Despite his best efforts, Manny "The Mangler" Tapia was unable to leave Wednesday night's WEC event with the championship belt. Instead, the bantamweight title stayed where it seems to belong ? around the waist of pound-for-pound stalwart Miguel Torres.
"I don't train to knock people out or submit them," said Torres (35-1-0) before the fight. "I train to punish people." Tapia (10-1-1) was unfortunate enough to be both punished and knocked out, prompting a referee stoppage at 3:04 of the second round.
The Mangler's hope of winning, by most accounts, rested on his ability to out strike Torres. Though the fight stayed on its feet, Torres was in full control, using superior reach and frightening speed to land stiff jabs. Tapia managed little offense beyond a hard right at the beginning of the second, and even that was nullified shortly afterwards by jabs, front kicks, and spinning back fists from the champion. Midway through the round, Torres dropped Tapia twice. The first time, Tapia managed to recover and get back to his feet. The second time, Torres pounced quickly and unleashed strikes until referee Josh Rosenthal halted the bout.
"Last time I fought, I got kind of emotional and got kind of crazy," explained Torres in his post-fight interview. "If I calm down, I fight like this pretty much all the time."
The win was the 16th straight for Torres and his 11th straight stoppage. When asked about what's next, the champion gave no specific answer, making it clear that he simply wants to fight the best.
"The next step is to fight the next person in line, whoever that may be," said Torres. "The WEC has a lot of great 135-pounders out there. I'm here to fight the best in the world."
Speaking of the best in the world, two top featherweights from opposite ends of the globe met earlier in the night. Brazil's Wagnney Fabiano (11-1-0) and Japan's Akitoshi Tamura (12-7-2) squared of in a less than eye-pleasing, but highly technical, grappling match that ended with Fabiano locking up an arm triangle with just 12 seconds left in the round.
Tamura landed short kicks to the body for the few seconds the bout was on the feet, but the fight was clearly a clash between two elite grapplers who were itching to see who was better at their art. Fabiano controlled the Shooto veteran from the top, occasionally passing to mount or side control, but mainly being stuck in half guard. Tamura did all he could from the bottom and even looked close to securing a guillotine in the third, but the Brazilian's skill was too much.
With the final round expiring, Fabiano secured the arm triangle from mount and slid into side mount to apply pressure, forcing Tamura to submit for the first time in his professional career.
Brian Bowles (7-0-0) was determined not to let Will Ribeiro (10-2-0) walk away with a victory. "To beat me would make a name for him," said Bowles, "and I'm not going to let that happen."
The bantamweight from Georgia proved to be a man of his word, submitting Ribeiro at 1:11 of the third round.
Bowles fought smart on the feet, minimizing the effects of Ribeiro's hand speed and technical boxing prowess by moving smoothly in and out of range. On the ground, Bowles kept positional dominance. Surprisingly, Ribeiro shot for the takedown in the third and received a tight guillotine for his efforts. After much resistance, he finally had no choice but to tap.
With the win, Bowles' raises his stock even further and looks to have the next crack at Torres.
Another fighter in the hunt for the bantamweight title is Urijah Faber protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ© Joseph Benavidez (9-0-0). Against fellow WEC debutant Danny Martinez (12-3-0), Benavidez showed off his speed and creativity to secure a unanimous (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) decision from the judges.
Benavidez looked somewhat similar to his mentor as he bounced around the cage and kept Martinez seemingly always one step too slow. He threw quick punch flurries, sharp knees, and lunging thrusts kicks throughout the fight, racking up points without really damaging his opponent.
Martinez looked unable to accomplish anything. Most of his punches hit air and were countered by a stinging combination. A burst of aggression at the end of the third was his shining moment, but it was far too little, too late.
Benavidez lived up to the hype against a very tough opponent. With some more experience and refinement, he could soon be a very legitimate contender in a rapidly expanding division.
1. Shane Roller def. Mike Budnik via submission (guillotine choke) - R1 (1:01)
2. Cub Swanson def. Hirouki Takaya via unanimous decision
3. Bart Palaszewski def. Alex Karalexis via TKO (strikes) - R2 (1:11)
4. Diego Nunes ef. Cole Province via unanimous decision
5. Mark Munoz def. Ricardo Barros via TKO (strikes) - R1 (2:26)
6. Johny Hendricks def. Justin Haskins via TKO (strikes) - R2 (0:52)
7. Joseph Benavidez def. Danny Martinez via unanimous decision
8. Brian Bowles def. Will Ribeiro via submission (guillotine choke) - R3 (1:11)
9. Wagnney Fabiano def. Akitoshi Tamura via submission (head-arm choke) - R3 (4:48)
10. Miguel Torres def. Manny Tapia via TKO (strikes) - R2 (3:04)