crowd in fact. Tamura tries a kick but Fabiano gets the takedown and passes right away to half-guard. Fabiano looks to work for mount as Tamura gets a butterfly hook back to defend. This is looking almost like a pure grappling match as Fabiano is working purely to pass the guard. Wagnney works to full mount, but Tamura right away slips into half-guard. Couple of elbow strikes are blocked by Tamura as he keeps a tight lockdown on the half-guard. This crowd are insanely patient too as for the uneducated it’d look like nothing’s happening and yet I haven’t heard one boo yet. Good elbow lands for Fabiano. He still can’t pass this half-guard though and Tamura uses wrist control to avoid any possible strikes as the round comes to an end. Excellent refereeing not to stand them up too. Close round to score but Fabiano was on top in control so 10-9 for the Brazilian.

Round Two and Tamura tries a jumping knee, but Fabiano just deflects it. Good right from Fabiano to counter a low kick, and then he lands a one-two and gets a takedown to guard. Tamura works a really high guard this time, going into the position Eddie Bravo would call “crackhead control”, but Fabiano works free of a possible oma plata into the regular guard. He looks to pass to half-guard again now, and indeed gets the leg free. Wagnney lands some punches to the head, posturing up, and then looks to pass free into the mount, but Tamura has an unbelievable half-guard lockdown. Nice elbow from Fabiano. The Mazz demands action now as Fabiano continues to attempt to pass this tight half-guard, and for a moment he gets mount but right away Tamura uses a butterfly hook to slip half-guard back in. Mazzagatti calls the stand-up with just over a minute to go, and Tamura lands a body kick, but Fabiano hits a double leg and gets a takedown to side mount. He slides to mount and lands an elbow, looking to set up for a possible arm triangle choke, before finishing the round with some punches and a close armbar attempt. 10-9 Fabiano again, and this is one of the most technical grappling matches I’ve ever seen in MMA I think.

Third and final round and Tamura throws out some strikes before Fabiano goes for a takedown. Tamura looks to lock up a guillotine and pulls guard, but Fabiano CLIMBS UP THE CAGE LIKE A SPIDER!~! and moves into side mount to alleviate the pressure! AWESOME. He finally gets his head free of the choke and controls him from side mount before going to the knee on belly position. He tries to mount but Tamura catches him in the half-guard for a second. Wagnney passes to mount though and then hops into side control, where he lands some punches. Tamura tries to get a single leg reversal, but Fabiano grabs a front headlock and puts him back down in half-guard. Good right elbow from Fabiano opens a cut on Tamura’s forehead, and now the Brazilian opens up a little more with his strikes. With thirty seconds remaining Fabiano passes the guard, getting an arm triangle choke locked in tight, and Tamura taps out with just twelve seconds left on the clock.

Fabiano looked excellent from the opening bell with his grappling, and although Tamura proved to be incredibly difficult to finish, eventually the Brazilian got the job done after opening up a little more in the third round. I can understand why some people would find this a boring fight, as it was all positional stuff on the ground with very few strikes or even submission attempts, but it wasn’t like they were inactive and the skill was there on display for all to appreciate. I mean sure, I’d prefer to see say, Torres-Maeda or something, but I’d rather watch a card full of fights like this one than suffer through Filho-Sonnen or an Eddie Sanchez-Soa Palelei type Heavyweight slopfest.

WEC World Bantamweight Title: Miguel Torres vs Manny Tapia

Tapia’s title challenge was originally scheduled for WEC 34 in June, but he suffered a knee injury and so Torres defended the title in a FOTYC against Yoshiro Maeda instead. Even though Tapia had an unbeaten record with wins over the likes of Antonio Banuelos, and had generally looked great in all of his WEC fights, I don’t think anyone was picking him against Torres who after the Maeda fight was being thrown into the ‘Best Pound-for-Pound’ discussions. With that said, Torres in pre-fight interviews had promised to stand with Tapia and fight to his opponent’s strengths, so some felt we might see Miguel’s chin tested at least. Big story to me at least was the fact that for the first time in my memory at least, we had two Mexican-bred guys fighting in the main event for a world title. And sure enough both men play up to their backgrounds by entering to mariachi music. Torres has a monster reach advantage here, 76” to Tapia’s 67”, as he stands at 5’9” and Tapia is only 5’5”.

We get underway and Torres lands a right hand that knocks Tapia off balance right away. Torres begins to use his long reach to establish the left jab, before landing a left kick to the body. Torres lands more jabs, and then catches Tapia flush with a leaping left kick to the jaw, staggering the challenger. The champion is just killing him with the jab here as Tapia can’t seem to reach Torres with his punches. Finally he slips a jab and gets inside, but Torres lands with a knee and backs up. Tapia changes his gameplan and begins to land some decent right hands to the body as Torres continues to jab away. Left high kick narrowly misses for the champ. With a minute remaining Torres attempts the Harold Howard rolling front kick (!) but naturally it misses. Tapia really begins to swing in the last minute, but Torres proves to be an elusive target and another stiff jab puts the challenger off balance. Round ends with Tapia throwing a wild flurry at the champ. Torres basically took that round with his jab alone. 10-9 Torres.

Second round, and Torres pumps out the jab again, snapping Tapia’s head back. Low kick lands for Torres but Tapia counters with a big right hand that lands flush, but Torres doesn’t even flinch! Torres comes back with the jab, and Tapia tries to answer, but takes a flurry from the champion ending in a front kick into a spinning backfist! Fans begin to chant Torres’s name as he circles out with Tapia continuing to swing. BIG RIGHT HAND drops Tapia hard and Torres pounces, pounding at the body as Tapia desperately looks for a single leg. They come up and Torres punishes him with some knees inside, but Tapia is tough and manages to back off. Torres comes stalking forward with another stiff jab, and then a CRUSHING LEFT-RIGHT COMBO collapses Tapia to the ground again! This time Torres takes full mount and just SMASHES the challenger with punches and elbows, and Josh Rosenthal decides he’s seen enough and stops it.

Scary, scary performance from Miguel Torres. Tapia was known as a powerful boxer with knockout power and yet Torres stood the whole fight with him, and basically ate him up with his jab, using his long reach to full advantage, before landing some brutal punches to put him away in the second. The combination before the finish, with the kick into the spinning backfist, was a thing of beauty and there are not many fighters in MMA right now that can pull those kinds of things off. Torres is truly one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and it’s a testament to the WEC that finally a guy who is 135lbs has somewhere to put his amazing skills on display. This was probably Torres’s most impressive performance to date.

-They plug the next WEC show with Pulver-Faber II and Varner-Cerrone, and then roll the highlight reel.

Final Thoughts....

I thought this was another outstanding effort from the WEC. It’s not as good as WEC 34 or 35 simply because there’s not a FOTYC on the card here, but the fights we were given were excellent and Miguel Torres’s performance in the main event was particularly amazing. Fabiano-Tamura would clearly not be everyone’s cup of tea and for that reason mainly I’d only rank this as the fourth-best WEC show of the year, but Bowles-Ribeiro and Benavidez-Martinez were good stuff and I can’t really say much more about Torres-Tapia without coming off as a total Torres nuthugger. Thumbs up for this show but if you’re not hugely into the ground game then avoid the Fabiano fight.

Best Fight: Torres-Tapia
Worst Fight: Fabiano-Tamura

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-98, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 12-13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
WEC: 38-41.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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