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WEC 46: Varner vs. Henderson review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on January 24, 2010, 3:38 PM

WEC 46: Varner vs. Henderson

Sacramento, California

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir. They discuss the return of Jamie Varner from almost a year-long layoff, as well as the big Featherweight contender match between Urijah Faber and Raphael Assuncao.

Featherweight Fight: Deividas Taurosevicius vs Mackens Semerzier

Lithuanian IFL veteran Taurosevicius had moved to the WEC following the Affliction crash, and picked up a somewhat controversial win over Javi Vazquez in his debut. Here he was faced with ĎMack Da Menaceí, the guy who had pulled off probably the biggest upset of 2009 with his triangle choke over former IFL champion Wagnney Fabiano. And man, talk about two guys with difficult names to pronounce and type. I think Iíll be referring to Taurosevicius as ĎDTí from now on.

Round One and they throw some feeler strikes before DT closes the distance, forcing Mack into the fence. Bodylock with double underhooks from Semerzier, but DT drops for a single leg. Mack gets a guillotine, but DT lifts him up and brings him down anyway, landing in side mount to nullify the guillotine attempt. Mackens manages to lock up a half-guard, but DT works free and stands over him, kicking at the legs. DT tries to drop into side mount, and does a good job of passing through into the dominant position. Elbows from DT as Mackens attempts a hip escape into half-guard. Mack does a good job of getting to full guard, and then he escapes to his feet. Flurry from Mack but he takes a right counterpunch from the Lithuanian. Good combo from DT and then he shoots for a single leg and tries to slam him down. Mackens manages to defend it quite well, grabbing the guillotine again, but this time Taurosevicius hits a BIG BODYSLAM down to half-guard. Good job from Mack at getting full guard again but he takes some short elbows to the face. DT punches at the body as Semerzier ties him up, but the action slows enough for the ref to call a restart. Mack comes in swinging, but DT ducks under and looks for the takedown again. Mackens tries to defend it, and does a good job of remaining on his feet as the round ends. Good opening round. 10-9 for Taurosevicius.

2nd opens with a brief striking exchange that sees Semerzier landing a couple of nice leg kicks and a body punch. Taurosevicius, by the way, is HUGE for 145lbs. Mack begins to land with some good strikes, but DT closes the distance and then uses sheer strength to throw Semerzier to the ground. DT stands over him and allows him up, then shoots right in for another double leg. Mack looks for a kimura, but canít get it and they come back up standing with DT taking the back with a standing rear waistlock. Semerzier throws some back elbows, but gets dragged down and DT winds up in the guard. Mack tries the triangle, but DT postures out nicely and then stands out of the guard, kicking at the legs. Back into the guard for Taurosevicius and he begins to grind on Mack from the top, posturing up with some punches and elbows. Good elbows from the Lithuanian as he really looks to be taking over this fight now. He stands and drops a right hand while looking to pass, but Mackens does a good job of retaining the full guard. Mack tries to go for a kneebar, but Taurosevicius avoids it and lands a heavy elbow to pay him back. Into side mount for DT and he continues to land elbows to end the round. Two rounds in the books for Deividas Taurosevicius.

Round Three and they exchange some strikes with both men landing some decent leg kicks particularly. Neither man seems to be able to really hurt the other though and Taurosevicius catches a high kick and looks for a slam. Mack avoids it, but DT gets him down anyway and then drives in for another single leg as Mack works to his feet. Mackens tries a guillotine but DT pops free and weíre back to the standing position. DT closes the distance again and they exchange knees in close before breaking. Good body kick from DT and he shoots with a double, but Mack sprawls and then looks to lock up a DíArce. DT defends though and goes for a single leg, but Mackens counters with a kimura and uses it to get top position! Nice. DT counters with a footlock attempt though and it looks like he might have something as Mackens sits up and punches the body. Mack considers a heel hook of his own, then pulls out and stands, dropping some hammer fists down onto the Lithuanian from above the guard. Good punches from the top for Mack but I think he needs a finish to win this fight. Mackens drops into the guard and rains down some heavy hammer fists, but DT does enough to survive. Side mount for Mackens and he attempts to mount, but Taurosevicius slows him down with a half-guard lockdown. Mack passes into side mount and lands some shots before DT gives his back, and now Mackens locks up a guillotine and really gives it a squeeze from guard. Taurosevicius begins to turn purple, but then pops his head free and finishes the round in Mackís guard. Great round. 10-9 Semerzier but that makes it 29-28 Taurosevicius overall.

Judges have it a unanimous decision for Deividas Taurosevicius, 29-28 all round. The Lithuanian basically just outworked Mackens in what was an excellent technical fight, but at no point did Mack look out of the fight and I think he proved his worth as a top-level fighter even in losing. Taurosevicius could be a very dangerous guy though with such well-rounded skills, particularly as heís huge for the weight. Put him against someone like Manny Gamburyan, or Leonard Garcia, or Josh Grispi next please! Well, you could use Raphael Assuncao, Cub Swanson, Jens Pulver, Mike Brown, anyone like that too. Good lord is WECís 145lbs division stacked!

Featherweight Fight: Mike Brown vs Anthony Morrison

The former WEC champion Brown was a relatively late addition to this card and he was faced with a largely unknown opponent in debutant Morrison. This, on paper, was clearly a match designed to give Brown a win to get him back on track following his destruction at the hands of Jose Aldo. Brown gets a pretty big mixed reaction from the crowd Ė I guess a lot of the Sacramento fans still donít like him after he beat their boy Urijah Faber twice.

We begin and Morrison throws out some early strikes while Brown looks pretty calm, waiting for his chance to pounce. Brown closes him down and takes a one-two, but doesnít seem fazed and he looks for the takedown. Morrison defends, but Brown gets him down with relative ease and lands in side mount. Hughes crucifix follows and Morrison looks in deep trouble. Brown lands punches and then stays on top following a scramble, working out of Morrisonís guard into mount. Couple of heavy shots land for Brown before Morrison gives his back, and Brown locks up a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Total dominance for Mike Brown as you would expect. Morrison was game, but never stood a chance and once Brown got him to the ground it was practically all over. Brown isnít a flashy dude and this was a workmanlike performance with no showboating, but he is definitely a badass and this was more proof of that. I look forward to seeing him against a top ten level guy next time out.

-Todd Harris visits with WEC Bantamweight Champ Brian Bowles and #1 Contender Dominick Cruz to discuss their upcoming title fight in March. No offense to Bowles Ė who looks a dead ringer for Mark Wahlberg here Ė but it seems wrong to be talking about a Bantamweight Title fight and not mentioning Miguel Angel Torres! Personally I think Bowles will beat Cruz, Torres will beat Joseph Benavidez on the same night and weíll lead to a rematch where Torres will get his belt back. Well, hopefully.

Lightweight Fight: Kamal Shalorus vs Dave Jansen

Both of these wrestling-based fighters had picked up WEC wins in 2009, with Jansenís over veteran Richard Crunkilton being a little more impressive. Still, on paper, Iranian Shalorus was the better wrestler and seemed a little more explosive, so I was leaning towards him to win. Even if Jansenís nickname is better. DAVE THE FUGITIVE JANSEN!~!

We begin and they exchange some punches with Jansen throwing combinations, Shalorus looking more for the one-shot knockout. Pretty crude striking if Iím completely honest, though. Shalorus seems to have the power advantage and Jansen shoots after taking a right, but the Iranian stuffs it. They continue to swing stiff punches at one another and with 2:30 left neither manís really landed cleanly. Shalorus stuffs another takedown and we go back to the same exchange. Shalorus gets him down momentarily, but lets him up and lands a flurry on the way out. This has been a yawner thus far, two very good wrestlers putting on a sub-par boxing match. Left hook from Shalorus drops Jansen to a knee but he recovers quickly. Another shot rocks Jansen again, but he recovers pretty quickly as before and the round closes out soon after. Slow round. Shalorus 10-9.

Second round and Jansenís face looks marked up at this stage. Fight continues where the first round left off, with both men exchanging but Shalorus landing the heavier blows. If someone could teach Shalorus some real striking technique then heíd be a scary dude as he has that natural clubbing power, but here heís lucky Jansenís not a great striker either. Finally Shalorus gets a takedown to guard. He doesnít do much with it though, and Jansen manages to scramble swiftly to his feet. They continue to swing haymakers at one another with little effect. Jansen tries an ankle pick but canít get the Iranian off his feet. Overhand right from Jansen hurts Shalorus and they swing wild punches like Vovchanchyn-Inoue or something, both men missing. This is unbelievably sloppy. Jansenís face is very bloody now. Another failed takedown attempt from Jansen ends the round.

Third and final round and no surprise, itís a copy of the first two rounds, as Shalorus uses sloppy but powerful striking while stuffing a takedown from Jansen. Man, the way both men keep ducking their heads into their punches makes me really wish theyíd fight someone technical like Cowboy or something and get picked apart. Honestly this isnít a bad fight in the Quarry-Starnes sense or even like, an old-school Jon Hess sloppy fight, itís more frustrating as both men are grapplers and yet here they are putting on a D-level boxing match. Jansen just canít get Shalorus down full stop, no surprise given the guy is a former Iranian international wrestler. Jansen has blood pouring down his face. And now Shalorus gets an easy takedown to guard. Jansen tries to work his way up using the fence, but Shalorus looks too strong for him and keeps him down. Jansen manages to stand in a front facelock, but canít get anywhere from it and thatís the fight.

30-27, 30-27, 29-28 all for Kamal Shalorus. Post-fight Shalorus cuts a pretty solid heel promo saying heís a world champion, world class wrestler, and NOBODY can take him down. Crowd boo him out of the building, Iím guessing purely because heís Iranian. That sort of makes up for the shoddy fight. Well, not really. If this guy can learn some technical striking then heíll be really dangerous because his wrestling is so good, but right now heíd get eaten alive by any decent kickboxer I think as his top game didnít look too hot here when he did take Jansen down.

Featherweight Fight: Mark Hominick vs Bryan Caraway

This was a prelim taped earlier in the night. Hominick, in his second WEC run following a move from Affliction, was looking for a little more success this time after suffering losses to Rani Yahya and Josh Grispi (on a side note, where has that guy been?) the first time around. Former Elite XC title challenger Caraway meanwhile had won three fights since that unsuccessful attempt at the belt, and he was making his WEC debut.

First round gets started and Caraway throws out a couple of combos, looking to feel Hominick out on the feet I guess. Nice takedown follows as Caraway hits a double leg into Hominickís guard. Caraway postures up and considers a footlock before looking for a guard pass, but Hominick does a decent job to retain the guard. Hominickís ground game has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. Caraway postures up to drop some ground-and-pound and does some good work, but Hominick pulls him back into a closed guard. Hominick looks to push off the hips to stand, but Caraway keeps him down and then stands over the guard and drops punches again. Upkick lands for Hominick as Caraway hovers over him, then drops back into the guard with two minutes to go. Caraway looks to pass, but Hominick keeps full guard in and then avoids another pass in a scramble. Nice right hand lands for Caraway as he postures up, but Hominick almost hits a sweep and as Caraway defends, Hominick surprises him with a triangle/armbar combination and locks it in for the tapout.

A lot of people underestimate Hominick on the ground because of how good a kickboxer he is, but while heís no Shinya Aoki he does have skills down there and he caught Caraway sleeping here. Good win for him to pick up after a similar submission over Savant Young on the Affliction card in 2008, and Iíd like to see him against some of the higher-level 145lbs fighters in the WEC now. Fun little fight overall.

-Short plug for the upcoming UFC on Versus show follows and man is that card becoming pretty stacked. Vera-Jones, Dos Santos-Napao, Kongo-Buentello...those are all strong fights, particularly for a free TV card.

Featherweight Fight: Urijah Faber vs Raphael Assuncao

This was the fight I was most looking forward to, as Faber hadnít fought since the hard loss to Mike Brown in June, and had finally rehabbed his two broken hands and was ready to return. WEC didnít exactly give him an easy fight though, throwing him against fellow top-ten contender Assuncao, who had won two fights in WEC already and hadnít lost since a hugely controversial decision against Jeff Curran in 2006. With fans already talking about the possibility of a Faber-Jose Aldo fight Ė the winner of this was all but promised a title shot Ė it was important for Urijah that he didnít look past a guy as dangerous as Raphael. I saw this as a very hard fight for Faber, but being a big fan of his I expected him to win probably by decision.

Crowd are off the charts for the entrances here; booing Assuncao pretty overwhelmingly despite him not really talking any trash nor ever coming off as anything but a nice guy. Well, thatís what you get for fighting the hometown hero I guess. Faber gets the quintessential monstrous babyface pop like GSP in Montreal or Rich Franklin in Cincinnati or something. This guy is awesome and has more charisma than probably everyone else on this card put together. Well, except Jamie Varner.

And we get underway and Faber lands a body kick before Assuncao lunges in with a superman punch and then gets a clinch against the cage. Faber reverses position and they muscle along the fence and exchange some knees. Faber breaks off and lands a front kick, but misses a charging right hand and Raphael gets another clinch and looks to get Urijah down. Break again and Faber lands a right hand into the clinch. Another quick break follows and Assuncao pushes forward but walks into a short uppercut. Faber gets knocked off balance by a right hand but he looks fine. Raphael clinches and muscles him into the fence again before landing a heavy right as they break. Raphaelís landing the better shots here surprisingly. Big chant for Faber as they circle off, but Assuncao counters a front kick with a right hand. Good leg kick from Raphael. Nice combo for the Brazilian in a brief exchange too. Round ends shortly after. Close round but Iíd go with Assuncao by a slight margin, 10-9, as I think he landed a few more shots.

Second round and Assuncao opens with a low kick. Single leg from Faber and he almost spins onto the back, but Raphael turns into a leglock attempt. Faber avoids that and gets on top in guard, and from there he begins to land some elbows. Assuncao pushes off the hips and tries to scramble up, but Urijah catches him in a guillotine and turns it over into Jeff Monsonís north/south choke! It looks pretty deep as Faber tries to roll over with it for more leverage, but Raphael manages to grab the hand and get an arm in to alleviate the pressure. Faber lets him up in a headlock and breaks with an elbow. That was a great grappling exchange. Assuncao narrowly ducks an overhand right and lands a low kick. Body kick from Faber. Raphael throws some combos, but Faber catches him with an overhand right that drops him and dives into the guard with a punch! Assuncao immediately looks to lock up an arm, but Faber pulls out and drops a right hand down for good measure. Elbows land for Urijah as the crowd are deafening now. Raphael tries to roll into an armbar using the cage, but Faber keeps position and lands with some hard elbows. Faber continues to work from the top as Assuncao looks to score some points of his own with elbows from the bottom. Raphael takes a risk and tries to stand, but he gives his back and Faber tries some sort of choke without the hooks before the Brazilian escapes to his feet on the buzzer. Hell of a round. Faber 10-9.

Weíre into the third round and the crowd are wildly chanting for Faber. Assuncao presses the action and throws some kicks, but Faber hits a scary quick single leg and puts him down in half-guard. Raphael explodes to his feet, but takes a right hand as he stands. Now Raphael shoots in, but Urijah stuffs it nicely and lands with an elbow to the head. They clinch up against the fence and muscle for position before breaking off. Good right hand from Faber. Assuncao throws some more combos and Faber slips but bounces right back up. Incredibly fast right hand from Faber drops Raphael again, and now Urijah gets on top in guard. Faber grinds away from the top, landing elbows again, and with less than 90 seconds remaining Raphael decides to take a chance and explodes out...but gives his back and Faber hops on, gets both hooks in, and SINKS THE CHOKE FOR THE TAPOUT!~! Crowd EXPLODE for that one.

Well, he started slow and looked a bit rusty in the first round, but by the second and third Faber had settled into his game and this was vintage California Kid stuff, seemingly moving on a different plane of speed to his opponent, and to finish with a choke over a very accomplished BJJ black belt like Raphael makes this one of Faberís very best career performances. Hell of a fight too as Assuncao was a game opponent throughout and showed why heís ranked in or around the top five in the division.

Post-fight Urijah puts Assuncao over as a very tough opponent and then calls out Jose Aldo for a title shot, and sure enough Aldo joins us in the cage and gets wildly booed before saying he respects Faber, but nobody is taking his belt. That might just be my most anticipated match of 2010 and itís another article, but I actually think Faber matches up with Aldo pretty well.

WEC Undisputed World Lightweight Title: Jamie Varner vs Ben Henderson

I think everyone knows the story behind this one by now Ė Varner got injured in his title defense almost a year prior against Donald Cerrone and ended up winning a technical decision when that fight was stopped in the fifth due to his injury. Since then he hadnít been able to fight, so WEC threw together an Interim Title fight between Cerrone and Henderson, who stunned the Cowboy by winning the title by decision in a bonafide FOTYC. Since then, Cerrone had won another fight (vs. Ed Ratcliff) to position himself as #1 Contender, so not only was the Undisputed Title on the line here, but waiting for the winner was a possible grudge match should Varner win, or a rematch of one of the best fights in WEC history if Henderson were to win. My pick was Varner, as I thought he had the wrestling to nullify Henderson and was a better striker.

Varner gets booed pretty heavily upon entrance, even more than Assuncao did in fact. Heís probably not a bad guy I donít think but man does he just ooze heel charisma, you canít deny that. Here he comes out wearing shades, strutting out to a really arrogant theme track (ďNigga Let Me See DatĒ) and even though I like the guy I think Iíd be tempted to boo if I were there live.

Opening round begins and both men look pretty tentative early and throw strikes from distance. Varner closes the distance and lifts him for a slam, but sort of drops him down instead and Henderson looks like heís rolling for a leglock. Varner looks calm as hell and he avoids, grabbing a front facelock as Henderson rolls. Knees to the body from Varner as he keeps Henderson grounded against the fence, and then he tries to crank on a guillotine, pulling it up as they stand, but Henderson is crazy hard to submit if you remember the Cerrone fight. Big knee to the face drops him to his knees though and Varner looks in firm control, landing more knees to the body with Henderson on one knee. Herb Dean decides to separate them when Varner doesnít improve position, and Varner pushes forward but takes a body kick. Henderson comes charging in for a takedown, but Varner reverses position and throws Henderson down, taking a rear waistlock with Henderson on his knees. Henderson works his arm free and turns into the clinch, and they exchange knees to end. Varnerís round easily, 10-9.

2nd round and Varner telegraphs a flying knee which allows Henderson to grab a clinch. Varner breaks with a knee though and then takes a kick to the body. High kick glances off the arm for Varner. Both men try low kicks and Varner knocks Henderson to the ground, but he pops up instantly. Good combo from Varner has Henderson backing up. This has been Varnerís fight thus far. Another combination follows for Varner. Body kick lands for Henderson in a rare bit of offense. Varner catches another kick though and tosses him to the ground, before allowing him to his feet. Henderson shoots for a single leg but Varner blocks it. Body shot into a clinch from Varner and they exchange knees along the fence. Neither man can secure a takedown though and they break off, and Henderson throws the body kick again before they exchange to end the round. Iíd give that round to Varner as well, meaning heís ahead 20-18 going into the third.

Round Three and Henderson opens with an overhand right that misses. Combo from Varner leads into a clinch, where Henderson lands with some knees. Combo from Varner breaks off but he eats a nice body kick from Henderson. Henderson is continually using the roundhouse kick and it does appear to be working at this stage. Pair of high kicks miss for Varner. Body kick lands for Henderson again and they exchange flurries. Takedown attempt from Varner...but he leaves his head out and Henderson locks up a guillotine and jumps into it...and VARNER TAPS!!

Wow, that ending came absolutely from nowhere. I had Varner ahead by two rounds at that stage and the third was largely even, so it was literally just one mistake Ė leaving his neck exposed Ė that cost Varner the fight. Truly a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory for him. So Henderson Ė the guy who I expected to lose comfortably to Cerrone in October Ė is now the undisputed WEC Lightweight Champion. Who would ever have expected that? Fight was excellent, if nowhere near as good as either manís fight with Cerrone. Well, thatís to be expected as Cowboy is one of the most exciting guys in all of MMA at this time. Post-fight Henderson screams for an AMEN before saying he felt a bit intimidated by Varner coming in, but kept his cool and was able to come out on top. And of course Varner TOTALLY heels out by saying Henderson was the better man....but he came to fight, and Henderson came to grapple. Well, thatís ludicrous when you consider that A) Varner was the one who shot in and got subbed, and B) Varnerís best portion in the fight came when he used his grappling in the early portion of the first round. Blah.

-We end with a plug for WEC 47 with Bowles-Cruz, Torres-Benavidez, and Pulver-Vazquez (sick card!) and a highlight of the nightís action.

Final Thoughts....

Well, Shalorus-Jansen sucked, but Taurosevicius-Semerzier was *really* good and the two main events delivered in spades, particularly Faber-Assuncao, meaning as per usual itís another easy thumbs up for a WEC show. Can this promotion do any wrong? Judging by their last few shows, apparently not.

Best Fight: Faber-Assuncao
Worst Fight: Shalorus-Jansen

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 103-107, Fight Night 20
Bitetti Combat 4
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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