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WEC 35: Tonight’s Television Preview

The past four weeks have been insane when it comes to all of the shows we’ve seen in MMA. It seems like with each passing week the audience becomes a little more burned out. As much as I love the WEC, at some point you need a break.

That being said, tonight’s card on VERSUS (9 p.m. ET, check local listings for channel listing) is too good to miss with three title fights scheduled.

I actually intended to get this preview out earlier but there has just been too much going on. Without further delay, here is a television preview of tonight’s show from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Carlos Condit vs. Hiromitsu Miura for Condit’s WEC welterweight title - Condit is one of the most underrated fighters in the game right now and has one of the most intense game faces you’ll ever see in the sport. Nicknamed the “Natural Born Killer,” Condit truly has the look of a killer on his face while entering the cage. There’s mean muggin’ before a fight, and then there is a stare of death. Condit has the latter as opposed to the former.

Undefeated in the WEC at 4-0, there’s not a welterweight fighter currently on the roster that can hang with him, and that includes Muira, who is making the move down from middleweight. Upon entering the WEC, Condit was known primarily as a submission specialist. All four of his wins in the WEC have come via submission but his striking has made major improvements and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him test it tonight vs. Miura.

After losing his WEC debut to Jason “Mayhem” Miller in May of 2007, Miura has gone 2-0 with wins over Blas Avena and Fernando Gonzalez. I guess Miura is as deserving of anyone on the WEC roster of this title shot, but I still don’t expect for him to really be able to challenge Condit for very long.

Miura has the better hands, but Condit is the more versatile striker of the two and on the ground, there’s no contest.

Prediction: Condit via first round submission.

Jamie Varner vs. Marcus Hicks for Varner’s WEC lightweight title - Before coming to the WEC, Varner produced a 1-1 record in the UFC and is clearly capable of competing in the UFC lightweight division.

However, 155 lbs. is pretty stacked in the UFC so it makes more sense for him to compete in the WEC, where he can be a big fish in a small pond. That being said, he will eventually force a move back to the UFC because he is simply head and shoulders above his competition right now.

Varner trains out of Arizona Combat Sports, which is where fighters such as C.B. Dollaway, Matt Riddle, Steve and Ray Steinbeiss, Ryan Bader, and many up-and-coming MMA prospects train out of. Strong on the ground, Varner displayed improved boxing skills when he won the lightweight title from “Razor” Rob McCullough at WEC 32 this past February.

His opponent, 8-0 Marcus Hicks earned a shot at the title by improving his WEC record to 3-0 with a win over Ed Ratcliff at WEC 33 this past March. Hicks needed just 1:42 of round 1 to submit Ratliff with a guillotine choke but do not look for him to pull off any submissions in this one as Ratliff is primarily a standup fighter. Against Varner, he will be fighting a much more well-rounded competitor.

Hicks is a more accomplished boxer than Varner but could run into problems because of a reach disadvantage. Hicks is nicknamed the “Wrecking Ball” because at 5’6” and a walk-around weight of close to 170 pounds, he resembles one. He possesses tremendous power and is a good athlete, but he simply doesn’t have the well-rounded skills and experience needed to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Varner via fourth round submission.

Brian Stann vs. Steve Cantwell for Stann’s WEC light heavyweight title – The fact that we’re seeing this rematch so soon after Stann dominated their first meeting last year is a result of a lack of depth in the WEC’s light heavyweight division. Very little has been done in recent months to address the issue, which gives credence to a lot of rumblings going around that the WEC’s middleweight and light heavyweight divisions will be folded and transferred to its sibling-promotion, the UFC.

When will the transfer of the 205’ers take place? Probably not until Stann is deemed ready, and right now, he’s not. He’s a tremendously marketable commodity and but Zuffa will be making a mistake if it moves him into the UFC’s stacked light heavyweight division too soon.

A retired Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps., Stann was awarded the Silver Star after displaying outstanding leadership during a tour in Iraq on a rescue mission in which unit came under fire.

As you can see, Stann’s backstory is tremendous but as a fighter, he’s still very green. Once he got back from Iraq, he immediately turned pro and competed for Matt Lindland’s Sportfight promotion in Oregon as opposed to fighting amateur shows or smaller regional pro shows. He got the call to the WEC after only a few fights, which says a lot because matchmaker Scott Adams normally prefers fighters to have at least 5-6 fights under their belts before being recruited by the promotion.

It’s important to remember that Stann only has six fights under his belt and still has plenty of room to grow. He’s a tremendous puncher and is extremely tough but his overall striking and his ground game still are unproven. The reality is that he’s learning on the job and doing so while a 205 lbs. champion of one of the biggest fight promotions in the world.

Look for Stann to make major strides in those areas over time now that he’s training full-time. Up until earlier this year, Stann was only a part-time fighter due to his military committments. Since moving to Atlanta, he still works a full-time job but his hours are flexible enough that he’s putting in full-time hours at Rory and Adam Singer’s Harcore Gym in Atlanta.

Since losing to Stann, Cantwell has looked much improved, especially after his most recent win over Tim McKenzie. However, Stann was too much the first time and will prove to be too much again tonight.

Prediction: Stann via first round KO.

Brian Bowles vs. Damacio Page - Page trains out of Greg Jackson’s and is a solid wrestler. He improved his record to 10-3 following a controversial unanimous decision victory at WEC 32 back in February over former ShoXC fighter Scott Jorgenson, a fight that he took on short notice.

Bowles trains with Brian Stann out of Rory and Adam Singer’s Hardcore Gym in Atlanta and is 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the WEC. Both of his WEC wins have come against strong opposition in the ever-tough Charlie Valencia and ground specialist Marcos Galvao.

This bout could compete for “Fight of the Night,” which is saying a lot when you’re talking about a WEC card. More importantly, the winner could move to the front of the line in regard to the next title shot against current bantamweight champion Miguel Torres.

Prediction: Bowles via unanimous decision.

Micah Miller vs. Josh Grispi - Grispi is extremely young but made it into the WEC based on a strong recommendation from Alex Karalexis. A strong prospect with a lot of upside, Grispi was successful in his WEC debut when he submitted veteran Mark Hominick at 2:55 of round 1 during WEC 32 this past February. But tonight, the New England-based fighter is going to have his hands full with Micah Miller.

Miller, the brother of UFC fighter Cole Miller, could be an eventual challenger to Urijah Faber. Training out of American Top Team and boasting an overall MMA record of 9-1, Miller has the tools needed to make it to the top.

While his standup needs to improve, Miller is a whiz on the ground, which is where I see this fight eventually going. Once it does hit the mat, the advantage goes to Miller.

Prediction: Miller via second round submission.

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