For anyone who has not warmed to the WEC shows yet, be it due to only following the UFC or not liking the lighter weight classes, do yourself a favor and get hold of these fights. Like a low flying missile, Sunday night’s WEC 38 show seems to have somehow managed to evade the MMA radar, despite packing an equally explosive payload.
In the first of the main card bouts, the phenomenally fast and powerful Jose Aldo made short work of the very solid and technically sound debutant Rolando Perez. The first round began with neither fighter wasting any time finding their rhythm. Aldo would continually charge forward, swinging one or two punches punctuated with the thud of a brutally hard leg kick. Perez would respond with some crisp hand combinations and the occasional kick. Both competitors looked extremely well drilled and did a good job of avoiding damage until near the end of the round, when Aldo was able to time his foe’s advance to perfection and land him with a perfect knee, sitting him to the canvas. Aldo would follow him to the ground and quickly force a referee stoppage. Perez can be proud of his first effort, and it looks like we have yet another future contender for the featherweight crown in Nova Uniao’s Aldo.
Danillo Villefort is one of a rare breed of fighters who can chain submission attempts together for an entire fight. There won’t be too many fighters who don’t get snagged in his web eventually, be it rubber guard attacks, leg locks or back control. Credit to Mike Campbell, he did well to wriggle out of every catch until his tricky opponent took his back, flattened him out and threw punches until the referee stepped in. With a drought of viable opponents for division kingpin Carlos Condit, maybe Villefort fits the bill.
Urijah Faber proved you can’t keep a good man down, as he blasted out Jens Pulver in just 1:34 of the first round of their rematch. The California Kid showed, as always, that he was happy to be the aggressor wherever the fight went. Faber pushed forward swinging for the fences with the reckless abandon which has been his making and, recently, his downfall. Faber must have more fast twitch fibres in his muscles than a lemur, and Pulver’s task of timing his advances onto a counter punch was an impossible one. Faber cleverly sneaked one of his lead left hooks flush onto Pulver’s liver, visibly hurting him and causing him to back up. No quarter was given by Faber as he charged with a barrage of punches, forcing Pulver to seek refuge in the kneeling position. From there Faber wasted no time, securing a modified guillotine (as if Pulver wasn’t struggling to breathe enough) and a shot at getting his title back. The prospect of Faber fighting champ Mike Brown or immediate challenger Leonard Garcia positively makes the mouth water. It’s hard to say where Jens Pulver fits in right now. Maybe, if he continues to round out his skills, he could be somewhere in the title mix within another year.
Jamie Varner vindicated his position as headliner with a controversial victory in a scintillating scrap with number one contender, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. Varner landed the cleaner strikes, landing primarily with his overhand right as he would charge Cerrone. Varner clearly had the superior boxing, as he does in most fights, but his transitions from boxing to a takedown are what made the marked difference between the two. Cerrone scored well with his left high kicks, keeping the champ at bay by finding a home for them on his blocking fore-arm. When Varner was able to wrestle his lankier opponent to the ground, Cerrone’s guard looked extremely dangerous, especially at the end of the second round, when he locked on a triangle just as the bell rung. For the most part Varner was able to evade the attacks, pass and land heavy punches and elbows to his teak tough opponent. Cerrone repeatedly showed a remarkable ability to get to his feet given a glimpse of a chance.
As the battle raged into its fourth round Varner appeared to be running out of ideas for how to halt the advances of his rallying adversary. Meanwhile, the momentum seemed to be swinging the way of Cerrone, as, swollen eyed, he marched onto everything the champ had to give and kept giving himself. Then disaster struck, as, during a scramble to get to the feet, Cerrone delivered an illegal left knee to the face of a downed Jamie Varner. Varner stated he was unable to continue as he could not see properly, attracting a chorus of boos from the crowd. He has since confessed that he also had a broken foot and right hand. If there was a crowd member out there who could fight Donald Cerrone seeing double with a broken right hand and foot, I’d love to hear from you.
As the blow was deemed unintentional and three rounds had been fought, the bout went to the judges and was scored a split decision in Varner’s favor. No doubt there will be an immediate rematch, but for me both of these guys have proven they are too good for the WEC and easily good enough for the UFC. I may be poking a bee-hive here, but, given Varner’s skill set of great boxing and wrestling, I believe he could give BJ Penn as good a fight as about anyone at lightweight. Anyway, as I retire to my flame proof bunker I’ll just conclude that the WEC delivers outstanding entertainment every time, and I look forward to future offerings.