Those left with a bad taste in their mouth from the multiple fiascos of Saturday’s EliteXC show got a palate-cleansing burst of brilliant MMA last night, as WEC 34 in Sacramento featured arguably the two greatest bouts in the organization’s history.
In the featherweight championship match, Urijah Faber solidified his status as one of the best fighters in the world, wearing Jens Pulver down with explosive striking combos and showcasing his scary conditioning during the first 25-minute match of his career. Faber came out hard in his usual style, landing a couple of big punches and knees in the clinch. Though Faber slipped to the mat while attempting a kick, Pulver couldn’t capitalize on the ground and was kicked off. The fight was halted briefly when Pulver was poked in the eye, but Lil’ Evil refused to take recovery time. Pulver took Faber’s back briefly against the cage, and ate a spinning backfist for his efforts.
The second round began with another brief stoppage as Faber accidentally kicked Pulver in the groin following a punch combo. Faber dominated the next couple minutes, taking Pulver down, throwing some big elbows, then landing a vicious punch combination when Faber scrambled to his feet. Pulver looked rocked, but fired back with his own punches, including a sharp uppercut that shook Faber. Faber answered with a takedown attempt, but Pulver sprawled and nearly secured a front choke. Faber escaped and punished Pulver with punches until the bell sounded. Pulver seemed gassed at this point, and clearly frustrated that he was being outboxed.
The third round was probably the most exciting of the match, starting with a sharp head kick from Pulver. After Pulver sprawled on a takedown, Faber was able to take Pulver’s back and slam him to the ground, but Pulver bounced up and began a thrilling striking exchange ending with a devastating body kick that put Faber in serious trouble. Faber shot for a takedown but landed with Pulver on top of him and dropping elbows. Faber reversed the position and landed a couple elbows of his own before the fighters were stood up; Pulver was very slow in getting to his feet.
Faber’s conditioning advantage was immense in the championship rounds — the California Kid seemed just as fresh in the fight’s last frames as he did in the first, while Pulver seemed too drained to mount an effective offense. Faber landed shots at will in the fourth round, including a few nasty body kicks. Faber took Pulver to the mat and laid on him, getting in some big elbows. At one point Pulver seemed to be struck directly in the throat with one of them and tried complaining to the ref, but it was no use, and Pulver couldn’t find a way to get out from under the champion. The final round began with both fighters hugging in the center of the ring to the sound of a very satisfied crowd. Pulver stuffed an early takedown attempt, but absorbed a body kick in return. The challenger was still throwing leather, but not enough to do much damage. Meanwhile, Pulver’s right eye was cut and swollen, and Faber directed some jabs at it. Finally, Faber took Pulver down for the last time and laid on him until the round ended, giving the crowd the “hang loose” signal in the fight’s closing seconds.
The match was scored 50-45, 50-44, and 50-44, all in favor of the defending champion, who proved that his striking should be just as feared as his wrestling and submissions.
As commentator Frank Mir said of the bantamweight championship match between Miguel Torres and Yoshiro Maeda, “I think this is the best fight I’ve ever seen.” With his unorthodox style, Maeda was able to make Torres look slow and ineffective at times, repeatedly employing a technique where he would drop his hands, then shoot in with a punch when Torres made a move to attack. Maeda also caught Torres’s kicks and tossed him to the ground a few times. Torres had a chance to finish the fight with an armbar in the first round while on his back, but Maeda got out, and when the fight went standing again, Maeda landed some good punches, opening a cut on Torres’s forehead.
The second round was highlighted by a heel hook attempt by Maeda that looked close to locked in. Torres responded by going for his own toe hold and axe-kicking Maeda’s body with his free leg. Though the leg submissions didn’t pan out, Torres dominated the last half of the round, first attempting a triangle choke, then a guillotine, then a rear-naked choke. Fortunately, Maeda was saved by the bell, but his eye began to swell shut, and Torres focused on it during the third round’s striking exchanges. Torres dominated the round, closing it with a big punch that snapped Maeda’s head back.
As the fight was heading into the fourth round, a doctor was called in to look at Maeda’s right eye; it was determined that Maeda’s eye was completely swollen shut and he couldn’t continue, thus giving the TKO victory to Miguel Torres, who extends his record to 34-1.
Unfortunately, the broadcast didn’t start out at such a high level. “Razor” Rob McCullough looked nothing like a former World Champion in the first main card match, but managed to outscore Kenneth Alexander to a split decision victory in a fight marked by lengthy stretches of inactivity. McCullough’s best weapon was a good sprawl, as he neutralized multiple takedown attempts by “The Black Ninja” (seriously), and snuck in enough leg kicks and knees in the clinch to walk away with the win.
The action picked up during the light-heavyweight feature, as Urijah Faber/Tito Ortiz protege Mark Munoz faced off against Chuck Grigsby, who looked absolutely enormous for a 205-pounder. Grigsby worked his reach advantage in the opening moments, tagging Munoz with some heavy shots, but Munoz eventually secured a takedown midway through the first frame and started throwing ferocious punches from the top. Grigsby was out of his element on his back, missed several opportunities to grab submissions, and was eventually pounded into unconsciousness at the 4:15 mark.
The broadcast also included a lightweight undercard match between Danny Castillo and Donald Cerrone, which turned out to be a brief showcase for Cerrone’s slick jiu-jitsu. The match opened with Cerrone throwing a hard knee into Castillo’s body. Castillo responded with a takedown, but landing in Cerrone’s guard immediately turned out to be trouble. Cerrone nearly latched on a triangle-choke variant described by Frank Mir as a “pyramid choke,” then transitioned to an armbar. Castillo briefly slipped it, but Cerrone locked it on again and rolled, forcing Castillo to verbally submit before he even had the chance to break a sweat. Full results from WEC 34 are below:
Urijah Faber def. Jens Pulver via unanimous decision
Miguel Torres def. Yoshiro Maeda via doctor’s stoppage TKO, 5:00 of round 3
Mark Munoz def. Chuck Grigsby via TKO, 4:15 of round 1
Rob McCullough def. Kenneth Alexander via split decision
Donald Cerrone def. Danny Castillo via submission (armbar), 0:30 of round 1
Mike Thomas Brown def. Jeff Curran via unanimous decision
Will Ribeiro def. Chase Beebe via split decision
Tim McKenzie def. Jeremy Lang via submission (guillotine choke) , 0:40 of round 3
Alex Serdyukov def. Luis Sapo via corner stoppage TKO, 5:00 of round 1
Jose Aldo def. Alexandre Franca Nogueira via TKO, 3:22 of round 2
Dominic Cruz def. Charlie Valencia via unanimous decision