Torres still champ
Report by Jose E. Santiago
Photos by Joe Cordova
In front of 5,257 fight fans at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, local superstar Miguel Angel Torres defended his WEC bantamweight title against Takeya Mizugaki, who pushed the champ through five tough and rugged rounds.
In the opening round Mizugaki surprised Torres and the crowd by standing toe-to-toe with Torres and holding his own in the cage as the two exchange vicious blows. Torres appeared to be a little tentative after experiencing a few solid shots from the challenger. At the 2:20 mark Torres landed a kick to the head of Mizugaki, but Mizugaki responded fine and let off a few solid combinations of his own to the head of Torres. Torres appeared to struggle with getting his rhythm and getting into the flow of the fight. With close to ten seconds left in the round Torres attempted to take Mizugaki to the ground but Mizugaki avoided the takedown nicely.
Two judges scored the round for Torres and one, for Mizugaki.
The second round started very similar to the first. Both fighters trading in the center of the cage, but Mizugaki was getting the better during the exchanges, with Torres taking the first step back. Toward the middle of the round, Torres started to find his ranged and peppered Mizugaki with lead jabs and a left hook at 1:47. Realizing that Mizugaki was landing more shots in the round, Torres pressed the action in the final 1:30 as he pressed Mizugaki against the cage and successfully landed knees, shoulders and a few toe stomps. The late surge was enough to win the round for Torres. All three judges scored it for Torres
In the third, both fighters were, once again, trading bombs as they took turns stalking one another. With 3:20 remaining in the round yet another exchange of a barrage of punches resulted in a cut over Torres’ right eye. Blood spewed immediately affecting his vision and after a few more exchanges, referee Marc Wasem stepped in and called in the doctors to evaluate the cut. While the doctors examined the eye you could practically hear a pin drop in the venue as the hometowners braced for the possibility of a stoppage. The officials allowed the fight to continue and the crowd let out a loud roar in appreciation. When they continued, Mizugaki still outlanded Torres during the exchanges. All three judges gave round three to the Japanese born Mizugaki.
In the fourth round Torres pressed the action, realizing that the fight could be close and the cut could have negative implications. He attempted to take Mizugaki down, but Mizugaki wanted nothing to do with it and avoided the ground yet again. After a hard right to the solar plexus, Mizugaki appeared to be hurt and winded for the first time in the fight allowing Torres to come in and press him against the cage for a barrage of punches, and knees. With 40 seconds left in the round Torres put his staple on it by landing a hard right hand that briefly wobbled the challenger. All three judges scored the fourth for Torres
Going into the final round, somewhere Torres had never been, the champ pressed his tiring opponent. Fifty seconds into the round, Torres landed a four-punch combination. Mizugaki, showing the wear and tear of the brutal match, was trying to land one knockout blow at a time to which Torres avoided most and countered well. As in the previous rounds Torres pressed Mizugaki against the cage and outworked him with shots ranging from punches and knees, to shoulders and toe stomps. With about 15 seconds left in the round, both combatants threw technique by the wayside, and simply slugged it out, much to he appreciation of the crowd as they screamed and yelled on their feet.
All three judges scored the final round for Torres, tallying a final score of 49-46 twice and 48-47 all for Torres.
Benevidez tops Curran
In the highly anticipated co-main, Jeff Curran moved down to 135 looking to hand Joseph Benevidez his first loss and line himself up for a possible shot at the champ, Miguel Angel Torres. If he was looking past Benevidez, it may have cost him the fight.
In the first round both fighters were throwing hard fast shots. After both fighters showed equivalent success Benevidez struck first with a right hand at the 1:30 mark that dropped Curran on his back. Curran recovered well and held on while he gathered his senses.
A Superman punch thrown by Curran at the 3:45 mark that missed, allowed Benevidez to have control as Curran looked to get back on his feet. Curran did so successfully, but Benevidez remained in control as he appeared to be too strong and fast for Curran. Curran did land a sweeping kick to the face of Benevidez while on his back, but it was not enough to win the round.
In the third, both fighters were looking to trade with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the round. After a few trading blows Benevidez was able to score a takedown. At the two-minute mark Curran returned the favor, but like in the previous two rounds Benevidez nullified everything Curran had to offer and simply dominated his opponent. The bout was exciting due to the hometown favorite, but it was Benevidez who came out on top 29-28, 30-27 twice.
Henderson strikes down Roller
Forty seconds into the fight, Shane Roller landed a nice right hand that dropped Ben Henderson to his seat. After unsuccessfully attempting to end it with a choke, Roller allowed Henderson to escape and get the fight back on his feat. After an exchange where both fighters were attempting to connect a hard blow, Henderson struck first with a right that hurt Roller. Henderson immediately jumped on his opponent and ended it at of the 1:41 mark of the first round.
Assuncao successful in WEC debut
Atlanta resident, Brazilian-born Raphael Assuncao was looking to make a splash in the WEC, taking on Kenosha Wis. native Jameel Massouh.
After getting dropped with a flash left in the first minute, Assuncao returned the favor landing an overhand right 2 minutes later. After nicely executing two minutes of ground-and-pound by Assuncao, Messouh made it back to his feet. Assuncao scored a successful one-two combinations that dropped Massouh again with a about 45 seconds left in the round.
In the second round, Assuncao landed another right hand ten seconds into in. Massouh, however, took it well. Assuncao continued to land wide shots to the head. At the three minute mark they went to the ground where Assuncao had the advantage and position with and attempted a guillotine. Once they made it back to their feet Assuncao appeared to be tiring as he peddled backwards looking to take a breather to close out the round.
In the third and final round both fighters appeared to wearing down, Assuncao however controlled the action as he scored a take down two minutes in. Massouh did reverse the ground game for about 30 seconds, but Assuncao was just too much for him on the ground. The fight was evenly matched but Assuncao was able to just do more. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Assuncao.
Njokuani victorious over Pala
In a fight showcasing hometown hero Bart Palaszewski, Anthony Njokuani scored an impressive victory much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd. In the first round Njokuani used his reach advantage to keep Palaszewski at bay and landed a picture perfect right that dropped Palaszewski to his knees. Bart was able to recover and hold off the onslaught long enough to survive the round.
Finding his niche Njokuani stuck to what worked in the first round. Twenty seconds into the round he landed another crushing right hand that dropped Palaszewski again. Unlike the first round, Palaszewski was not able to recover and covered up on his back under the attack from Njokuani. The referee stepped in and stopped the action at :27 into the 2nd round.
Cruz too much for Lopez
Looking to make an impression in his WEC debut, Ivan Lopez took on bantamweight standout Dominic Cruz. Although Lopez did experience striking success on occasion, Cruz was too strong by scoring takedown after takedown and aggressively controlling the action. Halfway through the third round Cruz was on the verge of another takedown when he inadvertently grazed Lopez with a knee while Lopez was down. A surprising reaction to the accidental foul had Lopez flailing on the canvas. Lopez heard it from the crowd when the replays showed the blow did not justify his reaction. The third round was scored by all three judges. Final scores read 29-28 and 30-27 twice, all three for Cruz.
Fabiano beats Paixao
In what fight fans thought would be a jiu-jitsu master piece pitting to submission experts, ironically had very little grappling involved as Wagnney Fabiano aggressively hurt Fredson Paixao for three rounds utilizing an arsenal of punches and kicks. Fabiano wobbled his opponent on a few occasions with strikes to the head and seriously hurt him with a left leg kick to Paixao’s liver. All three judges scored the contest 30-27 for Fabiano
Yahya makes quick work of Wineland
Fifty seconds is all Rani Yahya needed to get Wineland’s and capitalize immediately and scored a rear naked choke. Wineland tapped at 1:07 mark officially.
Tamura kicks past Tapia
Looking to rebound from his only loss to Miguel Torres last December, Manny Tapia took on relatively unknown but dangerous Akitoshi Tamura. All three rounds were virtually identical as Tapia pursued Tamura around the cage looking to land his trademark right hand. Tamura used his powerful and rangy leg kicks to keep Tapia at bay. Tapia was able to land on occasion, especially in the last 20 seconds of the last round when he was able to land a flurry of unanswered punches. It was too little, too late, as the judges were more impressed with Tumura’s kicks throughout the fight. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Tamura
Dias grounds out victory over Budnik
Rafael Dias used his good take down abilities to keep the fight on the ground against Mike Butnick. Butnick simply struggled to keep things standing as Dias was not interested in striking and scored multiple take downs and compounded it with successful ground and pound. Dias won on all three score cards, 30-27, 29-28 twice.