Whether by default or design, Zuffa always manages to make up for lackluster showings by its respective organizations. As if to repay any dissatisfied fans for their fifty bucks spent on the highly criticized UFC 119, they delivered an outstanding card with WEC 51: Aldo vs. Gamburyan. There were impressive submissions and brutal knockouts and the fights that went to decisions kept fans on the edge of their seats with no room for complaint. There were plenty of exciting story lines on last night’s card as well, including the re-emergence of a former champion, a tutorial on how to effectively stop a zombie, the continuation of a grudge match, and the patience of an evolving champion. The WEC 51 card was presented for free on Versus, however many a fan would have received their money’s worth had this entire card been on Pay-Per-View. Let’s take a closer look at WEC 51, Clint-Eastwood-style, with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
“Junior” Jose Aldo(17-1): The champ looked phenomenal, and completely controlled the action in last night’s outing against “Anvil” Manny Gamburyan (11-5). Aldo showed a commitment to patience in the first round by feeling out Manny’s style and game plan while timing his opponent’s movements and landing well-placed leg kicks throughout the duration of the round. Naysayers may claim that Aldo didn’t do enough to win the round, but any such argument was put to rest in round two. Aldo threw a well precision uppercut and was able to follow up with vicious punches on the ground to end the fight. The champ showed marked improvement in this bout, which says a lot since he is often believed to be a fighter with very few holes in his game to begin with. It is difficult to imagine any contender stripping Aldo of his featherweight crown any time soon.
“Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (11-4): Let’s face it, fans love Donald Cerrone because he’s an exciting and unpredictable fighter. Last night he went against his typical approach of starting slow and feeling out his opponent, and instead ran straight at Jamie Varner (16-4-1) before the bell could even stop ringing, and nearly ended the fight very early with a brutal knee to the head. For the rest of the bout, Cerrone was able to take down Varner several times with force, shake off Jamie’s best strikes, and control the action by keeping the former champ off balance. Cerrone dominated the fight and was rewarded with a unanimous decision, winning every round on all three judges’ score cards. Cerrone was much improved and it won’t be long before he’s on a winning streak and in contention for the title once again.
Miguel Torres (37-3): Improvement was the theme of the night for everyone listed in “The Good” category. Miguel Torres improved by adopting an effective defensive stance and a commitment to using his reach to his advantage. Charlie Valencia (12-6-0) had no answer for anything Torres had and found himself submitted after a failed attempt to take Torres to the ground. Torres needed no improvements to his ground game, as his is second to none in MMA. Torres’ maneuvers earned him Submission of the Night honors. The departure from his reckless abandon on the feet was, however, a showing of real growth in his fighting, making him more dangerous than ever.
George Roop (11-5-1): WEC 51 proved to be a good night for the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 alumni. Roop has had a rough career following his loss in the TUF 8 Live Finale to Shane Nelson (11-5), winning just one of his last four bouts prior to WEC 51. Against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (10-3), George showed none of his recent awkwardness in the ring. After effectively controlling the fight with well timed counter strikes and good use of his reach, Roop landed a Knockout of the Night-winning head kick that sent “The Zombie” to the hospital. In the movies, you kill a zombie by decapitating it – after seeing how he handled “The Korean Zombie”, it’s safe to say that Roop has been brushing up on his zombie flicks.
“The Machine” Mark Hominick (18-7): “The Machine”‘s performance against “Bad Boy” Leonard Garcia (14-6-1) was nothing short of spectacular. To say the very least, the judging in the bout was questionable, as Hominick was awarded a Split Decision in what should have clearly been a Unanimous Decision in his favor. “The Machine” controlled every second of the bout, and put on a clinical display of striking. Hominick left fans with a reminder of why trained fighters are more dangerous than hardened brawlers. Garcia would do well to take note of the lesson.
Jamie Varner: Lack of adjustment got the best of Jamie Varner in his most recent performance. Last night it appeared as if the former champ simply wasn’t ready for his rematch against opponent Donald Cerrone. Judging by both his behavior during the fight as well as comments made in his post-fight interview, Varner seemed to be expecting the same Cerrone of January 2009 (the time of their first meeting) to face him in the Octagon at WEC 51. This was a huge mistake that caused Varner to spend most of the fight being several steps behind Cerrone. Varner has not gotten a win since 2009, and, for those of you who believe Cerrone actually won their first fight despite the judges’ decision, it has been longer than that. Varner needs to take a big step back and re-evaluate his training methods and fight camp. If he wants to continue being a contender in the WEC lightweight division, he is in desperate need of a renaissance.
Leonard Garcia: Speaking of renaissance, here’s a guy who refuses to change his style and continues to pay the price for it. Garcia seems to throw with knockout intentions with every punch. He doesn’t sit down into his punches, he doesn’t throw combos, and doesn’t set anything up. As a direct result, he typically gasses by the middle of the second round, and virtually any opponent with decent head movement can outlast him. All his challenger “The Machine” Mark Hominick (19-8-0) had to do was wait out the barrage of wild punches and he then was able to pick Garcia apart with ease. Garcia somehow managed to convince the judges that he won a round, but it wasn’t enough, and he rightfully lost the fight to Hominick. Garcia’s striking leaves much to be desired, and he needs to formulate a plan to evolve in his stand-up.
Chan Sung Jung: If “The Korean Zombie’ had a game plan then few knew exactly what it was or how he hoped it would be effective against the reach of George Roop. Jung stood flat footed and inched his way toward Roop while he was peppered with jabs and kicks at various levels. Jung was able to land some big shots, but he never quite poured it on the way some had hoped he would. Instead, he almost apathetically drifted around the cage until he was finally put away with a head kick. The bottom line is that Jung won his nickname “The Korean Zombie” by being aggressive and relentless. However, he was knocked out and lost the fight last night due to a lack of that aggression and displayed a disturbing lack of skill. Jung needs to go back to the drawing board, or it may be time for a new nickname.
Manny Gamburyan: Manny looked as if he didn’t even belong in the WEC cage, let alone the same cage as featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Gamburyan came out ready to fight but quickly realized Aldo was completely out of his league. That realization made matters all the worse as Manny, robbed of his confidence, began fighting halfheartedly, further widening the gap between the two men’s skill sets. By the second round, “Anvil” was noticeably stiff from the multiple leg kicks he took in the first and he began to do nothing but retreat from Aldo’s advances, and attempt to duck and shove his way out of the clinch. He eventually ducked into a waiting uppercut that ended his night.
WEC 51: Aldo vs Gamburyan was a card that, despite its “bad” and “ugly” elements, was filled to the brim with thrilling matches that not only showed the progression of some former underdogs, but also may have revealed some future title contenders. Keep an eye on WEC, as they evidently are moving up quickly in the ranks.