WEC Las Vegas Debut A Success

January 21, 2007

WEC at The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas

WEC at The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas

The WEC began a new chapter in its history as they made their Las Vegas debut in front of a packed house at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. Besides it being their Las Vegas debut, it was also their first show under new owner Zuffa, which bought the WEC late last year.

In the main event, “Razor” Rob McCullough defeated fellow Muay Thai striker Kit Cope for the vacant WEC Lightweight Championship. Most expected this to be a striking war between the two strike happy fighters but that wasn’t the case, after a brief exchange McCullough took the fight to the ground. Once on his back Cope wasted no time as he went for an omoplata then switching to a gogoplata before McCullough was able to escape. Cope then went for a heel hook but McCullough defended well, landing some solid shots that forced Cope to abandon the submission. Cope was able to get back up but McCullough slammed him back down, landing in side mount. Cope then began wincing in pain and McCullough landed a huge elbow before Big John stepped in to stop the fight just 2:53 into the first due to an apparent rib injury to Cope. “Razor” Rob McCullough becomes the new WEC Lightweight Champion.

Urijah “The California Kid” Faber made the first defense of his WEC Featherweight Championship that he won in March from Cole Escovedo at WEC 19 as he took on Pride veteran Joe Pearson. Pearson was coming off a surprising submission victory over Featherweight King of Pancrase Yoshiro Maeda at Pride Bushido 13. Faber came out aggressive as he instantly planted Pearson on his back with a slam. Pearson was able to get back up and landed a couple of knees in the clinch before being slammed down to the ground again by Faber. From here on out, Faber was relentless with elbows as he landed them with force. Faber then unleashed a devestating flurry of elbows that hurt Pearson bad, forcing him to tapout from strikes at 2:31 of the first round. Faber successfully defends his title and post-fight made no secret that he would like to challenge Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. Faber saying, “We both have similar styles and I think it would be an awesome fight”.

John Alessio put himself in contention for the vacant WEC Welterweight Championship, putting on a dominating performance against Brian Gassaway. Alessio wasted no time in getting this fight to the ground, from there he peppered Gassaway with elbows before moving to mount and landing some solid shots. Gassaway gave up his back and showed excellent defense as Alessio had to work hard for the rear naked choke but he was finally able to secure it, forcing Gassaway to tap at 4:50 of the first round.

Up and comers Logan Clark and Blas Avena meet in a middleweight bout, Clark coming off a win in the UFC recently. Avena controlled the majority of the first round as he dropped Clark in the early part of the round and worked some ground and pound though out the round. Clark was able to secure an armbar late in the round but Avena was able to survive to rounds end. Clark controlled the second round as he was able to take Avena down and work some relatively weak ground and pound to take the round. Both fighters looked exhausted in the third, mostly fighting in the clinch in the third, Clark was able to get a takedown and started rain down bunches of elbows that forced the referee to stop the fight at 4:23 of the third round.

Brendan Seguin was dominant, as he beat up and coming middleweight Fernando Gonzalez by unanimous decision. The same story played out fro the entire fight as Seguin was able to take Gonzalez down and pound him. Whenever the fight was stood back up, Seguin had no problem taking it back down. Seguin took home a well earned unanimous decision, getting 30-27 on all three judges card.

Ultimate Fighter veteran Alex Karalexis took on WEC mainstay Olaf Alfonso in a welterweight clash. Karalexis right off the bat landed a flurry of shots that dropped Olaf, Karalexis worked some ground and pound before Olaf made it back to his feet. Both fighters would exchange but Karalexis continued to land the better strikes, taking Olaf down and landing some solid shots on the ground for the rest of the round. In the second round, both fighters came out aggressive but Karalexis struck first by slamming Olaf to the ground. From here Karalexis just poured on the punishment, landing an array of elbows that opened Olaf up. Once on the feet, Olaf pleaded with the referee and got a doctor’s check. It seemed the doctor gave the go ahead to continue but Olaf seemed on the fence whether or not to continue and that was enough for Steve Mazzagatti to stop the fight at 3:53 of the second round.

New Mexico’s Carlos Condit was dominant against Kyle Jensen and showed why he is one of the best up and coming welterweight’s in MMA today. Jensen immediately shot in for a takedown and after a brief scramble on the ground Condit ended up on top. Jensen wet for a guillotine choke but Condit escaped and moved into mount then getting Jensen’s back. From there Condit easily was able to secure a rear naked choke that forced Jensen to tap at 2:10 of the first round. This no doubt sets up Condit for a possible showdown with John Alessio for the vacant WEC Welterweight Championship.

The Pit’s Antonio Banuelos put on an exciting and dominant performance against Militech fighter Mike French in a bantamweight bout. Banuelos landed a huge slam early in the first round but French countered with a kimiura before Banuelos escaped. For the rest of the round, Banuelos put on a vicious beating on French, landing solid ground and pound. The second round went better fro Banuelos as he dropped French with a flurry and almost finished him off but French survived. Banuelos locked in a north-south choke but after some struggling French was able to escape. The third round was all Banuelos again as on the feet he landed the better strikes and was able to pick up French, slamming him hard to the ground. The rest of the round saw Banuelos stay busy with ground and pound. Banuelos earned a well deserved unanimous decison with two judges scoring it 30-27 and a third scoring it 30-26, giving Banuelos a 10-8 in the first round.

Rich Crunkilton made his return the WEC taking on Mike Joy in a lightweight bout. Crunkilton controlled the first round, after slamming Joy to the ground. From there, Crunkilton was able to stay busy with solid ground and pound until the end of the round. Joy found his grove in the second round as he started to take advantage of the fight on the feet, hurting Crunkilton with punches before Crunkilton was able to get a trip takedown. They were stood back up and Joy dropped Crunkilton with a punch but Crunkilton was able to reverse positions on the ground and end up on top. Crunkilton finished out the round with ground and pound to take the second round. Again in the third round, Joy was able to hurt Crunkilton with strikes but like in the second round Crunkilton was able to get it to the ground. Late in the round, Crunkilton landed a body shot that hurt Joy on the feet. Once on the ground, Crunkilton moved into side mount then secured an anaconda choke that forced Joy to tapout at 4:23 of the third round, earning him submission of the night honors in the process. Post fight, Crunkilton hinted at a possible showdown with new WEC Lightweight Champion “Razor” Rob McCullough in the future.

Overall, the first WEC show under Zuffa was a success, as it was an exciting night of fights and set up future title bouts. The next WEC show will be held on March 24th at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel.