by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Tonight, the WEC begins a new chapter in its organization as it holds its first show in Las Vegas, Nev. under its new owner, Zuffa. In the main event, “Razor” Rob McCullough, coming off an undefeated 2006, takes on the always-confident Muay Thai fighter Kit Cope for the vacant WEC Lightweight Championship.
McCullough and Cope were both fighters that were signed with the WFA and scheduled to compete on their last show, which never came to be because of financial problems. About a month later it was announced by Zuffa that they had purchased assets of the WFA, which included fighter contracts with some fighters competing in the UFC and others in Zuffa’s new promotion the WEC.
Cope now moves down to lightweight to face off with friend McCullough and will no doubt be the bigger fighter come Saturday night. Expect this one to be a straight-up war on the feet as both fighters are storied Muay Thai fighters that now reside as MMA fighters.
“Razor” Rob McCullough has a 13-3 record in MMA and trains as part of Team Punishment with Tito Ortiz. He is coming off a fairly easy win over Harris Sarmiento at WFA: King of the Streets. This was a rematch of a fight back at WEC 9, where Sarmiento won a split decision over McCullough. McCullough easily outworked Sarmiento on the feet, leg kicking him relentlessly for the entire fight, as Sarmiento never posed any real danger to McCullough. At the end of the fight McCullough earned a well-deserved unanimous decision victory.
McCullough defeated up and coming lightweight Ryan Healy at WEC 21 by TKO. After some heated exchanges on the feet, McCullough went for a takedown but the referee broke up the pair and the fight was stopped due to a large cut to Healy.
McCullough had no trouble beating Randy Hauer at WEC 20, where after a slow start he opened up on Hauer dropping him and finishing him off with strikes from the mount in the first round. McCullough is known for his devastating hands, but has also improved on the ground over the past couple of years.
Kit Cope has a 1-3 record in MMA and trains out of Las Vegas with Master Toddy. Cope is coming off a submission loss to Kenny Florian at the Ultimate Fighter 2 Season Finale. Cope fought a competitive fight for most of the first round, landing strikes, but once it hit the ground he was out of his element. He survived a fight ending armbar only to succumb to a rear naked choke in the second round.
Cope’s only MMA win of his career was at Valor Fighting, where he dispatched of Mike Lucero with strikes. Cope is a world Muay Thai champion and has competed in Thailand, so his bread and butter is going to be on the feet. Cope is also known because he was featured on MTV’s True Life: I’m a Muay Thai fighter.
This is an interesting fight because most fans feel that Cope shouldn’t be handed this opportunity to fight for the WEC Lightweight title, especially because he has a sub-five hundred record and his ground game hasn’t improved much since he started fighting in MMA. McCullough feels that it’s his time to shine and that just might be the case as he is easily the more well-rounded MMA fighter of the two.
Cope will be the bigger and stronger fighter on Saturday night and showed some surprisingly good takedown defense in the early stages of his fight with Kenny Florian. Cope is the better striker of the two, but it should be an exciting stand-up war, while it lasts. I expect McCullough to test strikes early in the fight, but he should take it to the ground and finish the fight with strikes on the ground.
Prediction: “Razor” Rob McCullough by TKO in the second round