Bowles bowls over Torres for WEC bantam belt
Octagonside by Anthony Springer Jr.
Photography by Chris Cozzone
In one of the year’s stunning upsets, Brian Bowles knocked out Miguel Torres at 3:57 in the first round to claim the WEC bantamweight title.
In what originally appeared to be a cocky statement considering the former champions 36-1 record, Bowles pledged a first round knockout and made good on his word.
From the outset, it seemed that Bowles was on pace to have a good night. He dropped Torres early withhis trademark right hand but the champion recovered.
Torres continued to push forward despite the obvious danger. The tide turned when Torres caught Bowles with a series of rights and lefts.
Bowles remained confident throughout the onslaught and rocked Torres with another big right hand, sending one of the sport’s best to the canvas for the final time.
Three unanswered punches on the ground forced the referee to halt the bout.
The victory ended—or at least dented—the legend that is Miguel Torres.
Bowles remains perfect at 8-0, while Torres is an impressive 36-2.
Cruz hands Benavidez first loss, becomes number one contender
The battle for the next WEC bantamweight number one contender was as highly anticipated as the night’s title showdown. The next two contestants in the title sweepstakes were undefeated Joseph Benavidez and the once beaten Dominick Cruz.
After 15 minutes of non-stop action, Dominick Cruz emerged as the likely number one contender at 135, defeating Benavidez by unanimous decision.
Neither man was able to come out with a clear advantage on the feet, but the repeated takedowns of Cruz were enough to earn him the victory.
Benavidez was floored a number of times in the second and third frames. Some of the falls were due to Cruz, but most were courtesy of a reckless style of fighting reminiscent of former featherweight champion Urijah Faber.
The pressure was on Benavidez to find a solution for Cruz’ height and reach advantage going into the final round. Though the high impact moves dazzled the crowd, Cruz would not fall victim to a highlight reel finish, taking down Benavidez in the heat of the final exchange. As time threatened to expire, Cruz was able to take Benavidez back, and rode out the final ten seconds to victory.
The judges scored the contest 30-27 (twice) and 29-28 for Cruz.
Castillo pounds out Lamas
In the first finish of the main card, Danny Castillo defeated Ricardo Lamas at 4:15 in the second round via TKO.
After a back and forth battle which saw both men attempt to impose their will, Castillo unleashed a straight right hand that found a home on the face of Lamas. The shot didn’t drop Lamas, but the stunner gave the Northern Californian enough time to pounce on his back pedaling foe.
A series of unanswered punches forced Herb Dean to halt the bout.
“He’s a tough opponent. I hurt him with my combos,” Castillo said of Lamas after the bout.
“I train with the best team in the world, I have a great group of guys,” he added of his Alpha Male teammates.
The victory moves Castillo to 8-1.
Mizugaki dominates, but narrowly escapes defeat
In a battle of two top ten bantamweights, former number one contender Takeya Mizugaki got a split decision nod over veteran fighter Jeff “Big Frog” Curran.
In his forty-forth professional bout, Curran was taken down at will, but was able to keep Mizugaki from inflicting too much damage on the ground.
While Mizugaki clearly won the first, Curran went on the offensive in the second and third stanzas. After spending the majority of the round staring at the lights, Curran sank in a guillotine choke towards the close of the round, but was unable to seal the deal.
The final frame provided the most excitement for the pro-Curran crowd. With Mizugaki in a dominant top position, Curran surprised the capacity crowd by slipping a triangle choke in. With 30 seconds remaining, Curran seemed well on his way to pulling off the upset. Mizugaki displayed his durability by holding on until the bell rang.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28.
Garcia ekes past Massouh
Leonard Garcia got back in the win column, defeating Jameel “The Real Deal” Massouh via split decision.
Neither fighter disappointed in a bout that was bumped up to the main card due to time constraints. The Texas fighter nearly ended it early, flooring Massouh with a huge right hand. Garcia believed he had the fight won, but Massough recovered before Garcia was able to capitalize on the shot.
Massouh responded with some offense of his own, taking down the former featherweight number one contender. The takedown was immediately followed by some brutal ground and pound, leaving many to believe Garcia was on the verge of letting the bout slip away.
Massouh continued his offensive in the second round, nearly finishing Garcia with a tight guillotine. The resilient Garcia overcame the compromising position and continued to push forward.
Going into the final frame, the fight was seemingly up for grabs. A gassed Garcia connected on select punches, but was unable to string together an offensive combo, allowing Massouh to remain in the fight.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28.
Paixao and Province nullify each other and the crowd
Cole Province bested Fredson Paixao via unanimous decision, but failed to win over the crowd in the process.
The three round back and forth was marked by stalemates when the two fighters tied up.
Despite the victory, Province clearly looked like he’d been in a scuffle. Paxiao opened up a nice sized cut in the opening round with an elbow. The blow left Province’s DNA over both men.
Looks proved to be deceiving with the Oklahoma fighter using his wrestling pedigree to keep Paxiao from utilizing his jiu-jitsu.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Province, who got back in the win column after losing to fellow undercard fighter Diego Nunes.
Roller outlasts Hicks
On paper, the Marcus Hicks-Shane Roller fight should not have gone to decision. However, both men left everything they had inside the cage, with Roller emerging the victory via unanimous decision.
Due to Hicks not making weight, the fight took place at a 159-pound catch weight. Despite the three pound weight difference, Roller pushed forward early, taking Hicks down at will. Roller persevered early on, fighting out of Hicks’ trademark guillotine choke in the opening stanza.
The second frame saw two near finishes, with Hicks locking in another tight guillotine. Roller appeared to turn red, but was able to escape and seize the top position.
In the dominant position, Roller reigned down punches, elbows and forearms to the delight of the crowd. At one point, it seemed that the fight was headed for a stoppage. Hicks weathered the storm and avoided a referee stoppage by mounting an intelligent defense at the last minute.
With the crowd fully into the action in the cage going into the final round, both fighters came out to make a statement. Hicks fired rights and lefts early on, hurting Roller with a series of body shots. Appearing to be gassed from the earlier rounds, Hicks was unable to take advantage of his good fortune in the striking department and allowed Roller to recover.
The last round was sealed in Roller’s favor with a big slam as time expired.
The judges scored the bout 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28 for the man fighting out of Las Vegas.
“9mm” takes aim, shoots down foe
In the quintessential striker vs. grappler matchup, Ed Ratcliffe punched and kicked his way to a unanimous decision victory, nullifying Phil Cardella’s jiu-jitsu skills.
From the outset, it was clear that Cardella wanted no part of Ratcliffe’s standup. The 6’0 light weight failed to take the fight to the ground, making him easy pickings for “9mm.”
Though Ratcliffe’s carefully timed shots could not keep Cardella at bay, it was enough to give the Texas fighter pause. Cardella was unable to muster much offense, and was limited to pinning Ratcliffe against the side of the cage.
After several separations courtesy of referee Steve Mazagatti, it was clear that—barring a miracle finish—the fight was out of Cardella’s reach.
Yahya chokes out Hosman
Rani Yahya made short work of John Hosman, defeating the Illinois fighter with a North-South choke in the opening stanza.
Yahya overcame a height and reach disadvantage by closing the distance early. Yahya, who took the fight on short notice, scored a quick takedown and immediately advanced to side control. With Hosman looking like a fish out of water on the mat, Yahya seized on the north-south position and locked in the choke.
After going out of his way to assure the referee he was all right via an extended thumbs up, Hosman was forced to tap—proving that at times, defense may be better than communication with an official.
Yahya’s victory, his fourth in the WEC, puts him at 15-4. Hosman drops to 17-5-1.
Unbeaten Nunes overwhelms Dias
Diego Nunes remained unbeaten, overwhelming Rafael Dias en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Nunes appeared to be in his comfort zone from the moment the bell rang, dropping his hands repeatedly in front of Dias, who was unable to put together a sufficient offense.
The undefeated fighter controlled the standup, landing punches and kicks seemingly at will.
On the ground, Nunes was also in control, making Dias pay for inaction with forearms and big punches.
Round three saw Nunes unleash a devastating ground and pound attack. After countless forearms and punches, the Brazilian turned Dias face into something resembling raw meat.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27 for Nunes, who improves to 13-0.
Judges hand Davis controversial win over Vazquez
Suspect MMA judging reared its ugly head in the first bout of the night, as LC Davis edged out Javier Vazquez via split decision.
Both men came out swinging with neither man able to take a clear advantage. Davis wowed the crowd early on with a flying knee, but ended up ceding the top position to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
The match continued in see-saw fashion, and on the surface, Vazquez edged out each round with more effective striking and cage control.
In another example of why a fight should never be left to the judges, all three score keepers scored the bout 30-27—twice for a surprised Davis, once for Vazquez.