The month of March started off with a bang this weekend as WEC 47 delivered on multiple levels. Not only did it provide fans with a lot of talking points in terms of the bantamweight title picture, but the card had a plethora of upset victories, surprising finishes, and exciting action.
In the event's main event, challenger Dominick Cruz used a fidgety, unorthodox fighting style that mixed stance changes, erratic kicks, and beautiful counter rights to frustrate and batter the champion in Brian Bowles on his way to a stoppage following the second round of action. While Bowles did break his hand in the early moments of the fight, it's hard to believe that Bowles would have had a solution for Cruz's effective style.
Some fans would liken it to a much quicker Keith Jardine-esque style of fighting, but Cruz's speed was only one piece of the puzzle. Switching lead foots and keeping Bowles guessing as to where his kicks were going to be thrown kept Bowles out-of-synch for most of the fight. The kicks were visibly affecting Bowles, but the countering tactics that Cruz used were his most significant strikes.
Interestingly enough, Bowles was unable to pick up on the counters for the entire fight. Even though Cruz was throwing the right hook in nearly every single exchange that Bowles moved forward throwing powerful shots, Bowles continued to wade directly into the line of fire and eat counters. If a rematch ever happens, Bowles will need to be much more intelligent in his strategy. A bob of the head or a swaying to the left may have given him the opportunity to land a devastating blow to the newly-crowned champ.
What's next: A rematch between Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez is surely going to happen for Cruz's title defense, and Bowles vs. Torres might be the next stop for both former champions.
Before Miguel Torres' clash with Joseph Benavidez , many fans felt Torres was simply caught in the Brian Bowles fight and that he was still considered to be the very best at bantamweight, miles ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, that thought needs to head back to the drawing board in everybody's mind after such a lackluster performance on Saturday night. While Benavidez showed outstanding top control and devastating elbow attacks, Torres looked hesitant and gunshy.
Even more perplexing is that Torres fired his camp in preparation for this fight to challenge himself at other top camps across the country. While that should have translated to a better Miguel Torres, it almost seemed as if the former champion was scared to lose. Sure... wading in the path of Benavidez's power doesn't sound like a way to spend a Saturday night, but Torres' offense in the stand-up game was minimal at best.
His guard game was nullified by Benavidez's wrestling, top control, and ability to escape Torres' submission attempts. Some might say that Benavidez's small size was an actual advantage in that particular position, and it could very well have been one of the reason Torres had a tough time grabbing and extending.
What's next: As stating previously, I think a rematch between Miguel Torres and Brian Bowles will be on the horizon once their injuries heal up... but that will be some time as Torres had what looked like an axe-wound on his forehead and Bowles suffered a broken hand.
Nobody can deny that Jens Pulver is one of the classiest individuals in any sport today. He's gracious in defeat for all of the fans who supported him, and following his loss on Saturday night -- he hinted at the possibility that this may be the last time we see him battle in the sport. Smartly however, he left the door open for a possible return as Jens is a legend of the sport who shouldn't have to listen to writers, analysts, or fans tell him when he should leave. He'll leave on his own terms.
As expected, Javier Vazquez's vaunted Brazilian jiu-jitsu ground game was the eventual culprit of Pulver's demise. I picked Jens in the Predictions thread as a nostalgic tribute to one of my favorite fighters, but Vazquez was definitely the bettor's pick here. Pulver has never been outstanding on the ground, and Vazquez has some brilliance on the floor that can only be taken in by viewing his fights. Outstanding performance for a once-retired fighter.
What's next: As Jake Rossen has suggested, Jens should try to move into the commentary business. He hasn't shown ridiculous bias like many other color commentators in past events, and he's actually fairly decent in the landscape of some of the horrible guys out there today. Plus, we'll get to see some more sweater vests.
Vazquez was one loss away from being ousted from the division due to dropping split decisions to L.C. Davis and Deividas Taurosevicius. The TV time certainly helps him, but he needs some more wins to start talking about him as an opponent for upper-echelon talent. Mark Hominick? Maybe a grappling battle with Wagnney Fabiano?
Rest of the Card
I'm not exactly sure what fans expected from L.C. Davis and Deividas Taurosevicius. Both men are very strong fighters in terms of strength, solid wrestlers, and don't have the most capable tools in the stand-up game. Thus, we got exactly what we should have expected. A lot of wrestling, a lot of Taurosevicius looking for top control in order to work his submission game, and L.C. Davis showing a slightly better stand-up game. Interesting scores, but I had L.C. Davis edging Taurosevicius out for the simple fact that Deividas could not put L.C. down and spent lengthy periods of time producing zero offense.
Bart Palaszewski finally flashed his very capable Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills on the ground, something he hasn't been known for in the past. Under Jeff Curran, Palaszewski has shown in training footage that he is a dangerous fighter off his back, but he's never been able to translate that to a plethora of submission victories. Karen Darabedyan showed his accurate striking early, but Bart's chin was able to withstand the blows and vicious ground and pound to give him the opportunity for the armbar victory. Great win for a guy who needed it.
There isn't much to say about Scott Jorgensen vs. Chad George. Jorgensen was obviously the superior fighter, but we really didn't see much of what George had to offer. If Jorgensen can increase the level of his submission game, he could truly become a threat to anyone in the division with such a well-rounded game.
While the Erik Koch vs. Chad Mendes fight was far from exciting, it was a proving ground for the hype surrounding Mendes. Mendes' exceptional NCAA wrestling credential coupled with his brute strength are an interesting combination of talents that many MMA fans are keeping a close eye on, and he showed that he is capable of avoiding submissions and solid ground and pound. Unfortunately for Koch, Mendes simply outworked him throughout the fight with constant takedowns and elbows on the ground. Koch has potential, but he needs a takedown defense... although it's tough to determine if Mendes is just simply that good at bullying through a fighter's defenses. Jury is still out on Mendes, but this is a solid win.
George Roop proved some of the "haters" wrong in his war with Leonard Garcia. Most fans, including myself, felt that Garcia's stand-up game would ultimately end this fight, but Roop was able to takedown and control Garcia a number of times in their battle. Garcia's conditioning was visibly lacking after the first round of action, and if it weren't for a groin strike that gave Roop a point deduction in the third -- Roop beats Garcia 29-28. Unfortunately, Kevin Mulhall thought it was warranted.
Garcia looked bad in this fight, and he needs to improve his takedown defense and perhaps a strategy against taller opponents. Roop looked for takedowns when Garcia was chopping away at his legs, and it may have been smarter to throw the overhand in those exchanges.
Courtney Buck didn't stand a chance against Fredson Paixao's Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess as one single leg takedown and two minutes of rolling put Buck out cold. Anthony Pettis also had a short night as he unleashed a devastating head kick that flattened Danny Castillo. There isn't much Castillo could have done other than landing his own strike in the face of eating a kick, although a landed strike would have put Pettis' kick off course.
And finally, Bendy Casimir's WEC debut didn't go as planned. A brilliant feint knee from Ricardo Lamas set up an opposite knee strike that knocked Casimir out cold in the first round of action. Lamas maintains his standing in the division while it's back to the drawing board for Casimir. Something tells me that the American competition is going to be tough for the European talent.