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WEC 52: Faber vs. Mizugaki review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 18, 2010, 5:22 AM

WEC 52: Faber vs. Mizugaki

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Stephan Bonnar and naturally the first thing they discuss is the upcoming WEC/UFC merger, with this being the penultimate WEC show before the promotion closes shop after Decemberís WEC 53.

How do I feel about the merger? Iím all for it and I think this is the biggest news in the MMA world since Affliction went under in 2009. WEC was tremendous and all Ė for a promotion to be able to put on one bad show (off the top of my head) in the four years since Zuffa took over the reigns is amazing, and for the most part whoever matchmaker Sean Shelby threw into the cage seemed to be able to put on a great fight. But the one criticism was always that the smaller fighters deserved pay packets in line with the top UFC stars and now that issue is sorted and the likes of Faber, Aldo, Torres, Cruz et al will be paid accordingly. As for how itíll affect the UFC, well, hopefully itíll signal the end of sub-par pay-per-view cards and main events, particularly those like UFC 119 where the main event didnít feel like a big fight and wasnít for a title either. With an additional two titles, every Ďnumberedí card should at least be headlined by a title fight or a big grudge match between two big names, or at least thatís the hope. The other thing it should put an end to is sub-par fighters getting into the UFC, as with two more weight divisions, the competition for spots on the UFC roster should be even more heated, even with more shows on Versus promised next year. And not only that, but when Zuffa are so close to having a UFC monopoly over the MMA world (which again is a good thing) having the world-recognized top fighter in each weight class Ė from Cain Velasquez down to Dominick Cruz Ė doesnít hurt one bit. So yeah, not just a good thing, a great thing.

Bantamweight Fight: Damacio Page vs Demetrious Johnson

The ĎAngel Of Deathí Ė probably the coolest nickname in MMA Ė Page had won his last two fights with highlight reel finishes in 2009, but hadnít fought since last October due to various injuries. Johnson Ė a more natural 125lber Ė had bounced back from his entertaining loss to Brad Pickett to pick up his first WEC win in September. My pick here was Page based on his larger size and clear strength and power advantage.

Round One begins and Johnson circles on the outside, but eats a right hand early before Page closes the distance and lands a knee. They go into the clinch and Johnson surprisingly manages to trip Page to the ground and pass to half-guard. Page scrambles, but gives his neck and it looks like Johnsonís going for a guillotine, but Page escapes and gets back to his feet, swinging punches that force Johnson to back out. Good right hand from Johnson and he lunges in with a pair of knees to the body, but Page hits a beautiful judo trip and lands in side mount. Johnson quickly scrambles towards the cage and gets half-guard, looking to wall-walk to his feet, but Page keeps him down. Nice pass into full mount from Page and Johnson is in trouble. It looks for a second like heís going for an arm triangle, but Johnson escapes to half-guard and then manages to reverse to his feet, but Page gets hold of him again and hits another throw into full mount. Good job from Johnson to shrimp his hips out and he gets to his feet before hitting a double leg of his own to guard. Page is seated against the cage and quickly wall-walks to his feet, and they end up in the clinch before Page hits a BIG SLAM to side mount. Johnson tries to get to his feet and manages to get to full guard, but Page rears up and hits a right hand. Round ends with Page in top position. Got to be 10-9 for Damacio Page.

Round Two and Johnson comes out with a left head kick that glances off Page. Lunging left hook from Page and they clinch and muscle for position. Page looks for a takedown, but as he drops Johnson almost manages to take his back. Page repositions and gets him down, but Johnson uses a possible kimura to work back to his feet, squatted down by the fence. Page drags him down and almost gets the mount, but Johnson explodes to his feet and quickly breaks free of a rear waistlock. Page comes forward but walks into a HEAVY GROIN KICK that folds him up badly. Ref Josh Rosenthal immediately calls time to let Damacio recover. They get going and Johnson dances around on the outside before landing a leg kick. Big body kick from Page, but Johnson shoots and gets him down into guard. Good elbows from the bottom from Page, but Johnson works to pass and almost takes the back. Page spins out and gets to his feet, but Johnson stays on him and muscles him into the cage before dropping for another nice takedown. Good elbow from Johnson and he passes into half-guard. Page works back to full butterfly guard and looks to elevate Johnson off, but Johnson gets back into half-guard and then comes out on top in a scramble again, remaining in the guard of the larger man. Some really nice shots land for Johnson from the guard, and he drags Page down and takes full mount for a second as Page attempts to stand. Round ends with Johnson in firm control.

Third and final round and I have it one round apiece. They exchange some strikes early and a swift combination from Johnson HURTS PAGE BADLY and he collapses to the ground! Into half-guard for Johnson and Page looks in trouble. Good short elbows from Johnson and Page tries to reverse out, but canít seem to get from underneath Mighty Mouse. Page works back to full butterfly guard, but Johnson passes and then catches a guillotine in the scramble, dragging Page down. From there he forces Page onto his back and takes a mounted guillotine, and after a moment Page taps out!

Pretty big upset there although it looked to me like it was Pageís cardio that let him down, which is understandable considering heíd been a year on the shelf. Also looking back, things went downhill for Page after the low blow which makes me wonder whether he came back into the fight too quickly and got hurt soon after, or whether the groin shot just sapped his cardio hugely. Still, to take nothing away from Johnson as this was a big, big win for him, even if he still looks hugely undersized at 135lbs. Hopefully for his sake the UFC introduces the 125lbs Flyweight division sooner rather than later. Fun opener.

Bantamweight Fight: Joseph Benavidez vs Wagnney Fabiano

Despite coming into this one with a 4-1 WEC record, Fabiano would probably be considered a disappointment given the reputation he brought from the IFL, I would say, as heís been more known for a string of dull decisions than anything else thus far. He was originally set to face former 135lbs champion Brian Bowles in this clash, but when Bowles withdrew, recent title challenger Benavidez stepped in. Surprising move I thought as Fabiano is a very tough guy with not much name value, but then I guess Benavidez wonít get another title shot soon so he may as well try to knock off well-regarded fighters. My one hope for this was that Benavidez would drag Fabiano to an exciting fight.

Fight begins and it looks like Fabiano has a big size advantage. They circle and exchange some feeler strikes, with Benavidez landing a left body kick and looking for some power hooks. Rushing high kick lands glancingly for Fabiano. Right high kick answers for Benavidez. Good left hook over the top follows but Fabiano avoids the right hand. Good body kick lands for Wagnney. He slips on another high kick though and has to avoid a flurry from Benavidez. Wagnney is covering up nicely to avoid these flurries actually. Good left to the body from Benavidez. Fabiano throws a body kick of his own to answer. Benavidez chases in and they trade for a second before Wagnney backs up. Takedown attempt from Benavidez but Fabiano blocks it and breaks off. Seconds to go in the round and Benavidez continues to be the aggressor, but he eats a jumping knee right before the buzzer. Even round but it goes to Benavidez for his aggression, 10-9.

Second round and Benavidez continues to push the action, landing an early body kick. Both men throw leg kicks and Fabiano slips to the ground off his, and Benavidez quickly stands over him and kicks at the legs. Good right hand over the top from Benavidez, but Fabiano quickly reverses up and goes for a single leg. Benavidez grabs a guillotine and pulls guard, and it looks tight, but Wagnney manages to roll and gets free. Benavidez remains on top though with one arm still snaked around the neck. He tries it again, from side mount this time, but Wagnney slips his head free. Benavidez lands a right hand and then grabs the head again as Fabiano looks to grab a leg, and goes for the guillotine again! Fabiano manages to stay calm though and pulls his head free, getting into half-guard in top position. Fabiano passes into side mount but Benavidez hits a SICK reversal, elevating the Brazilian and landing a right hand in the process of escaping to his feet! Fabiano drops for the takedown again, but once again Benavidez catches him in the guillotine and this time itís too tight and FABIANO TAPS!

I honestly expected Fabiano to do a lot better in that fight, but Benavidez was too quick and aggressive for him on the feet and on the ground it looked like Fabiano just completely underestimated the skills of the American and left his head out there one too many times. As a fan of his from his IFL days I hope this doesnít mean Fabiano doesnít make it into the UFC, but to be honest it doesnít bode well given his boring reputation prior to this fight. As for Benavidez he continues to develop into a great, great fighter despite being undersized at Bantamweight and hey, if the 125lbs division is installed into the UFC then Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson could make an excellent inaugural title fight!

-Craig Hummer interviews WEC Lightweight Champ Ben Henderson and his upcoming challenger Anthony Pettis about their title fight in December. Pettis says heís improved and become a whole new fighter in 2010, while Henderson is looking forward to fighting in his hometown. Canít wait for this fight as it should be one of the most exciting of the year, even if I donít think the winner really deserves a shot at the UFC belt. They also announce that some dude from Wisconsinís won a chance to be in Pettisís corner for the fight, which is cool as hell!

Featherweight Fight: Erik Koch vs Francisco Rivera

Hot prospect Koch wouldíve faced Josh Grispi in an intriguing fight here, but the UFC/WEC merger meant Jose Aldo needed a title challenger for the UFC 125 show so Grispi was bumped, leaving Koch to fight the unknown Rivera on short notice, which seemed like a gimme. Still, the unknown guys are sometimes just as dangerous as the highly ranked ones (see Mackens Semerzier) so Koch would have to be careful.

First round begins and Koch throws a left head kick right from the off that Rivera blocks. Both men continue to press the action with Koch looking to work his jab. Big swing from Rivera misses. Good body kick lands for Koch. Left high kick is blocked by Riveraís arm. High kick from Rivera just misses. BIG LEFT HEAD KICK lands for Koch and drops Rivera HARD, and Koch finishes him with some hammer fists on the ground.

God damn. That was a sick, sick knockout. Reminiscent of Anthony Pettisís head kick on Danny Castillo earlier in the year, which isnít surprising given Koch has been training with Pettis and the Duke Roufus camp actually. Koch is a bad, bad dude and I canít wait to see him get amongst the contenders in the UFC next year.

Featherweight Fight: Cub Swanson vs Mackens Semerzier

This was a prelim taped earlier in the night, with Semerzier looking to break a two-fight losing streak against perennial gatekeeper Swanson, who had been blanketed by Chad Mendes last time out.

First round begins and they exchange some leg kicks and circle around. Leg kick from Cub is caught and Semerzier gets a takedown from it, landing in Cubís guard. He decides to stand back up though, and they trade strikes with Swanson landing a head kick! Good right hand from Swanson into the clinch, but Mack muscles him into the fence. Cub reverses position and they exchange some knees before Swanson hits a NICE throw to the guard! They come back up instantly though where Swanson lands a high kick again. They continue to trade strikes and Swansonís kickboxing looks better than I can remember seeing it before. Big left hook to the body from Cub. Flying knee from Mack and he shoves Cub across the fence, but he avoids the follow up and looks for a takedown. Mack tries a standing guillotine but Cub breaks, only to eat a knee. They exchange into the clinch where Semerzier trips him down, passing into half-guard. Swanson stays active from his back and lands some good upkicks as Mack stands over him, and then they come to their feet where they exchange strikes, Semerzier landing to the body. Into the clinch but Mack breaks quickly, only to eat a beautiful combo from Cub. Round ends with Swanson teeing off with combos. Close round but Iíd give it to Cub Swanson by a hair I think. Great round.

Into the 2nd and they trade flurries into the clinch to open. Good knees from Mackens to break and they exchange strikes once more, with Swanson again getting the better of it in my opinion. Takedown attempt from Cub but Mackens blocks it nicely and they wind up clinched again. Cub shrugs him off and lands with a big right hand, but a counter knee clocks him hard and wobbles him for a second. Takedown from Cub but he lets Mack right back up. This is a hell of a fight. Big body kick lands for Swanson and he follows with a spinning backfist! Cubís striking looks improved hugely here and he lands with a left body shot and a right hand. Mack fires right back and they continue to exchange strikes. BIG combo from Swanson has Mack rocked for a second but he recovers fast and fires right back. Good combo from Mackens but he leaves himself open and Swanson tackles him down to guard. He doesnít do much from the top though to be fair and the round ends on the ground. Another close one for Swanson, 10-9.

Third and final round and Mackens comes chasing forward, and Cub goes down off an exchange of body kicks, looked like a slip though. He works up, but eats a knee on the way out. Takedown attempt from Cub is stuffed, but he lands a right and a high kick before completing the double and taking Semerzier down to guard. Semerzier quickly works his way back to his feet in the clinch, and they break off and exchange some more combinations before Mack catches a leg kick and gets a takedown to guard. Swanson looks to grab a guillotine and uses it to stand, delivering a knee and then a hard counter hook as Semerzier comes forward. Good combo from Mackens but he eats a counter left hook. Nice takedown from Swanson puts him on top in guard. He looks to posture up, but Semerzier kicks him away. Semerzier pushes forward and stuffs a takedown, but Cub fires back with a heavy combination. Takedown attempt from Semerzier but Cub shows some good defense to avoid. Beautiful switch allows Semerzier to take the back and he land some punches while trying to get hooks in. Cub manages to turn into him and almost gets mounted, before giving his back again. Mack clubs away at the body but Swanson rolls into guard. Seconds to go and Semerzier postures up to deliver some strong ground-and-pound before Cub explodes to his feet, and we end with a wild trade! Wow. Great fight.

I have this 29-28 for Swanson with Semerzier taking the third, but it could definitely go either way. Judges score it 29-28 Swanson, 29-28 Semerzier, and 29-28 for Cub Swanson to take the split decision. Well, I guess the judges agreed with me! Fantastic fight though with both men looking much improved from their last outing, and I think based on this both men deserve a spot in the UFC at 145lbs - despite Semerzier losing his last three now heís still a solid fighter in the division.

Featherweight Fight: Chad Mendes vs Javier Vazquez

This was an interesting semi-main as Vazquez Ė who ought to be 4-0 rather than 2-2 in the WEC Ė was the most difficult test for wrestler Mendes yet, as the Alpha Male fighter had shown great top control and athleticism but little else while Vazquez is a fully rounded, dangerous-in-all-areas type of fighter. There was also a war of words coming in as Vazquez claimed Mendes had been babied by the WEC thus far. Big fight with the winner going into title contention, and I was pulling for Javi.

We get underway and both men look pretty tentative early before Mendes throws a high kick that Javi blocks. Lunging right misses for Javi and he follows by shooting, but Mendes stuffs it and so Javi drops to his back. Good right hand from Mendes into the guard before he stands back up to throw some kicks at the legs. Javi pops back up and lands a nice leg kick. Another kick is caught and Mendes gets the takedown to guard. Couple of elbows land for Vazquez from his back and he goes into the rubber guard to control his opponent. Nice elbows from Vazquez, but Mendes lifts him up to deliver a slam to escape the rubber guard. Vazquez remains active from his back though, preventing Mendes from doing much from the top. Good elbow does land for the Alpha Male fighter though. Back to the rubber guard from Javi and he lands some more elbows. Bonnar on commentary points out now that even if Javi continues to outwork Mendes from his back heíll still probably lose the round, which is shameful in so many ways that I canít even be bothered to get into it. Judges make me sick. Oma plata attempt from Vazquez and he uses it to land some more good elbows, but Mendes slips his arm free and lands some punches from the top. One minute to go and Vazquez continues to squirm from the bottom, and Mendes really hasnít done all that much with top position. Round ends in Javiís guard. Iíd score that 10-9 Vazquez and honestly, itís a sad state of affairs when you have to guess that the judges would give it to Mendes instead for being on top.

Second round and Mendes opens with a low kick and follows with a flying knee and a flurry of punches that look to have Javi hurt! Javi shoots for a takedown and then decides to pull guard as Mendes stuffs it. Rubber guard again from Vazquez but again Mendes slams his way out of it. Good shots from Mendes this time from the top, as Javi boxes the ears in return. Mendes stands out of the guard and avoids an upkick, kicking the legs a few times before FRONT FLIPPING INTO THE GUARD! What the hell?! Javi instantly scrambles and almost gets on top, but Mendes scrambles to his feet only for Vazquez to grab a rear waistlock. Another front flip from Mendes though and this time he manages to end up on top in guard. Well, that didnít lead to much but it sure was fun to watch. Little action from the position as Mendes just blankets him, and then Herb Dean decides to call a stand-up. Seconds remaining and neither man manages to land before the buzzer. Round goes to Chad Mendes that time as Vazquez was less active from his back.

Third and final round and Mendes pushes forward landing a few early strikes. They exchange punches before Mendes tackles him to guard again. Javi is still active from his back with strikes, but he isnít controlling Mendes like he did in the first round. Mendes stands over the guard again, and this time Vazquez pops up to his feet. They look to exchange high kicks and Mendesí lands clean, and he follows with an easy double leg to half-guard. Javi shows some odd flexibility to get guard back, but Mendes keeps control and drops some short elbows. Herb Dean decides to call a stand-up with two minutes to go, but Mendes is the one who lands the right hand as Vazquez comes forward. Mendes forces him into the fence and then basically shoves him to the ground, getting on top to land a couple of elbows. Looks like Javi caught a strike in the eye as heís grimacing pretty bad. Heís cut under the right eye too. Javi tries for rubber guard again, but Mendes postures free and continues to work him over with ground-and-pound. Round ends with Mendes on top and it has to be his decision.

Judges score it 30-27 all round for Chad Mendes. Ugh, that means they did give him the first round even if the right guy won in the end regardless. This was a better fight from Mendes than his previous one, but he still has a long way to go before heís the finished article, even if his wrestling is so good that he can beat all but probably the top four or five guys in the division anyway. I suspect heíll end up getting a title shot in 2011. I just hope this doesnít mean that Javi gets cut before he makes it to the UFC (which he shouldíve already done back in 2004, for those who donít know he was supposed to fight Matt Serra at UFC 46!) because really he ought to be 4-1 rather than a much-worse sounding 2-3 in his WEC run if it werenít for retarded judges.

Bantamweight Fight: Urijah Faber vs Takeya Mizugaki

After losing his title rematch with Mike Brown, the drop to 135lbs seemed inevitable for Urijah Faber, as heís always been a smaller 145lber (he wrestled at 135lbs in college) and when Dominick Cruz Ė a man who Faber beat handily in 2007 Ė won the Bantamweight Title earlier in 2010 then the move seemed even more obvious. Of course, the disastrous fight with Jose Aldo would come first, but after recovery it was announced that the California Kid would be dropping to 135lbs to face the ever-tough former title challenger Mizugaki. For me the move was huge and timed perfectly with the UFC/WEC merger, as Faberís always been the most popular WEC fighter and a chance to capture the 135lbs belt in the UFC would certainly be there if he could take out the Japanese fighter. I was expecting Faber to win impressively, setting himself up for a UFC title shot in 2011.

First round begins and Faber rushes in and lands a short right early on. Mizugaki looks to stay on the outside, but Faber continues to push forward. Left hook lands for the California Kid, countered by Mizugaki with a left hook of his own. Into the clinch and Mizugaki muscles Urijah into the cage. Good knee from Faber and he switches position and then lands a beautiful pair of elbows from close range. Mizugaki tries to break free but Faber keeps him pressed into the cage, then lands another harsh elbow. Mizugaki looks to take him down, but to no avail and they remain in the clinch before Faber breaks with a flurry. Good right hand from Faber in an exchange but he takes a couple of counters on the way out. Single leg attempt from Faber but Mizugaki does a good job of defending it. Faber grabs a guillotine though and drags Mizugaki to the ground, and in the ensuing scramble he hops onto the Japanese fighterís back with both hooks! Holy shit was that quick. Mizugaki looks in big trouble and drops to the canvas, but Faber remains clamped to his back and with thirty seconds to go he locks up the choke. Mizugaki refuses to tap though and rolls to his stomach, and in a SICK VISUAL he clearly passes out before referee Josh Rosenthal stops it, causing Mizugaki to look like a corpse lying on Faberís chest as he releases the choke. Good lord.

Thankfully Mizugaki comes round pretty sharpish, although they have to give him some oxygen. Scary finish but it wasnít anyoneís fault as Rosenthal attempted to check Mizugakiís arm but was unable to due to the position of the choke next to the fence, and so he couldnít tell that he was unconscious before it was too late. Post-fight Faber puts Mizugaki over as a guy who wasnít ever going to quit, and then he says he wants the Bantamweight belt in the UFC.

Well, I donít think that couldíve gone any better for Urijah Faber really. Not only did he look fantastic at 135lbs and didnít seem to have lost anything in the weight cut, but he also put away a guy who had proven incredibly tough to finish even by top guys like Miguel Torres in under a round. I think the smart route is clearly to give Faber the first title shot once the winner of Cruz and Jorgensen moves into the UFC, then pray like hell that he wins and you can do Team Faber vs. Team Torres on a 135lbs season of TUF. Tell me that wouldnít draw like hell. As for this fight? The usual red-hot exciting stuff from Urijah Faber.

-Highlight reel rolls and thatís that.

Final Thoughts....

WEC never fails to disappoint and as much as I love the merger Iíll definitely miss shows like this. Mendes-Vazquez was the worst fight but even that wasnít ďbadĒ or anything and everything else as per usual was fantastic. Swanson-Semerzier was the best fight here but Benavidez choking out Fabiano and the fantastic showing from Urijah Faber were also memorable, making this one of the better WEC shows of the year, which is saying something! Two thumbs up, duh.

Best Fight: Swanson-Semerzier
Worst Fight: Mendes-Vazquez

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 118-122, Fight Night 22
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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