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WEC 35: The WEC delivers yet again

Is it possible for Zuffa-owned World Extreme Cagefighting to have a bad card?

Sunday night was yet another shining example of why the WEC is the best representative of our sport to the mainstream public. Despite being held in a small concert venue at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, WEC 35 looked like a major league event: strong production; fast pacing; a display of a variety of fighting styles; and compelling matchmaking.

With four fights guaranteed for the telecast and three of them being title fights, the WEC still managed to squeeze in six total fights in a telecast that clocked in just slightly over two hours. Thanks to an early-arriving crowd in attendance to see a strong undercard, the insertion of bouts between Josh Grispi vs. Micah Miller and Brock Larson vs. Carlo Prater in the live telecast looked seamless and appeared as if the bouts were airing live when in reality, they were being shown on a tape-delay basis.

VERSUS was able to show the two additional bouts because they ended early, but that is just typical of the WEC: everything breaks right for them during their shows.

Well, maybe not everything, as one of its most marketable fights, Brian Stann, suffered an upset to Steve Cantwell, losing the WEC light heavyweight title in the process. Stann, a retired Marine lieutenant and Silver Star recipient, had defeated Cantwell in convincing fashion close to a year and a half ago. However, a much-improved Cantwell was well-prepared for Stann’s dangerous, but limited, offensive arsenal.

“No disrespect, but he does need to mix it up more,” Cantwell said during his post-fight interview with commentator Todd Harris. “He did exactly what I thought he was going to do.”

Stann is still new to the sport and there were existing questions about his ground game. After last night, there are now questions about his standup. No one can question Stann’s punching power and his chin, but he lacked the diverse striking skills that Cantwell put on display.

While the loss of Stann probably wasn’t what the WEC wanted, the quality of their main event was everything they wanted and more. Carlos Condit’s successful welterweight title defense over former middleweight Hiromitsu Miura is a bout that is worthy of Match of the Year consideration.

The Condit vs. Miura fight proved to be a war that offered the viewer great parity. On several occasions during the four round affair it appeared as if Miura was on the verge of pulling off the second major upset of the night.

The end came at 4:43 of round four when Condit was declared the winner via TKO after referee Josh Rosenthal called a stop to the bout. Just seconds earlier, Miura appeared to be on the verge of winning after executing a sweep on the ground that put him in top position. From Condit’s guard, Miura unleashed a fury of punches that a visibly exhausted Condit was having trouble defending. However, a spent Miura stopped firing strikes and eventually a scramble allowed Condit to get back to his feet and deliver a knee to the face of an out-of-position Miura.

The end of the fight was cause for some controversy on several highly-visible MMA message forums as some felt it was an early stoppage. While Condit’s knee strike was delivered to the face of Miura’s, it also appeared to be soft. Also appearing soft were the punches Condit delivered to Miura after the fight went to the ground following the knee strike. Rosenthal felt compelled to stop the fight because Miura was making no attempt to defend the punches.

“Right at the end, when I hit him with that knee, I knew he was hurt,” Condit said of the ending sequence. “Most of the time, when he would go down, he would kind of turtle up and then explode out of it. But that time, he didn’t really move.”

After the fight was stopped, an exhausted Miura laid on his back on the mat for an extended period of time. Based on Miura’s inability to get back on his feet, it’s hard to fathom why so many people were outraged by the stoppage. Could it be that a sentimental attachment was developed for the underdog who put on an amazing performance and was in striking distance of pulling an upset?

While Condit looked good at various points of the fight, it was also the first time he had been tested since arriving in the WEC.

“It ranks up there with the toughest fights I’ve had,” he said after the victory. “I was tired. I didn’t really have a lot left. It was all heart,” he said. “He definitely had me in danger, but he never had me hurt. He was landing shots, but he never really buzzed me or rang my bell.”

Despite appearing to be in shape, Condit began to experience labored breathing early on in the fight. However, it’s possible that he was a victim of taking damage early on from Miura’s strong standup display. On the ground, Condit looked like a lightweight battling a middleweight at times. A skilled submission specialist, Condit’s wrestling did not look good as Miura was able to reverse position on multiple occasions.

Despite looking less-than-dominant for a change, Condit was able to improve his overall MMA record to 23-5 and his WEC record to 5-0. With notable wins over John Alessio, Larson, Prater, and now Miura, he is left without an obvious challenger. Larson looked outstanding during his undercard win over Prater, but having already received a title shot a year ago, it remains to be seen whether there is just cause for a rematch.

Additional thoughts:

Jamie Varner looked outstanding in his first defense of the WEC lightweight title. However, despite a losing effort, Marcus Hicks still managed to impress by being able to absorb an extreme amount of punishment. While the fight only lasted 2:08 and was largely one-sided, it was still extremely entertaining.

Hicks has a professional boxing background and had learned a strong guillotine as a way to counter fighters who tried to take him down. Varner escaped a guillotine attempt by Hicks and after the fight revealed that he had spent months trying to defend the hold.

“I wasn’t worried about (the guillotine) during the fight, but I was worried about the position during training,” Varner said after the fight. “We put a lot of work into defending the guillotine. (During a fight), I just react and let my training take over.”

After the fight, Varner seemed to be under the impression that a lightweight bout between Donald Cerrone and Rob McCullough to be held during the WEC’s Sept. show will determine his next opponent. Varner won the title from McCullough earlier this year.

— 19-year old Josh Grispi needed just 0:50 of round 1 to finish 21-year old Micah Miller. Miller, the brother of UFC lightweight Cole Miller, had been rather boastful leading up to the fight. However, it was the New England-based Grispi who improved his WEC record to 2-0 with wins over Miller and Mark Hominick. Training out of Southshore Sportfighting in Boston, Grispi now also had an overall record of 9-1.

Team Takedown member and former NCAA wrestling standout Shane Roller was victorious in his WEC debut, submitting Todd Moore in round 1. Roller accepted the bout on short notice after Alex Karalexis had to pull out with an injury. Roller’s teammates, former NCAA champions Jake Rosholt and Johny Hendricks, will make their WEC debuts during the promotion’s next card on Sept. 10.

— Several fighters were shown on camera, including UFC light heavyweight Rashad Evans as well as WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber and WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres.

— The next fighter to get a shot at Torres could be Brian Bowles. Bowles improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the WEC after a first round submission over Damacio Page during the show’s televised opener.

— The WEC returns to VERSUS with WEC 36 Wednesday (in order to avoid competing with the NFL on Sunday), Sept. 10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Headlining the show will be two title bouts: Faber will defend his WEC featherweight title vs. number one contender Mike Brown and Paulo Filho will return to defend his WEC middleweight title in a rematch vs. Chael Sonnen.

Former NCAA champions Rosholt, Hendricks, and Mark Munoz will all also be on the card. Rosholt will take on American Top Team black belt Danillo Villefort; Hendricks will face Alex Serdyukov; and Munoz will square off against Steve Steinbeiss.

Other bouts include McCullough vs. Cerrone and a yet-to-be confirmed bout between light heavyweights Tim McKenzie and Doug “Rhino” Marshall. The winners of the two bouts could earn title shots. Jens Pulver could also be added to the card.

  • matt says:

    Great write up Sam. The WEC is what Zuffa should be pushing for wider TV exposure and now that it’s known that Zuffa tried to get Showtime on board with the WEC, it makes Showtime look foolish for passing this over for EliteXC. I’m hoping a fight Mashall/Munoz fight for #1 contender. I think the WEC has 2 stars in the Light Heavy division in both Stann and Munoz and after last night’s loss, the WEC seems to have a nice set of LHW for the future.

  • Rich B says:

    Isn’t Condit a welterweight? Or maybe I’m misinterpreting something…?

  • jaydog says:

    Sentamental favorite for sure. Miura had me at the first judo throw. Going in, I was for Condit. The big news outta this fight is two fold:

    1) Condit is very beatable.

    2) We no longer have to look to Karo’s highlight reel for exciting judo take downs.

  • Dave says:

    I agree. This card was awesome. And I never really thought about it, but maybe the WEC is something that should be appearing on network TV when EliteXC falls off the face of the earth. It’s more exciting, better produced, and they seem to have a loyal following. Plus, if they promote it as the minor-leagues, they will have people following them up to the UFC.

    But Condit didn’t look great. And that knee he threw to end the fight didn’t look very powerful.

  • Neil says:

    Something this show proved to me is that the light-heavyweight division in the WEC needs to go. Not to take anything away from Brian Stann and Steve Cantwell, but are these the guys that they really need representing them as champions? I’ve thought Stann to be fairly one-dimensional (and that dimension isn’t as developed as it needs to be), and Cantwell putting him away cements that notion. I know the UFC has a lot of light-heavyweight talent tied up, but with the WEC’s division limping along like it is, I see no reason not to cut it and focus on middleweight and below.

    I agree with jaydog too… I could’ve watched Miura keep doing those judo throws all night!

  • joetheacupuncturist says:

    i think condit looked great, maybe his punches were a bit soft, but it was a looong fighht. his opponent just was real game and came with a shitload of samurai heart.

  • Derek B says:

    Def. the best fight card I’ve seen this year. Exciting fights, but I was a little disapointed most of the fights aired ended in the first round.

  • Guy Gaduois says:

    Last night’s show again demonstrated that if you want a sport without pole dancers, strippers and blaring, bad music with homoerotic intros, the WEC is the frontrunner. The WEC offers the best ‘face’ for appealing to middle America and the mainstream sports fan.
    Frank Mir is emerging as an integral part of the WEC’s appeal to the new fan as well; his analysis isn’t just a barrage of MMA terminology; he explains the set up, explains different strategies and is better and better every time out.
    If I had to pick a dream team for announcing, it would be Ken Florian and Frank Mir and do without the mouths that roar.

    But the essential element of WEC’s appeal is phenomenal product, not presentation. The fights are always tremendous matchups, with great athletes, and none of the presentation gets in the way of the sport. Even the inferior fighters are classier (Brian Stann is a classic example of an athlete who will improve – he’s just a good guy) and imminently more presentable in the mainstream. (Jamie Varner’s F-bombs when he won the belt notwithstanding.)

    All this talk about EliteXC improving their production really needs to be taken with a grain of WEC – with the WEC as a template and example, EliteXC and even the Zuffa owned UFC’s production shortcomings are inexcusable and deplorable. Comparing WEC’s presentation with everyone else is almost painful, because as a fan of MMA, watching the other promotions is like undergoing dental work. How has the WEC made such a better overall sports presentation while others are seemingly in the stone age? Has anyone in these other promotions discovered fire or the wheel yet? Revolutionary stuff.

  • Davey D says:

    I was glad to see another night of great fight’s presented by the WEC. I said Condit vs. Miura would be a war. One hell of a fight that was. Miura has very fast hand’s and his throw’s were punishing. Carlos simply outlasted him and proved he belongs in the WW top 10.

    Bowles, Cantwell and Varner really proved that they some of the fighter’s not in the UFC too. Miguel Torres has a very good opponent next. Cantwell vs. Stann 3 could happen somewhere down the line. I hope we get to see The Worm vs. The Cowboy in December.

    Larson vs. Condit 2 could be on that same card as well. I can’t wait for WEC 36 to come around.

  • Nolan says:

    WEC put on a great show, and Steve Cantwell was looking like shades of Anderson Silva, I think he has a great future ahead of him.

  • JZ says:

    The WEC is the best product in the sport right now. While only a few of their fighters would be considered “Top Tier” they somehow never seem to have a dull moment. The promotions math making is basically impeccable. I can only hope this trend continues as the company continues.

  • I was really upset w Stann. He looked like he thought he was going to come out and intimidate Cantwell and beat him w another right hook thrown from the seat of hit pants that lands on the button!!! Cantwell was dead on when he said that he is predictable!!! Cantwell looked crisper,sharper and more well rounded!!! @ 21 he has a very bright future while Stann has a lot of work to do! I think Stann-Cantwell 3 shouldn’t be for a long time, as I don’t see why Stann deserves a rematch after being outworked and outclassed! Let him work his way back then see what happens! Great card though. Now I cannot wait til Saturdays UFC card that has the potential to be the best ever!

  • steak_knife says:

    Great night of fights. Perfect pacing. Frank Mir’s commentary is vastly improved — he’s no longer declaring fights over the moment a submission is applied.

    Carlos Condit is awesome, but proved he doesn’t belong in the UFC.

  • JOe K. says:

    One thing I like about the WEC commentators is there consistant. Goldberg and Rogan are so biased and they change midway through the fight of who they are rooting for. I think Rogan changes his mind and wants to go with the winner and then Goldberg his lap dog follows. Their trademark sayings are getting old. They should slow down on the hyperbole of their opinions and just call the fight.

    That is whats so great with the WEC commentators they seem to keep neutral. They actually have dead air because they are so into the fights. They keep it technical and honest. Not completely abandoning calling the fight to go into some back story of the fighters or their theories on how Judo is hard to assimilate succesfully into the MMA style, or how loud slaps on a leg kick don’t hurt as much, or how when fights smile when they get hit it means they’re hurt, or how incorrectly the rubber guard is performed, or how one fighter is leagues above the other fighter in some style… Keep calling the fight and slide the opinions in!

    I think Rogan is actually trying to become more neutral. He’s said to have read MMA blogs (so he probably reads the criticism) . I know he cares about the sport and is still a solid announcer, he just gets too excited and extreme with his opinions (he seems like an extreme guy). I think he has to go against his instinct about too much of a fan when he calls the fight.

  • Michael says:

    Didnt stann weigh in at 201?? Could he make the cut to 185?? that might be a better weight for him, he looked small compared to cantwell.

  • Ken says:

    WEC is my favorite fight promotion, and it seems to just keep getting better. Mir is the best announcer out there. Articulate, and great at explaining things to those of us who are not experts.

  • shine_box says:

    Comparing WEC’s presentation with everyone else is almost painful, because as a fan of MMA, watching the other promotions is like undergoing dental work.

    Geez, comments like this just depress me. How sir, are you a fan of MMA if the only MMA you can watch painlessly involves the quality of the production values? Here’s a thought, base it on the quality of the fights!
    Affliction, WEC, UFC, Elite, DREAM, MFC, the former IFL all have great fights to watch, I don’t let something aesthetic like production values affect my opinion, and MMA is NEVER like going to the dentist, it’s always completely awesome.
    Org loyalty is for fanboys, embrace them all and just enjoy all the MMA goodness!!

  • Rich S. says:

    Stann’s Cantwell’s first loss.. Cantwell’s Stann’s first loss..

    you gotta love this sport..

  • Mike K says:

    WEC 35 was easily one of the most entertaining events I’ve seen in a long time. TKO’s ended every single fight televised. It was impressive and fast paced.

    This is what I was able to take away from the event:

    1) Brian Stann is nowhere near ready to move to the UFC (this only matters if the rumors of the LHW in the WEC moving to the UFC is true). He was the only fight I really cared to see, and I was so unimpressed by him. On the other hand, damn was I impressed by Cantwell.

    2) Varner is unbelievable and I want to see him against “Cowboy” Cerrone. I was completely shocked at how much he was able to control the bout.

    3) Hicks gained more from this loss than he could have ever imagined. The man can take a shot… or two… or three… and more. But it also shows that his guillotine should not be his only weapon.

    4) Condit is beatable. Though his conditioning needs improvement. He talks about how he can beat any WW in the UFC, but after last night… yes, he was impressive, but GSP would ruin him.

  • Justin B says:

    Each champion was in a bad prediciment in one way or another during there match. Could of turned out bad for the WEC if condit would of lost his belt. He needs to stay in that promotion for a while longer. Chris Lytle could beat Condit let alone GSP, Fitch, Alves, Koscheck, or Sanchez. Varner looked like he could hold his belt for a while. Marcus Hicks is a tough guy.

  • John E says:

    I don’t watch every UFC nowadays, but I make sure to watch every WEC. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s ALWAYS

  • John E says:

    Oops, too fast on the trigger. “ALWAYS entertaining”, was what I was going to write.

  • Guy Gaduois says:

    Sometimes I miss out on good MMA performances because the production gets in the way. Watching Inside MMA on HDNet is a classic case in point; they’re doing their best to bring MMA highlights, but sometimes it’s via jitter-cam, sometimes we see back of the head-vision or guillotine productions, where half or better of the action is missing.
    These same miscues on major productions like Dream, EliteXC, UFC or Affliction is inexcusable. Bad announcing – making the wrong call, cheerleading or misdirecting the viewer is also detrimental to the production, detrimental to the product.
    I have every right as a consumer to want the best product in place for my entertainment value. Shine_box, you can watch MMA on a 40 year old, 12″ b/w portable battery powered TV with a fuzzy antennae connection, broadcast in Esperanto with a malfunctioning horizontal control for all I care. Good for you, I’m glad you’re happy.
    The rest of the technologically able world, with all the modern conveniences of this century really appreciate the sport we love being presented in the best possible light. It’s not rocket science – it’s supply and demand, cream rising to the top. Entertainment isn’t supposed to be aggravating – that’s why we have work.


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