Two years ago, Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber were the hottest things going for the WEC. The first, and to this point only, breakout stars from the UFC's little brother graced magazine covers and raked in the sponsorship bucks. From a marketing standpoint they were brilliant. Inside the cage it was a different story.
Faber fell to Mike Brown and Jose Aldo, while Torres has lost two in a row after stringing together an incredible 17 fight win streak from 2003-2009. For Torres fans, it wasn't the simple fact that he lost a fight that was disheartening - it was the manner of those losses. After being blasted by Brian Bowles at WEC 42, Torres seemed sluggish and disinterested at WEC 47. On the same night Bowles lost Torres' bantamweight title to Dominic Cruz, Torres himself wasn't able to muster much of an effort against Joseph Benavidez. Covered in his own blood after an elbow opened an enormous cut, Torres looked dejected, like a broken man.
Can a fighter reinvent himself in five months? We'll find out tomorrow, because Torres told WEC.TV that he's coming into his fight with Charles Valencia with a whole new strategy. He's found a home for the first time since the death of his mentor Carlson Gracie in 2006 and is training with Georges St. Pierre's head trainer Firas Zahabi:
"The big difference is that I fought Benavidez wrong and tried a different game plan and a style that wasn’t me," Torres said. "This fight I’m going to push forward, bring pressure and I’m going to come at him with everything. I’m working on being able to come forward and not get taken down. My aggressive style will be there without being taken down.
"Before I was just using wrestling and trying to get by. Now I’m actually taking guys down and I’ve incorporated wrestling into my game. You can’t look past wrestling and hope to get by with your jiu-jitsu or boxing anymore."
On paper, Valencia is a similar fighter to Benavidez and Bowles. A dynamic wrestler, the 5'3" Valencia will try to get inside on the 5'9" Torres and take him down. It could be a comical visual, as the giant mulleted Torres towers over the tiny Valencia, but Torres doesn't see anything funny about this fight.
"Charlie is tough and he’s been around a long time like me so I can’t underestimate him," said Torres. "But I match up well with him in all areas of the game. I’m looking to make a statement with this fight and I have to show everybody that I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m still here and I’m dangerous. I’m not looking to just beat Charlie; I want to put him out."