WEC 38: Varner vs. Cerrone review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on June 27, 2009, 4:16 PM
WEC 38: Varner vs. Cerrone
San Diego, California
-Your hosts are Craig Hummer and Frank Mir. I’m getting UFC 55 flashbacks! Craig starts by giving props to Mir for the win over Nogueira, then they run down the card and discuss Varner-Cerrone and Faber-Pulver II.
Nova Uniao’s Aldo – a BJJ black belt with scary Muay Thai - had debuted at WEC 34 back in June ’08 and destroyed Shooto legend and original Featherweight kingpin Alexandre Franca Nogueira, and one win later over Jonathan Brookins and the word was that *everyone* wanted to avoid this guy. Call it the Cain Velasquez syndrome. Original plan had apparently been to match him with Urijah Faber, but when the WEC management realized how good Aldo really was they balked, made Faber-Pulver II and put unknown Perez against the Brazilian instead.
First round begins and Perez throws out some jabs, but Aldo looks on another level speed-wise and cracks him with a nasty leg kick. Few more leg kicks land for Aldo as he continues to stalk his prey. Spinning back kick to the body lands but Perez doesn’t look hurt and fires back with a left. Aldo with another leg kick and he follows with a crisp combo that looks to have Perez hurt. Perez to his credit continues to throw back, but he isn’t landing while Aldo’s leg kick is landing consistently. Straight left hand has Perez backpedalling but he comes back with a combo. Thiago Alves-style chopping leg kick lands with a thud for Aldo. Aldo is just dismantling this guy standing, hitting the leg kick over and over as well as punches. Perez continues to try to answer, but he leans too far forward after a punch and Aldo NAILS him with a knee that drops him! Few punches on the mat and that’s all she wrote. And post-fight Aldo exits stage left and charges up into the stands, garnering a HUGE response from the crowd.
Basically a squash as Perez hung in there and kept throwing strikes, but he wasn’t landing and Aldo just picked him apart before finishing him off. Scariest part being that the guy’s ground game is supposedly better than his stand-up! Aldo looked tremendous here and you can see exactly why people would want to avoid fighting him.
-Craig Hummer interviews WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Brown and his upcoming challenger Leonard Garcia, who are actually sitting together. Garcia tells Hummer the lesson he learned from the Jens Pulver fight was that he hits hard, and then he tells the crowd they do everything bigger in Texas, garnering some boos from the crowd. Brown tells us he took some time off to heal his rib injury post-Faber, but now he’s training harder than ever.
American Top Team BJJ and judo black belt Villefort had originally been scheduled to debut against Jake Rosholt at WEC 36, but got injured and then dropped to 170lbs instead. Opponent Campbell, I don’t know much about, but apparently he’s a former powerlifter and bodybuilder. Doesn’t bode well if I’m honest, as 90% of the time those guys don’t tend to do well from what I’ve seen. Villefort is also the godson of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, which is pretty wild.
Round One, and they exchange a few feeler strikes before Campbell catches a kick and gets a takedown to guard. Villefort goes for rubber guard, and in a crazy spot he pulls his leg up into position as Campbell stands up! Massive show of strength, but then the dude is a powerlifter. He slams Villefort down but the Brazilian tries to lock up a triangle. He transitions to an oma plata, but Campbell pulls out and drops some punches, so Villefort rolls for a kneebar instead. Campbell tries to spin free and does a decent job, but Villefort still has the leg and almost gets it before Campbell escapes to his feet. Good knee strike lands for Villefort but he slips to his back on a second attempt. Left hand lands for Campbell as they circle. Villefort throws another knee and ends up on his back off it, but he rolls from an armbar attempt into another kneebar. This guy is SLICK. This time he uses the kneebar to gain top position, and he takes Campbell’s back with one hook in. Campbell grabs his arm to prevent a full back mount and then stands, narrowly ducking under a high kick. Takedown attempt from Campbell, but Villefort reverses and hits a beautiful judo trip, then steps to mount. Villefort drops some elbows and then Campbell gives his back, and Villefort flattens him and lands some punches, nothing too damaging, but Campbell isn’t defending and the referee stops it there.
Crowd don’t sound happy post-fight as the stoppage looked weak I guess, but Campbell wasn’t defending and the ref had to make the call. It’s not like Campbell was protesting or anything either. Good little fight as Campbell looked strong as you’d expect, and did alright standing, but on the ground Villefort was clearly on a different level and showed a really slick guard as well as hitting a nice judo throw right before the finish. Seems a well-rounded guy and I look forward to seeing how he does in the UFC.
-They show a quick highlight package of the four best WEC bouts of 2008, with the fans voting them as Condit-Miura, Cerrone-McCullough, Faber-Pulver and Torres-Maeda. Wouldn’t disagree with those at all.
This is a prelim taped earlier in the night. Jorgensen was coming off a win over Shooto veteran Kenji Osawa, while Gomez was making his WEC debut. Jorgensen also seems to have an odd skin condition that’s left him with patches of depigmented skin all over his body.
Fight begins and they throw some feeler strikes before Jorgensen gets a single leg. Gomez scrambles to his feet, but gets caught in a guillotine. He tries to escape from it, but despite managing to avoid the choke initially, leaves his head in the grip of Jorgensen and Jorgensen ends up locking it in Miguel Torres style, sliding the hand behind the head for the tapout.
Really slick guillotine from Jorgensen although Gomez’s defense looked really poor. Not much of a fight either to be fair.
After their first epic encounter it was clear that Zuffa would want a rematch at some stage, but honestly I felt this was a little too early as both men were only one fight removed from the original and had both lost – Pulver KOd at the hands of Leonard Garcia, while Faber had stunningly lost his title to Mike Brown. Worse for poor Jens, one of his best friends and teammates, Justin Eilers, had been shot dead over the Christmas period and Jens had in fact asked WEC to move this fight to March, but they refused as they’d already promoted the January date. So the deck was definitely stacked against Pulver. Looking at him here he doesn’t strike me as a man who’s ready to take on a top athlete in a cage fight. He’s wearing a t-shirt dedicated to Eilers for his entrance too.
We’re underway and they circle before Pulver catches a high kick and throws Faber down. Urijah gets back up right away and they clinch, with Faber forcing him down momentarily, but within seconds they’re back up again and separate. Faber throws some kicks and they briefly clinch again before breaking. Another brief clinch is broken and then Faber lands a BIG LEFT HOOK to the body that hurts Pulver bad. Faber closes in with a flurry, and then grabs a guillotine as Pulver ducks, pulling him down and that’s enough for the tapout.
This was pretty sad to watch if I’m honest, as while Faber came into the fight in prime condition and fought like a man determined to get back to his title, Pulver just didn’t look good at all and clearly wasn’t in the right mindset to fight, as evidenced by the fact that last time he lasted five rounds, this time it barely took Faber a minute to put Lil’ Evil away. Good win for Urijah but as a longtime Pulver fan this wasn’t nice.
Post-fight the ring announcer asks the crowd to put their hands together for Pulver and he gets emotional, telling the crowd how much he loves them, and then Hummer asks him if he’s still relevant in the division as he’s now lost three in a row, but Jens says he still wants to train and kick ass, and he’s not done. Heart of a lion, that guy.
The unbeaten Cerrone had earned this title shot by beating ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough in an awesome fight, it must be said, in November. Training with Greg Jackson’s camp, it’s clear the dude has skills, but at this stage he hadn’t really been tested against top-line competition, although if we’re being fair the only top opposition Varner had faced was McCullough and Hermes Franca. Pretty close fight to call on paper but Varner had looked awesome in his last fight against Marcus Hicks, and so I was picking him. Plus, I’m a mark for Arizona Combat Sports, sue me. Varner is awesome as the cocky champion in the pre-fight interviews, too.
Round One begins and Cerrone takes the center of the cage as Varner circles on the outside. Few strikes miss for both men and little happens early on, until Varner lands a left hook that snaps Cerrone’s head back. Right hand follows and Cerrone could be stunned, but Varner tackles him to the ground. Cerrone manages to secure full guard and looks to work rubber guard, but Varner picks him up to deliver a short slam. It looks like Cerrone’s setting up a triangle variant, but Varner seems fine and he swiftly breaks out, then postures up, standing over the Cowboy and delivering some heavy strikes! Cerrone tries to use the fence to manoeuvre his way out, but he struggles and Varner drops some more thudding blows down over the top. Cerrone’s sporting a big mouse above his right eye now, nasty stuff. Varner’s ground-and-pound is looking excellent. Thirty seconds to go and Varner stands over him and lands some more heavy shots, before Cerrone manages to push off and get to his feet, landing some knees inside. They break off and now Cerrone walks him down, landing a left body kick, and the buzzer sounds shortly after. Varner’s round and I’d probably go 10-8 too as he scored a ton of damage.
Round Two and Cerrone pushes the action with kicks, landing a nice one to the body, but Varner gets a takedown and puts him on his back again. Varner gets into side mount this time for a moment, but the Cowboy quickly gets back to guard. Nice work. Varner drops some punches and elbows, but Cerrone rolls over and escapes to his feet. Cerrone pushes forward with kicks again, avoiding some haymakers from Varner. Cerrone is working some nice strikes now, but Varner catches a kick and gets a single leg to guard. Varner postures up to drop shots again, but this time Cerrone uses a triangle attempt and then pushes off and gets to his feet. Cerrone begins to walk him down again as they exchange some strikes, but neither lands cleanly. Wild right for Varner misses and Cerrone throws some kicks to answer. Takedown from Varner, but with seconds to go he gets caught in a tight triangle and it looks like he’s saved by the bell! Closer round there but I’d go with Varner again, 10-9.
Third round now and they hug as the bell sounds. Varner randomly draws a line on the canvas and they high-five, and we get back to fighting with Cerrone landing a right hand. Cerrone is doing a good job of avoiding Varner’s power shots now. He throws some kicks out and then lands a good right hand to the body. Varner comes back with a left hook and then lands a flurry, a big right hand opening a cut over Cerrone’s left eye. Takedown from Varner and he lands some punches as they land, and then the champ looks to secure a guillotine. He pulls guard but Cerrone slips his head free and he’s in top position now. Varner quickly escapes to his feet though and they break off. Cerrone is clearly having trouble with his vision due to the cut, blinking and wincing. Left hand lands for Varner in an exchange. To his credit Cerrone continues to throw, but his vision is clearly bothering him at this point and he’s not coming forward as he was earlier. Couple of punches land for Varner and he gets another double leg to the guard. Varner keeps him on his back to end the round, landing more punches. 10-9 for Varner again and Cerrone’s in trouble due to the facial damage.
Into championship territory now, Round Four. Left high kick lands for Varner early but Cerrone doesn’t even blink. This guy is incredibly tough. They clinch for a second but quickly break off. Left kick and right cross land for Cerrone now. Cerrone is beginning to be the aggressor again now, missing with a flying knee. Body kick from Varner, answered by a flurry and a low kick from the Cowboy. Varner gets a takedown and looks to pass the guard, but Cerrone gets a closed guard again. Few short elbows land for Varner and he avoids an armbar and drops a nice right hand through the guard. Cerrone tries to work the rubber guard in, controlling Varner, but the champ slips free. Cerrone kicks him away and stands, coming forward, but Varner hits another takedown to the guard. Varner stands to drop some shots, but eats an upkick too. Varner passes into half-guard with seconds remaining, but right before the buzzer Cerrone gets full guard back. Another close round, but again 10-9 for Varner, so Cerrone needs to finish him in the fifth to win based on my scoring.
Fifth and final round, and Cerrone’s face is a swollen mess now. They hug as the round begins and then it’s on again. Cerrone walks him down again, but a double leg puts him on his back once more. Cerrone keeps an active guard and swings some upkicks as Varner stands to deliver some ground-and-pound, but the champ soon drops back into the guard. They come back to their feet and now Cerrone’s really pushing the action, swinging punches. Takedown is avoided by the challenger and now the Cowboy shoots in and gets a takedown of his own! Varner gets full guard and Cerrone lands some elbows, but as Varner tries to scramble to his feet and get a single leg, Cerrone cracks him in the head with an illegal knee. Varner immediately turtles up in a ton of pain, and the ref calls time right away. Knee didn’t appear to land cleanly, but Varner is in agony here and apparently he’s seeing double. Crowd are not happy at all with this. The doctor decides to wave it off there, as they deem that Varner can’t continue.
Craig Hummer explains that because the foul was unintentional, they’re going to the scorecards and they’re going to score all five rounds, in which case on my scorecard it’s 49-45 for Varner, giving him the first four rounds with Cerrone taking the fifth and the first round being a 10-8. Judges score it 49-46 Varner, 48-47 Cerrone (!?!) and 49-46 for Varner, meaning Jamie Varner retains the title. How anyone could score that fight for Cerrone is beyond me, honestly.
Post-fight Hummer talks to Varner who apologises, explaining that he broke his hand in the third round, and took the knee to the eye socket which made him see double. Fans aren’t happy and Varner yells “go ahead, boo me, fucking boo me!” Ha! Cerrone meanwhile claims *he* was seeing double in the third round but he kept fighting, and gives some props to Varner as Hummer talks up a rematch between the two.
Well, that was an unfortunate ending to what was a really solid fight. Cerrone is tough as nails as he took some ridiculous punishment in that fight, particularly in the first round, and yet he never stopped coming for a second, even though I had Varner winning every round. Ending was obviously an anticlimax, but these things happen in MMA and I don’t think anyone can accuse Varner of milking the shot as firstly, he had to know he was ahead on the scorecards so why would he do it, and secondly, the knee actually caused such bad damage to his eye that at one point it was reported that his career might even be over. Amazing how much damage a grazing shot like that could cause. Still, these guys went hard for five rounds and I look forward to their inevitable rematch.
-Highlight reel ends our night.
WEC 38 isn’t quite as good as the classic WEC shows from 2008 (WEC 32, 34 and 35) but it’s definitely another really good offering from the company. There’s not a truly bad fight on the card, and with some explosive finishes on there like Aldo-Perez and Faber-Pulver it’s always going to be entertaining to watch. Villefort-Campbell was an exciting little fight and the main event turned into a real war, not quite up to FOTYC levels or anything, but still very good despite the unfortunate finish. So two thumbs up yet again for the WEC, who continue to deliver pretty much the best MMA shows out there in terms of exciting fights.
Best Fight: Varner-Cerrone
Worst Fight: Jorgensen-Gomez
Overall Rating: ****
UFC: 94-99, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Elite XC: Uprising, Renegade, Street Certified and Unfinished Business.
K1 Hero’s: Final Battle 2007
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.