There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the WEC putting on incredible shows. WEC 49 was no different. I wasn't as familiar with all the fighters as I normally am, especially since the promotion had loaded up the WEC 48 pay per view event with some of their top talent. Despite that, I was not surprised one bit when I was met with spectacular comebacks, beautiful submissions and some devastating knockouts. WEC 49 gets my vote for card of the year (thus far) as the first half of 2010 comes to and end.It all started with a fantastic brawl between Eddie Wineland and Will Campuzano. Both fighters brought it in a back and forth first round but it was the 2nd that had all the big highlights. Wineland rocked Campuzano with some big punches to the head and I thought the fight was over when Campuzano dropped against the cage. Shockingly, Campuzano somehow survived the onslaught and stood back up, throwing several wild strikes in the former bantamweight champ's direction. Then, Wineland landed one of the nastiest body shots that I have seen in recent memory, a right hook to the sternum that floored Campuzano. After one more shot to the head for good measure, the ref stepped in and stopped the fight.
It was a great performance for Wineland, who despite being the WEC's first bantamweight champion, is still only 25 years old. He proved he can still make waves in the division after now his 3rd straight victory in the WEC, which should get him into the contender mix.
Chris Horodecki defeated Danny Downes via third round submission in one of the least surprising outcomes of the night. Downes was a late replacement for Ed Ratcliff who pulled out about 5 days before the event. Downes stayed composed, but was pretty much a punching bag for Horodecki, who was by far the superior fighter. Despite being a game opponent and continuing to throw hard strikes as the third round started, "The Polish Hammer" took Downes down and put him out of his misery via rear naked choke to gain his first WEC win.
In a fight with featherwight title implications, Josh Grispi pulled off one of the biggest victories of his career over rising contenderLC Davis. After a relatively even standup exchange, Davis shot in and took Grispi down with authority. Davis may have been a little too focused on slamming his opponent down though because he left his neck exposed and Grispi latched on a deep guillotine choke. After a few seconds, Davis went limp and the referee stopped the fight for a technical submission victory.
This was a huge win for Grispi, who hadn't fought in over a year after having surgery to repair a lingering ankle injury. He should be right in the mix for that number one contender spot at featherweight along with Manny Gamburyan.
In what ended up winning the fight of the night award, Canadian featherweights Mark Hominick and Yves Jabouin put on a helluva show for the fans. Jabouin started strong with a fantastic first round that saw him being extremely active and aggressive with quick punches, spinning backfists and a continuous flurry of kicks from all kinds of angles. Hominick weathered the storm and despite being hit cleanly several times, appeared to be landing the harder shots when he had room to throw them. Kenny Florian's commentary may have had you thinking Jabouin (his training partner) was dominating that round, but it was pretty close while I still had Jabouin taking it 10-9.
In the 2nd, Hominick started turning it on, walking through a nasty spinning back elbow and landing a huge liver punch that hurt Jabouin and sent him to the floor along the cage. Just as I thought they might stop the fight, Jabouin showed off his tremendous heart by not only standing up but throwing a HUGE combination that rocked Hominick and sent him to the canvas. When that shot landed I leaped out of my seat and yelled loud enough to be scolded by a friend. Jabouin followed Hominick to the canvas, jumping into his guard, but by now Hominick had recovered. After fending off a few punches, he swept Jabouin with a very aggressive transition from full guard into the dominant mount position. After posturing up and pounding away, the ref put a stop to the fight to give Hominick his 3rd WEC victory in a row.
This was just a fantastic fight to watch, and I'll say it again. It's hard not to find a fight of the year candidate when the WEC puts on a show. We all saw it with the Zombie/Garcia fight and hell, even the sloppy Garcia/Roop fight at WEC 47. This was yet another high caliber performance by two men who left it all in the cage. Hominick also put himself in the mix of top contenders in the featherweight division. I think Gamburyan will get the next title shot, and I wouldn't dismiss Hominick trying to avenge a 2008 loss to Josh Grispi for the next featherweight contender. Hominick also asked for a match with Leonard Garcia in his postfight interview and just the thought of that fight gives me goosebumps.
The main event bout, a potential number one contender match in the lightweight division between the Iranian Kamal Shalorusand former champ Jamie Varner was marred by illegal strikes, but it was still an entertaining match. Varner started strong, darting in and out landing some solid combinations in the first round with his surperior boxing that were frustrating Shalorus. It was expected that Shalorus, a decorated international wrestler with Olympic experience would take Varner down and frustrate him with his powerful ground attack, but he stood in the pocket and tried to keep up with Varner strike for strike in the first two rounds.
Varner was easily getting the better of the punching exchanges, but Shalorus appeared to be wearing him down with some very hard leg and body kicks. His only problem was that his inside leg kick time and time again was hitting Varner in the groin. After the 2nd strike where the sun don't shine in the second round, referee Josh Rosenthal deducted a point from Shalorus. On my scorecard, Varner had clearly won the first round, and the second round was very close, but Varner landed the biggest strike of the fight when he appeared to rock Shalorusnear the end of the round.
In the third, Shalorus again kicked Varner with an illegal blow, this one appearing to be the worst yet, but surprisingly, Rosenthal did not deduct a point. After using up nearly all 5 of his allowed minutes, a visibly frustrated Varner moved a little too aggressively and Shalorus finally took him down. Shalorus kept Varner on his back for most of the 3rd to win the round pretty easily, but I thought it was too little too late.
Best case for "The Prince of Persia" was that he won the final two rounds, which would result in a 28-28 draw due to the point deduction, and it was likely that some would see it as a 29-27 decision for Varner. When the scores were announced, one judge had it 28-28, one 29-27 for Varner and shockingly, one had it 29-27 for Shalorus to make it a split draw. How that last judge gave the first round to Shalorus I will never know, but a draw wasn't out of the question considering how close the 2nd round was.
The outcome though, puts the lightweight division in a bit of a bind. The winner of this fight was expected to receive a title shot against current champ Ben Henderson. Now that may be put on hold while we wait for the winner of the Anthony Pettis / Shane Roller fight at WEC 50 in mid-August. Varner and Shalorus also both appeared to have suffered broken hands in their fight which will likely prevent a rematch from taking place for a considerable time.
Regardless, we were reminded yet again to never sleep on a WEC event, no matter how little Zuffa markets their shows. These little energizer bunnies keep going and going, never disappointing their viewers.