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WEC 40: Torres vs. Mizugaki review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 3, 2009, 6:40 AM

WEC 40: Torres vs. Mizugaki

Chicago, Illinois

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir. They run down the card and show some highlights of Mizugaki and Torres, and right away you can tell if they live up to their highlights weíre in for a classic.

Featherweight Fight: Raphael Assuncao vs Jameel Massouh

Assuncao, the brother of former UFC Lightweight fighter Junior Assuncao, was the latest top Featherweight talent to be signed by WEC. Sporting a record of 12-1 coming into this fight with wins over Joe Lauzon and Jorge Masvidal (with his only loss a close decision to Jeff Curran) it was hoped that heíd move into the title scene sooner rather than later. Massouh was also making his WEC debut and sported an equally impressive record of 21-4, although he hadnít fought as good opposition as Assuncao.

Opening round begins and Assuncao looks to be the more comfortable standing, although he goes down early off a slip. Massouh presses the action, but eats a leg kick from Raphael and the Brazilian follows with an overhand right that drops Massouh to the canvas. Assuncao looks to follow up, considering dropping back for a leg lock, before going into the closed guard of Massouh. Massouh rolls for a heel hook himself, but Assuncao avoids it and goes for his own toehold, and then they come back to their feet where Assuncao looks for the takedown. Massouh defends initially, but gets his hips pulled out and taken down to the guard. Assuncao stacks him against the cage and lands some harsh elbows, then stands over him to drop more punches whilst trying to pass the guard. Massouh tries to get up, but Raphael uses a guillotine to keep him down and then looks to spin to the back. Good job by Massouh to reverse, and then they scramble to their feet. Assuncao starts to land strikes now, peppering him with combos as well as leg kicks. Big one-two snaps Massouhís head back. Assuncao lands a short left that catches Massouh off balance and drops him, and the round ends with Assuncao trying to get a guillotine choke locked in. Clearly Assuncaoís round.

Second round begins and Assuncao opens with a four-shot combination that has Massouh on his back foot. Massouhís striking looks poor, jabbing with little authority and his chin in the air, and Assuncao is landing pretty much everything heís throwing. Another big combo lands for Raphael but Massouh is still standing. Big right hand into a bodylock for Assuncao and they muscle for position along the cage. Massouh looks for the takedown, but get stuck in the guillotine again and it looks pretty tight, but Raphael ends up standing over him rather than puling guard, trying to secure it cleaner. It looks like heís switching off for an anaconda or a DíArce choke, but he ends up letting it go and they wind up clinched again before breaking off. Beautiful step-in leg kick lands for Raphael and he follows with a right hand. Good body kick from Massouh to answer. Right hand lands for Assuncao again, and then Massouh ends up slipping to his back, and so Assuncao drops some punches over him before passing to half-guard. Round ends with Assuncao in firm control on the mat. 10-9 Assuncao, and overall Iíve got it 20-18 for the Brazilian.

Third and final round. Good leg kick from Massouh early as he pushes forward. Couple more big combos land for Assuncao though and they clinch. Assuncao drops for a single leg and gets him down, where he works from the guard with some short strikes. Massouh tries to go for rubber guard but Raphaelís having none of that and he pulls out right away and then passes to half-guard. Full mount now from Assuncao with half the round remaining. Massouh gives his back, but works before Raphael can get the hooks in and turns into him, getting top position. Assuncao immediately gets active from his back, looking for an armbar or a sweep before settling into closed guard. Massouh manages to get into half-guard, but then as he goes for the back as Assuncao scrambles, he slips off and Raphael gets back on top. Assuncao works to pass, and then avoids a heel hook attempt and passes to half-guard. Massouh tries the heel hook again, but Assuncao pivots out and then takes Massouhís back from the side mount. He looks to lock in a rear naked choke, but doesnít really control the body and they scramble to their feet and trade before the buzzer sounds.

Iíve got this 30-27 Assuncao and itíll surprise me if the judges donít agree. Sure enough, 30-27ís all around, unanimous decision for Raphael Assuncao. Not the most exciting fight but it wasnít bad or anything and Assuncao should step up in competition now after taking a solid win in his WEC debut.

-AWESOME promo for Brown-Faber II follows and then Todd Harris joins both Faber and Brown in the crowd for an interview. Faber basically says he canít afford to make any mistakes this time around and heís going to play his game. Brown just says heíll be swinging for the fences because thatís what Faberís going to do, and then admits heís ready to get booed. Brown is awesome as the unassuming guy who doesnít realize heís a bit of a villain to the Faber fans.

-Tribute video for the recently deceased Charles ĎMaskí Lewis plays and he comes off like a really great guy. RIP.

Lightweight Fight: Benson Henderson vs Shane Roller

Roller, the final member of Team Takedown on the WEC roster (Jake Rosholt and Johny Hendricks had moved to the UFC), was riding a four-fight winning streak and with his wrestling skill had to be considered one of the top contenders for Jamie Varnerís title. Opponent Henderson had won his WEC debut but remained largely unknown on the wider scale coming into this fight. Hendersonís hairdo is so odd, like a jeri-curl in a ponytail, and he enters to the cage wearing glasses which even Tamdan McCrory doesnít do! Ha.

Touch of gloves to begin and they exchange some feeler strikes before Roller decks Henderson with a right hand! He looks to lock on his guillotine as Henderson sits up, but ends up releasing it as Henderson goes for a single leg. Henderson manages to get him down momentarily, but Roller stands right back up only to take a knee. They clinch against the fence before Henderson switches and gets a takedown. Roller again escapes to his feet, but this time he takes a combination and a BRUTAL LEFT HAND drops him hard! Henderson pounces and a few punches more and itís over!

Unbelievable comeback for Henderson given that he was almost finished in like the first thirty seconds. The fight was reminiscent of Justin Levens vs. Scott Smith from the old WEC, where one guy almost finished it early and then ended up KOd just like a minute later. Whole fight went like 1:30 but what a minute and half it was! Awesome stuff and apparently it was enough to earn Henderson a title shot (sort of) as heís now fighting Donald Cerrone for the Interim Title at WEC 43 due to Jamie Varner still being injured.

Lightweight Fight: Anthony Njokuani vs Bart Palaszewski

Prelim from earlier in the night and Christ, talk about names that are difficult to pronounce. Njokuani had lost his WEC debut to Benson Henderson, but his only other loss was to Donald ĎCowboyí Cerrone, while Palaszewski had been considered a top contender for the WEC belt before his upset loss to Ricardo Lamas at the previous WEC show. Chicago being Palaszewskiís home town, he was definitely looking for the big win in this one.

First round begins and they trade some feeler strikes with neither man really landing anything. Single leg attempt from Bartimus and he drives Njokuani into the fence, and gets him down despite Njokuani grabbing the fence. Njokuani uses the cage to get back to his feet, and they clinch and muscle for position before Njokuani breaks with a knee and a right hand. They continue to exchange strikes and it appears that the advantage is with Njokuani, although Palaszewski never looks outright hurt at any point. With 1:30 to go Njokuani manages to land cleanly, dropping Bart with a short right hand, and he tries to land punches to follow up as Bart manages to get full guard. Njokuani stands over him dropping shots and then the ref brings Bartimus back up. Good takedown from Palaszewski and he ends up in Njokuaniís guard, but its pretty clear that heís using this to recover from the knockdown. Round ends in the guard.

Second round and itís back to the striking game, which is bad for Palaszewski. Body kick and BIG STRAIGHT HAND send Palaszewski crashing to the ground, and this time itís over as Njokuani closes in with a flurry of punches for the stoppage.

Beautiful display of crisp striking for Njokuani although what his ground gameís like I donít know. This was another disappointing outing for Bartimus as he was supposed to be a contender for the WEC Lightweight crown, but hey, good win for Njokuani in a pretty good fight.

Bantamweight Fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Jeff Curran

Really interesting semi-main, with local boy Curran dropping down to 135lbs for the first time and immediately looking to cement himself as a contender to Miguel Torresís Bantamweight title. Hardly the easiest opponent for him though in Urijah Faberís protťgť Benavidez, who had shown a Faber-esque game in his WEC debut in late 2008. Benavidez enters to Ted Nugentís ĎStrangleholdí, which has to be one of the most badass entrance themes ever used in MMA.

Round One and both men throw out some kicks before Benavidez closes distance and forces Curran into the cage. Left hook for Curran breaks but Benavidez remains aggressive and comes forward with a nice combination. Benavidez tries a flying kick, but takes a big right hand and ends up clinching instead. Dude has a strong chin. They exchange some knees from the clinch and one appears to hit Curran in the groin, but he keeps fighting. Left from Benavidez breaks and knocks Curran way off balance. Good combo from Curran ending with an uppercut. Leg kick lands for Benavidez. Curran goes for a single but Benavidez shrugs it off easily, and then drops Curran with a counter right hand! Benavidez goes down into the guard as Curran looks to regroup, before Benavidez stands and kicks at the legs. Stomp to the body glances off Curranís midsection, and then Benavidez goes back to kicking at the legs. Upkick lands for Curran but Benavidez remains standing over him as the round finishes. Close round to call but Iíd give it to Benavidez for the knockdown.

Second round, and Benavidez opens with a kick to the body. Curran comes back with a pair of side kicks, but takes a big leg kick from Benavidez. More kicks from Curran but another chopping leg kick lands for Benavidez before Curran sidesteps and causes Benavidez to slip to the mat. Superman punch misses wildly for Curran and he ends up on his back in half-guard. Benavidez stands, avoiding an upkick and a triangle before dropping back to the guard, and then he stands and tries a stepping guard pass into a punch a couple of times. Curran scrambles back to his feet though to a big pop. Curran taunts him a few times and then pulls guard, going from a triangle attempt to an oma plata, but Benavidez does a great job to avoid and then pulls out of another triangle, dropping down this time into side mount. Few elbows land for Benavidez as he seems to be setting up the Hughes crucifix, but Curran switches position and manages to get back to butterfly guard. Curran goes for a sweep, and almost gets it, but Benavidez powers out and uses a guillotine to force Curran onto his back. Some good shots from the top land for Benavidez, as he continues to be in control. Good upkick to the chest from Curran, but Benavidez keeps him on his back and throws some more punches to answer an upkick on the buzzer.

Iíve got this two rounds to none for Benavidez now, although itís quite close. Third and final round begins and they exchange strikes early on with both men landing some decent stuff now. Benavidez appears to be the fresher man though, constantly coming forward and keeping Curran on his back foot. Right hand by Curran but Benavidez hits a beautiful single leg trip down to guard. Benavidez stays active from the top with punches, and then clocks Curran with a right as he scrambles to his feet. They break off and now Curran presses, but eats a combo for his troubles. High kicks miss for both men. Curran shoots on a double leg and gets Benavidez down, but Benavidez scrambles from the bottom and works to his feet immediately. Curran lands some knees in the clinch, but Benavidez takes him down into guard now. Benavidez really chops away with some punches from the top, and Curran looks exhausted. Curran desperately goes for a triangle, but Benavidez pulls out and keeps top position until the fight comes to an end.

Close fight but I have it 30-27 for Benavidez. Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Joseph Benavidez. Tremendous fight as both men showed a lot of heart, cardio and skill, but in the end Benavidez pushed a more torrid pace, was the aggressor throughout despite taking some shots in the first round, and in the end his conditioning was what pulled him through. Huge win for Benavidez and I can see him making a challenge against Torres in 2010 for sure.

WEC World Bantamweight Title: Miguel Torres vs Takeya Mizugaki

Originally this wouldíve seen Brian Bowles challenging Torres for the belt, but he got injured in training and so Zuffa replaced him with Japanese fighter Takeya Mizugaki, a top-ten ranked Bantamweight with an 11-2 record, who had been mainly fighting in the Cage Force promotion. Highlight package for him shows him as quite the striker. Mizugaki was a hell of a replacement to get on short notice, but really I didnít see it mattering as I couldnít see anyone in the world at 135lbs toppling Torres, who had never looked anything short of spectacular and had massacred Manny Tapia last time out. Torres looks CRAZY INTENSE for this one too and gets a monstrous crowd pop as itís his hometown. Should be awesome.

First round begins and Mizugaki comes out throwing BOMBS, opening up with a flurry that has Torres covering up! Torres fires right back though and then circles out as the crowd chant his name. Torres begins to pump out his left jab, but Mizugaki continues to come forward and throw out flurries. They clinch briefly and Torres throws some knees to the body, only for Mizugaki to basically shove him to the ground and back up. Nice left jab lands for Torres. Mizugaki begins to work some better counters though, landing with the right hand as Torres jabs at him. Good left-right to the body and head lands for the challenger. They clinch again and Torres lands with a knee to the body. Break off and they continue to exchange, both men just winging punches in the pocket. Good body kick from Torres but Mizugaki continues to throw heavy leather at him, countering off the jab. Another flurry lands for the challenger and he blocks a takedown and forces Torres back to his feet, the round ending shortly after. Action packed opening round. Probably Mizugakiís round, 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Mizugaki comes out aggressively again, catching Torres with a right hand. This only serves to make the champ angry though and he comes forward with a VICIOUS flurry, but slips to the canvas in the process. Torres continues to jab but takes another counter and then tries a spinning kick and slips, attempting to roll into a kneebar from the slip! Whoa. Sloppy attempt though and the challenger easily avoids. BIG exchange follows and then Torres clinches and lands a pair of big knees. Mizugaki breaks and heís landing well with the left hook to the body. Few more jabs land for Torres as he seems to have his timing down now. They end up wildly trading for a moment before slowing down again, and this is a hell of a pace for a five-rounder. Nice left hook from Torres snaps Mizugakiís head to the side, but he fires right back and they trade again. Big flurry lands for Torres and he forces Mizugaki into the fence and lands a knee to the midsection. They continue to exchange in the clinch and Torres really works him over with the knees. They break off and now the ref calls time to replace the champís mouthpiece. Nasty one-two catches Mizugaki but he hangs in there and continues to throw. Into the clinch again and Torres lands some more knees to the body. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 for Torres that time.

Round 3 and Torres begins with a snapping left hook before throwing some leg kicks. Mizugaki is still flurrying, but not landing as well as he did in the first as Torresís head movement is looking better now. Pace slows a little as Mizugaki deflects a spinning backfist. Big knee lands for the challenger and he follows with a flurry, but Torres clinches and lands some knees to the body again before they break. Torres wades in with more punches and they clinch briefly and then break, and they keep on throwing down, both men landing some hard blows. These guys are tough as hell. Ref calls time after another exchange as Torres has a cut on his forehead, above the right eye, not sure what actually opened it. Replay shows it looked to be an accidental clash of heads. They decide heís fine to continue and restart, and both men are coming forward and SWINGING and this fight is turning into a miniature, more accurate Griffin-Bonnar. They clinch again and exchange in there, before breaking off and itís more of the same, both men swinging for the fences. Big TORRES chant and with fifteen seconds to go he lands the best punch of the round, a right hand, and the buzzer sounds shortly after. Torresís round by a hair, but this is a much closer fight than the announcers (especially Mir) are making it out to be.

Fourth round and weíre into championship territory! Lunging left hook opens the round for the challenger. Torres looks for a takedown and tries to roll into guard but Mizugaki avoids it and backs out. Flurry for Miguel and he looks for a double leg, then pulls half-guard, but Mizugaki looks to avoid the ground and stands. Stiff jab for the champ as he stalks the challenger. They clinch up and Torres cracks him with a pair of nasty elbow strikes. Knees to the body land for Torres as well before they break with a brief trade-off. Heavy combo lands for Torres and Mizugaki looks hurt, and they clinch up with Torres cracking him with another elbow and a knee to the gut. This fight is awesome. Mizugaki answers with a knee to the chin but Torres keeps him pressed against the cage. Rear waistlock from Mizugaki but heís forced to avoid a rolling kneebar from the champion and then he backs out. Pair of jabs land for Torres. Nice left hook lands in an exchange for the champion as they continue to go toe-to-toe. Big combo from Torres and Mizugaki finally looks a bit hurt now. Round ends with a Torres jab. 10-9 Torres but this is a great, great fight.

Fifth and final round! Mizugaki lunges in with some punches but canít catch Miguel cleanly and Torres goes to the koala position momentarily before forcing the challenger into the cage. They break off and WILDLY EXCHANGE and Torres gets the better of it! Into the clinch and Torres works with the knees to the body as Mizugaki tries to answer back. They break again and now its Mizugaki who gets the better of a trade, sending Torres to the mat for a moment after a slip. They clinch again and Torres really goes to work with the assault to the body now, landing knees and punches as well as shoulder strikes and foot stomps. Mizugaki manages to fight back though and trips Torres to the ground, but the champ pops right back up. Left bodyshot from the challenger as they continue to trade off, but Torres now looks to be the fresher man and he takes over using the clinch again, landing with the knees to the side. Brief break sees Torres wade back into the clinch with a flurry, and then they break off to a monster crowd pop. Mizugaki continues to push forward and swing, and with seconds to go they just THROW DOWN and exchange wildly with neither man backing down an inch. Unbelievable fight.

Judges score it 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 for Miguel Torres to retain the belt. Really though in a fight of this calibre thereís no real loser, as despite coming off on the wrong end of the decision Mizugaki raised his status hugely by hanging in there for five rounds with Torres, and the fact that the two guys just stood and traded huge shots for basically the whole 25 minutes was amazing. Online there was a lot of criticism of the announcing, particularly of Frank Mir, as he made it seem like Torres was always in control when in reality, particularly in the first round, Mizugaki was giving him a lot of problems. Iíd agree with that as this was clearly Torresís toughest fight to date and he had to dig deep for the win, showing the skills of a true champion. Still, bad announcing or no bad announcing this was a fantastic fight and a high-end FOTYC. I didnít like it as much as Torres-Maeda due to the lack of groundwork but itís still awesome. Miguel Torres, gotta love him.

-And we roll the highlight reel.

Final Thoughts....

Another great show from the WEC. Opener between Assuncao-Massouh is a little slow in spots and gets the ĎWorst Fightí award, but itís not a bad fight or anything like that, and the rest of the show is awesome, from the 90 seconds of insanity that is Roller-Henderson, to a great technical war between Curran and Benavidez, and then the ultimate knock down, drag out trench battle in the main event between Torres and Mizugaki. There have been better WEC shows but thatís more a testament to the greatness of the promotion than a knock on this show. Highly recommended.

Best Fight: Torres-Mizugaki
Worst Fight: Assuncao-Massouh

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-99, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: 31.
WEC: 41.
Strike Force: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives
DREAM: 1-9
Elite XC: Uprising, Renegade, Street Certified and Unfinished Business.
K1 Heroís: Final Battle 2007
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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