Starting off the evening on Saturday at UFC 126, former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres (38-3, 6-2 UFC/WEC) will hope to string together two wins and begin a title run as he battles scrappy California-native Antonio Banuelos (18-6, 9-5 UFC/WEC). Torres enters the contest after a solid performance against Charlie Valencia at WEC 51 in September. Torres was able to finally put an end to his two-fight losing streak with a submission finish in the second round. He had previously lost his title to Brian Bowles, and he was derailed in his return from that loss with a defeat at the hands of Joseph Benavidez.
Banuelos has enjoyed long-time success under the WEC's banner, and he'll eye a continuance to that success in his first stint in the UFC. While Banuelos has stayed above the .500 waters, he has never successfully surfaced as a legitimate challenger to the crown. Scott Jorgensen proved to be too much for Banuelos in his most recent loss at WEC 48, but he had previously defeated the WEC bantamweight contender at WEC 41 ten months beforehand.
Banuelos will once again have the opportunity to prove he's one of the elite. While he has put on some impressive performances against future stars of the division, he's always came up short. Saturday night's battle against Miguel Torres is the toughest test of his career, and it isn't looking likely that he'll be able to break through any time soon.
His biggest disadvantage in this bout is the fact that he'll need to work around Torres' immense reach advantage in combination with his well-rounded skill-set. Banuelos is one of the scrappier fighters in the division, using quick footwork and good lateral movement to work his way inside and land blows. His size has always been a problem however, but he makes up for it in his energy inside the cage.
Will that be enough? Probably not. As much as I like the spunk of Banuelos, Torres should be able to land from distance and use the clinch to his advantage throughout this fight. I don't think he'll be able to finish Banuelos as Antonio has proven to tough to crack in the latter part of his career. Torres via decision.