WEC delivered their Las Vegas swansong this past Thursday night and it was once again another outstanding event, especially if you are a member or fan of Team Alpha Male. It was a night filled with almost non-stop action, some extremely slick submissions, a spectacular knockout, one of the best fights of the year, and of course the always-lovely Brittney Palmer. If you’re not excited for UFC 122 and you don’t feel like spending $65 on one fight this weekend, just watch this event instead.
Urijah Faber defeated Takeya Mizugaki by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:50 in Round One
Hitting a glass ceiling named Jose Aldo at featherweight, Urijah Faber dropped to his natural weight class of 135 to prove critics to critics that he’s still one of the best fighters in the world. Welcoming him to the division was hard hitter, former title contender, and tough as nails Takeya Mizugaki. If this was Faber’s quiz before the test or the final exam, he passed with flying colors.
Despite losing 10 pounds, Faber looked like nothing had changed. He was moving quicker than ever, he was still using speed over technique when he came to the strikes, and he looked strong in the clinch. He did a nice job landing the straight right hand while avoiding the counter punches from Mizugaki on the feet and in the clinch he did a good job of landing short elbows. Then Faber did what he does best and that was create a scramble. For my money, Faber is the best scrambler in MMA. He always ends up in a better position and he always takes advantage of that position. In this case he was able to get Mizugaki’s back while on the feet and maintain back control as Mizgaki tried to slam his way out of it. On the ground it was just a matter of time for Faber. With the clock winding down, Faber sunk in the rear naked choke and choked Mizugaki unconscious to pick up his first win at bantamweight.
Mizugaki didn’t do anything wrong in this fight, he just wasn’t on Faber’s level. He hung with Faber on the feet, tried to land big counter punches, stuffed the one real takedown Faber went for, and held his own in the clinch. He just couldn’t hang with Faber in the scramble and he paid for it. Mizgaki is a great test for anyone at bantamweight and there are still plenty of exciting fights for him out there.
Given that he’s the biggest draw heading from WEC to UFC and considering that if anyone deserves the big paydays, it’s Faber, no one should be shocked if this performance earns him a title shot against the winner of Dominick Cruz or Scott Jorgensen. There is already a built in history with Cruz and if Jorgensen is the champion, he’s going to need a strong first opponent and it doesn’t get much stronger than Faber. The other option is to have him face the winner of Miguel Torres vs. Antonio Banuelos in a #1 contenders fight but my guess is that UFC wants Faber fighting for the title as soon as possible so there is no reason to delay and risk that.
Predicted Next Fights: Faber vs. Cruz/Jorgensen winner – Mizugaki vs. Damacio Page
Chad Mendes defeated Javier Vazquez by Unanimous Decision (30-27 across)
Prior to this fight, Javier Vazquez stated that Chad Mendes had, “been spoon fed his undefeated record” and he even went as far to send him a snuggie and some stuffed animals the day of the event. Mendes returned the favor later that night by giving Vazquez a human snuggie and allowing him to cuddle with him as well.
This fight went about how most expected. Mendes got the takedown out will and on top he just grinded things out. Vazquez did a good job in the first round controlling the posture of Mendes with the rubber guard and landing short elbows but even though he was more active on the bottom, he was still on the bottom. The second round was more of the same except that Mendes thought it would be a good idea to try a front flip guard pass that failed but looked awesome. Vazquez slowed down considerably in the third round while Mendes kept up the same pace. In that round Mendes opened up more on top with elbows and punches while Vazquez failed to do anything with the posture of Mendes. The thing that probably shocked most people was how well Mendes did on his feet. While Vazquez looked tentative letting his hands go, Mendes was putting together crisp combinations and landing a very good right hand. Some people thought Vazquez won the first round due to his activity but the end result was still Mendes picking up a comfortable decision.
Vazquez got exactly what he wanted in this fight. Mendes was willing to stand and trade but Vazquez seemed afraid to pull the trigger. Mendes was willing to go to the ground but Vazquez wasn’t as active as he needed to be. While he did a nice job of controlling the posture of Mendes, he never really threatened with submissions or sweeps. When you’re on your back for the better part of 15 minutes, you better be as active as Peyton Manning at the line scrimmage if you hope to win a decision. Vazquez can still be a handful for lesser skilled grapplers but he’s either going to need to improve his striking or be less hesitant on the feet if he hopes to stay in the mix.
This was the best Mendes has ever looked. He seemed very comfortable on his feet, his wrestling was top-notch as you would expect it to be, and he did what he needed to do on the ground. His athleticism and power will keep in a lot of fights and he’s going to continue to improve over time. I don’t know how quick UFC will want to bring him up in the 145 division but if they’re ready to fast track him, he could easily be one fight away from a title shot.
Predicted Next Fights: Mendes vs. Hominick/Roop winner – Vazquez vs. Erik Koch
Erik Koch defeated Francisco Rivera by TKO (Head Kick & Punches) at 1:36 in Round One
It had to be disappointing for Erik Koch when he found out that he went from a potential #1 contenders fight to a fight against an undefeated but unknown Francisco Rivera. Instead of sulking, Koch took his anger and disappointment out on the head of Rivera.
There wasn’t much to this fight. They had a short feeling out process where they each threw a bunch of kicks, mainly targeting the body. Then Koch threw a switch head kick that knocked Rivera down. Upon seeing his fallen opponent, Koch immediately pounced on him and pounded on him with hammerfists until the ref jumped in. It was a spectacular finish that certainly gained Koch some fanfare.
I hope Rivera is given a second chance in the company. He took this fight on short notice, faced a very good opponent who was training hard for what he thought would be a #1 contenders fight, and he didn’t have time to show off his skill level. Let him face a lesser opponent, give him a full training camp, and then assess his future.
Koch did exactly what he needed to do in this fight. He made short work of his opponent and he did it was a highlight reel head kick. While he didn’t prove that he would have been able to hang with Josh Grispi, he did prove that he should be fighting upper-echeloned featherweight fighters.
Predicted Next Fights: Koch vs. Vazquez – Rivera vs. Cole Province
Joseph Benavidez defeated Wagnney Fabiano by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 2:45 in Round Two
When Wagnney Fabiano was signed by WEC, expectations were high. Despite turning in a 4-1 WEC record, Fabiano was also turning in lackluster performances. He was given a chance to shine against former title contender Joseph Benavidez, fresh off a 25-minute war and taking the fight on short notice. When he needed the best performance of his career, Fabiano turned in the most disappointing.
It was clear that Benavidez wanted to keep things on the feet early. He knew he had a striking advantage over Fabiano and he looked to put his skills on display. If you’ve seen Benavidez fight then you know that all he does is move forward while throwing multiple strikes. Fabiano did a nice job covering up and avoiding any clean punches but Benavidez’ activity and aggressiveness was easily enough to give him the round. The second round was more of the same until Benavidez knocked Fabiano down with a leg kick sweep. Benavidez proceeded to follow Fabiano to the ground and tried for a guillotine choke not once, not twice, but three times. The third time was the charm for Benavidez as he tapped out the jiu-jitsu black belt and proved that he’s still one of the best bantamweights in the world.
It wouldn’t shock me if Fabiano is released following this performance but I’m a big believer in not releasing fighters who fight on the main card. My feeling is that if you’re good enough to be on the main card but lose then you should go to the prelims and if you lose on the prelims, then you can be released. Even if Fabiano finds himself still employed this time next week, he has a lot of work to do if he ever wants to be considered one of the top fighters in his weight class again.
Benavidez just continues to chug along. He’s still undersized for bantamweight but his speed, skill, and scrapiness more than make up for that. He might be in the Rich Franklin role for the time being where he’s just not quite good enough to beat the champion but I’d be shocked if Dominick Cruz dominates the bantamweight division like Anderson Silva has done with the middleweight division and as long as his friend and training partner Urijah Faber isn’t champion, expect to see Benavidez fighting for the title again.
Predicted Next Fights: Benavidez vs. Brian Bowles – Fabiano vs. Charlie Valencia
Demetrious Johnson defeated Damacio Page by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 2:27 in Round Three
It had been a long time since Damacio Page had stepped foot inside the cage but Demetrious Johnson, who just fought a little over a month ago, had no sympathy for him.
Page got off to a very quick start. He came out throwing bombs like we’ve come to expect from him, he landed some beautiful throws in the clinch, and he really kept the pressure up on Johnson. Then in the second round Page started to considerably slow down, which wasn’t helped by the fact that he took a 50-year field kick right to the groin early in the round. From that point on the fight swung in Johnson’s favor. He landed some good strikes, including a couple of clean head kicks, and managed to put Page on his back at will. In the third round Johnson came out firing. He rocked Page early and then put him down with a head kick that Page happened to duck right into. As Page tried to scramble up to his feet, Johnson caught him in a guillotine and Page was forced to tap out. It was a great comeback victory for Johnson, who looked like he was going to be just another victim for the “Angel of Death” early.
I don’t hold this performance against Page. He was coming off a Mir Layoff, his cardio suffered, and he took a nasty groin shot. He still has the power to bang it out with any fighter in the division. Expect to see a much better Page in his next fight now that he’s gotten rid of the ring rust.
While Johnson is still undersized for the division, he showed that he has the skills to hang despite his size disadvantage. Like Joseph Benavidez, Johnson’s speed gives him an advantage in his fights. He’s still better suited for the flyweight division but until UFC adopts that division, which could happen around the same time that Fabricio Werdum finally gets his UFC heavyweight title shot, he’s going to stay at bantamweight.
Predicted Next Fights: Johnson vs. Michael McDonald – Page vs. Takeya Mizugaki
PHOTO CREDIT – WEC