WEC 32 2/13/08 Albuquerque, NM Santa Ana Star Center
Manny Tapia vs. Antonio Banuelos 3R. Very close fight between evenly matched competitors. Tapia is the better boxer with much more punching power, but Banuelos is very light on his feet. Not only does Banuelos make himself difficult to hit by being so active, his strategy of sporadic explosive attacks allows him to move away until he’s ready to fire back or shoot. Banuelos is a more diverse striker, throwing high kicks and spinning blows, but Tapia won standup with several solid punches that bloodied Banuelos’ nose. Banuelos is the better wrestler, but Tapia’s sprawl is strong. The two times Banuelos did manage to take him down Tapia would immediately control his wrists and work toward getting back to his feet. Banuelos’ strength is ground and pound, but Tapia would be standing up again before Banuelos could even get started. Though Tapia’s ground and pound was unimpressive to the point Banuelos would give his back without fear, at least he got to show it. Tapia was kind of an odd ground fighter in that he wasn’t all that aggressive when he had a dominant position, but would pull out a submission when they were scrambling or Banuelos was in control. The first round was the best with quick position changes on the ground. Though the fighters largely negated each other, they are extremely quick and explosive with good stamina, so even though little succeeded it was never boring. The fight was so close it was initially ruled a draw. I was wondering how one judge scored it 28-28 considering neither were docked a point, but a few minutes later they figured out one round he scored for Tapia wasn’t accounted for, shifting the bout to a majority decision in his favor. Good match.
WEC Bantomweight Championship: Chase Beebe vs. Miguel Torres R1 3:59. Torres landed a high knee, but was taken down, a tradeoff he’ll gladly make given his jiu jitsu prowess. Torres quickly got back to his feet after stunning Beebe with an upkick, so Beebe took him right back down and was landing some heavy elbows. However, Torres reversed with omoplata and went into the anaconda choke. Beebe was defending well enough, so Torres switched to a guillotine with a lot of reverse pressure from his body pushing against the neck for the win.
Leonard Garcia vs. Hiroyuki Takaya R1 1:31. Takaya came out cautious and never got started. Garcia landed an overhand right and stiff roundhouse kick. He then missed a left straight but knocked Takaya down with the subsequent right cross. Takaya made the mistake of trying to get back up when Garcia was standing over him bringing leather, getting himself caught sitting on his butt where he couldn’t defend himself. Garcia wailed him with a few big right hands for the stoppage.
WEC Lightweight Championship: Rob McCullough vs. Jamie Varner R3 2:54. Good standup war. McCullough is basically a great standup fighter with enough takedown defense to keep it in his domain. Varner went all out for the takedown early in R1, as his wrestling and jiu jitsu would allow him to dominate the ground, but McCullough repeatedly stood back up. Varner was outboxing McCullough to set up these takedown attempts, which surprised just about everyone other than him even though he was a collegiate champion. In fact, Varner showed some of the most professional looking boxing we’ve seen in MMA, incorporating every type of punch into combinations that work the body as well as the head. He’d quickly identify McCullough’s punch and counter around it while avoiding. Though Varner couldn’t make his ground game good, he quickly realized that was okay as in the end, McCullough’s only notable advantage was kicking. Even though Varner showed little defense, McCullough only ripped a few kicks per round as he didn’t want to risk the takedown. Though he was losing in his own realm, McCullough still almost knocked Varner out. Just as Varner was at his most confident at the start of R3, seemingly declaring he wasn’t even going to bother trying for the takedown anymore as he was content to beat the champ in standup, McCullough knocked his mouthpiece out with a right hook and followed with a few more good rights. The loss of the mouthpiece proved to be very beneficial, as after McCullough stuffed Varner’s desperation shot they paused to reapply it. Varner not only came back after the brief reprieve, he fought his best after being hurt. He began mixing his strikes up a lot more, connecting with an overhand right, a tough left body hook and a stiff knee. Varner knocked McCullough down with a right straight and tried to flurry, but McCullough tried to shoot. Varner sprawled and used a knee to back McCullough into striking distance, cracking him with another big right hand for the stoppage. Good match.
WEC Welterweight Championship: Carlos Condit vs. Carlo Prater R1 3:48. Champion Condit, 21-4, was looking to avenge the first loss of his career, as Prater took him out with a guillotine choke back in 2004. Prater threw Condit down impressively with essentially a pro wrestling belly to belly suplex, but Condit is so active on the bottom Prater was always forced to defend. Condit was elbowing Prater in the head when he had distance, and tried a Kimura, guillotine choke, and triangle choke before taking Prater out with a second guillotine.