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Miguel Torres, newcomers reign supreme at WEC 37

In the first mixed martial arts fight in U.S. history to feature two fighters of Mexican heritage headlining a televised event, WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Angel Torres successfully defended his title courtesy of a second round TKO over Manny Tapia.

The victory improved Torres’ documented record to 35-1 and his record under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner to 4-0.

Torres, an Indiana native who once trained under the late Carlson Gracie in Chicago, improved to 2-0 while wearing the WEC’s 135 pound title after rocking Tapia multiple times before forcing the referee to call a stop to the bout at 3:04 of round 2.

The loss marked the first of Tapia’s career, with his record falling to 10-1-1. Considered to be one of the larger bantamweight fighters in the WEC, Tapia was still dwarfed by Torres during the fight’s obligatory pre-fight staredown.

During the tension-filled staredown, neither Torres or Tapia extended a hand to one another and the two avoided the customary “hand slap” that precedes the beginning of the first round in most MMA fights. The angst directed by Torres towards Tapia could be in response to Tapia labeling Torres as “overrated” earlier in the week.

Once the fight commenced, Torres’ reach advantage caused matchup problems for Tapia, who could not engage with Torres without being peppered by a strong left jab. The reach disadvantage prompted Tapia to remain out of Torres’ range for the most. When he did attempt to close the distance, Tapia attempted to land a right cross that never reached its intended destination.

Tapia refrained from trying to change the terms of the fight with an attempt to take Torres off his foot, instead opting to steer clear of the black belt’s renowned submission skills.

Torres’ emegerence from a well-respected regional fighter to nationally known fighter that is now recognized as one of the pound-for-pound best in the sport has created a void in the WEC, which now is lacking an obvious number one contender.

Making a case for a future title shot on the undercard was Brian Bowles of the Hardcore Gym in Atlanta, Georgia. Bowles improved to 7-0 following a third round submission over Will Ribeiro, who had entered the fight with an impressive 10-1 record.

In defeat, Ribeiro made a positive impression in his first major televised bout. A former member of the Brazilian Olympic boxing team, Ribeiro showed dynamic striking ability and a willingess to take risks in an attempt to knock Bowles out.

Despite Ribeiro’s striking prowess, Bowles also showed a willingness to stand and trade while displaying effective combination striking. He was eventually able to finish the native Brazilian with a guillotine submission at 1:11 of round 3.

In addition to wins by Torres and Bowles, the 10-bout card that emanated from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas also featured victories by several newcomers to the WEC roster.

Former IFL featherweight champion Wagnney Fabiano engaged in a war of attrition for position while locked in guard against fellow debuting top ten featherweight Akitoshi Tamura. Tamura spent most of the fight on his back and showed limited offensive ability from the position, yet displayed impressive defensive skills. The Japanese fighter was able to limit the amount of damage inflicted by Fabiano, who had achieved full mount at one point.

Tamura was only able to withstand Fabiano’s smothering for so long, as submitted to a arm triangle choke with just 12 seconds remaining in the fight.

Bantamweight Joseph Benavidez, who was coming off a first round submission over Junya Kudo at DREAM 5 in a bout that was nationally televised in Japan, made his WEC debut a successful one after recording a unanimous decision victory over Danny Martinez.

A protege of former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, Benavidez out-classed the rugged Martinez while improving his record to 9-0.

Lightweight Bart Palaszewski, another former refugee of the IFL, TKO’d Alex Karalexis, a veteran from the first season of Spike TV’s “Ultimate Fighter” reality show, at 1:11 of round 2.

The show also featured the debut of former multi-time NCAA amateur wrestling champion Johny Hendricks, who improved to 4-0 following a second round TKO over Justin Haskins in a welterweight encounter.

Mark Munoz, another former NCAA champion, improved to 5-0 with a first round TKO over Ricardo Barros. The victory marked the light heavyweight’s final fight in the WEC, as the promotion is closing its middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Munoz’s next fight will come in the UFC’s Octagon.

Cub Swanson also made a triumphant to the WEC after his last fight for the promotion ended when he submitted to Jens Pulver just 35 seconds into their heated bout at WEC 31. Facing highly-regarded Hiroyuki Takaya, Swanson catapulted himself back towards the top of the featherweight division with a unanimous decision victory.

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