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WEC: Torres vs. Tapia Preview

The WEC returns to Las Vegas for its final event of the year. As has become typical of December MMA, WEC: Torres vs. Tapia offers up some of the promotion's top talent for our viewing pleasure. The card also boasts likely title contenders in matches that should have major implications in 2009.

Miguel Angel Torres (34-1-0) vs. Manny "The Mangler" Tapia (10-1-0)

With the upset of the seemingly invincible Urijah Faber fresh in the collective MMA conscience, Miguel Torres finds himself defending his bantamweight title against the heavy hitting Manny Tapia.

Tapia wields a formidable skill set and will probably cause problems for the champion early. His accurate, powerful hands will be his biggest assets against the technical onslaught Torres typically brings. If he can keep the fight close on the feet and protect himself on the ground, he could be on his way to a unanimous victory.

But don't expect Torres to let that happen. The champion's last ten opponents have all been stopped before the bell and over half of them haven't even seen the second round. Torres will bring the heat and Tapia will have to fight smart to avoid being burned.

Superior reach and a more varied striking game will push Tapia's back against the proverbial wall and it won't take long for him to make a mistake that Torres will capitalize on. The fight will hit the mat and a battered Tapia simply won't be able to stop the champion from retaining. Look for Torres to sink in a guillotine late in the second and hand "The Mangler" his first professional loss.

Brian Bowles (8-0-0) vs. Will Ribeiro (10-1-0)

Brian Bowles has been simply phenomenal. In just six fights, he has propelled himself onto most top 10 lists and put himself in title contention, crushing every opponent the WEC has put in front of him. The Georgian bantamweight has drawn comparisons to TUF winner and UFC light heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin for his work ethic and humble background.

Ribeiro is no slouch himself. Coming off a win over former champion Chase Beebe, Ribeiro proved that he had what it takes to compete with the WEC's best. The Olympic boxer possesses top-notch striking skills and massive power, as evidenced by the five of his ten wins that came by knockout.

This fight will likely determine the next opponent for whoever leaves the main event as champion and will be a major step for both fighters' careers. Though Ribeiro has more fights, Bowles has been more impressive against stiffer competition and has shown the ability to frustrate capable opponents. Bowles' power and reach should allow him to survive Ribeiro on the fight on the feet and once he gets it to the ground, he should be able to lock up a nice rear-naked choke before the end of the first.

Wagnney Fabiano (10-1-0) vs. Akitoshi "Ironman" Tamura (12-6-2)

Two featherweights at the top of the food chain in their respective organizations now meet in the stacked WEC division and look to establish their position as title threats.

Wagnney Fabiano's IFL run was essentially a grappling clinic that ended in an impressive display of knockout power. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt showed a dominant ground game in submitting his first five opponents then finished his dismantling of the division with a quick one-punch knockout of Shad Lierly. Clearly the best featherweight in the IFL, Fabiano's brilliance put him in the worldwide 145-lb picture.

Akitoshi Tamura made his career in Japan's Shooto organization, displaying outstanding resilience and a slick submissions game. Rivalries and big wins over Shooto's best made him the flag-bearer of Japanese featherweights and he now looks to plant that flag in his U.S. debut.

Considering the trouble other stars have had transitioning from Japan and the ring to America and the cage, Tamura may not look himself in his first outing. Fabiano will control the pace and setting of the bout en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Danny Martinez (12-2-0) vs. Joseph Benavidez (8-0-0)

Benavidez has been pegged as a serious up and coming talent in the bantamweight division. The Urijah Faber mentee and training partner even had a shot to face the legendary Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto this past summer in Japan, but the bout dematerialized when Yamamoto was sidelined with a knee-injury. Instead, Benavidez submitted the considerably less legendary Junya Kudo. Nevertheless, Benavidez is still considered a big deal and will have a chance to display his skills for a large audience Wednesday night.

Martinez is also making an important career step. Riding three stoppage victories, the Southwest MMA prospect looks to impress in his debut.

Both fighters want the victory and both fighters have the ability to take it, but barring some bizarre, unforeseeable circumstances, only one can walk away the victor. Benavidez's furious pace should prove too much for Martinez early, but Martinez's experience and durability should come into play as the fight goes on. Benavidez takes a close decision.

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