I know I’ve already written about the underwhelming feeling I usually get from watching the WEC on Versus, but even I’m willing to admit that last night’s event was a major breakthrough for them. It featured three titles on the line, one long-simmering grudge match, and at least one back-and-forth battle that was exciting despite the fact that I’d never heard of either of the combatants.
That’s not to say that the WEC still doesn’t have some issues. While I understand the need for them to perform in small venues (as in, so small that the walk from the dressing room to the ring seems to be about eight steps) and model their organization on TV revenue and not live gate numbers, I’m still annoyed that they have to cut to commercial after the fight ends, then come back to announce the “official decision”, even when the fight ended definitively in a TKO or submission, then go back to commercial before the next fight. Yes, that’s all part of broadcasting on live free TV, but it’s still aggravating.
Also, am I the only one who thinks Frank Mir is a little too unpolished as an announcer? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. He seems knowledgeable and fair. He also seems a little bit too much like a Will Ferrell character at times.
But enough complaining.
The card was a strong one last night, and in one of the more bizarre endings of the night Paulo Filho retained his middleweight championship belt after some early scares from Chael Sonnen. Sonnen out-struck Filho in the early going and put him down with ease, almost finishing him in the first. But in the second round it seemed as if Sonnen got a little careless in Filho’s guard, which is usually a mistake when you’re fighting a jiu-jitsu black belt.
Filho locked on the arm bar and Sonnen, while obviously in pain, appeared not to have tapped when the referee stepped in to stop the bout. He even claimed that he told the referee he was not submitting, but the fight was stopped anyway with only five seconds left in the round.
That has to be a hard one for Sonnen to accept. He had the fight under control and just made one little mistake that Filho capitalized on. To his credit, he didn’t complain too much about the stoppage. It didn’t look like he was getting out of that armbar and with five seconds to go he might well have had his elbow bent back if he tried waiting it out. Still, to be that close to winning a title and let it slip away has to be frustrating.
In another title fight, Doug “The Rhino” Marshall defended his light heavyweight belt against Ariel Gandulla, winning by armbar submission just under a minute into the fight. First of all, Ariel is a girl’s name. Second, why does Marshall have a giant Iron Cross tattoo on his chest? Is he some kind of neo-Nazi, or did he just see it on a skateboard and think it was cool? The plethora of other tattoos he has make me think the former, and while we could argue all day long about the connotations of the Iron Cross in the modern world, it’s still weird. Just like it was weird when, after winning the fight, Marshall leapt out of the cage and began high-fiving people at ringside.
The grudge match that the WEC hyped between Jens Pulver and Cub Swanson turned out to be anti-climactic, as Pulver choked him into submission inside of thirty seconds and nary a punch was thrown. So much for Swanson’s big talk about how Pulver was afraid of him.
Urijah Faber survived early trouble against Jeff Curran to retain his featherweight title with a second-round submission due to a guillotine choke. Faber is looking more and more like the real deal at 145 lbs, or, as the WEC announcer who is not Frank Mir claimed last night, “Faber is a devastator and an innovator.” Yeah.
Now it looks as though Faber and Pulver will face off next, and that should be an interesting style contrast but I still have to give the edge to Faber. It makes me wonder whether the Zuffa-owned WEC will ever make a play for some of the great 145-ers currently languishing in the Asian market, or whether they’re content to keep the mini Beach Boy-esque Faber as their champ as long as there is still fresh meat to throw at him every once in a while.
Good show for the WEC, as a whole. Some great action and enough fights to keep my interest on a Wednesday night. After this event and the TUF Finale before it, though, is there a single MMA fan in America who doesn’t know about the new Rambo movie? Just saying, the ad blitz is pretty intense. Let the bodies hit the floor. Stallone is Rambo.