One of the overlooked aspects of Sunday's WEC 40 event at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL was the title contention picture of the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions. Most fans were solely focusing on the main event in Torres vs. Mizugaki, but now that the event is over and Mike Brown vs. Urijah Faber is set to take place, who are the next top prospects to be given a chance to take those divisions' titles?
The WEC main broadcast revealed that Brian Bowles was the contender before an injury allowed the promotion to obtain Takeya Mizugaki, arguably a top 10 bantamweight, for the event. Bowles is likely going to get a title shot as I doubt we'll see a Karo Parisyan fiasco within the limited ranks of the Bantamweight division. After Bowles, it's a tough call. At 135 pounds, there isn't a deep pool of likely contenders. The obvious choice, however, is Joseph Benavidez after his powerful performance against a veteran in Jeff Curan.
Benavidez has some huge power in his hands, showed some technically better striking, and has shown the cardio to compete with a guy like Torres. If Torres defeats Bowles, Benavidez is likely next in line for a shot at trying to solve the puzzle that is Miguel Torres. Perhaps, he can take some cues from Mizugaki's performance by using flurries overwhelm Torres on the feet. The only problematic barrier is that he needs to actually catch Torres, a task that nobody has really managed to do.
And then there are the Featherweights. Mike Brown or Urijah Faber, it'll be interesting to see what transpires and whether or not the loser will fight in another contention spot matchup. Although the matchup went slightly unnoticed, the WEC 40 undercard provided the answer as to who might possibly be ready for a title shot with a solid matchup between jiu-jitsu grandmasters in Fredson Paixao and Wagnney Fabiano.
Fabiano won the matchup without a chess match on the floor, but rather with his highly underrated striking that managed to clip Paixao multiple times. While Fabiano isn't the second coming of Mike Brown with skull-crushing power, his standup game coupled with his high-level jiu-jitsu could prove to be the formula for success against Faber or Brown. He doesn't lack power either, something he will surely need against either opponent, and his conditioning has been proven to be top notch.
The coming months definitely have some anticipated matchups that shouldn't be overlooked. While Torres will likely be the favorite against anyone he faces, Mizugaki may have showed some challengers the key to at least hanging with the East Chicago, Indiana native. Brown and Faber likely don't have the jiu-jitsu chops to hang with Fabiano on the floor, but can Fabiano get the powerful duo into his world on the mat? Will the WEC give the loser of Brown-Faber a contention matchup spot to push a third matchup? All questions to be answered very soon.
Fabiano photo courtesy of fightticker.com