The WEC finally has it’s first big-time showdown since Zuffa’s acquistion of the promotion as WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber will now most likely defend his title against newly-minted number one contender Jens Pulver following the results of last night’s WEC 31: Faber vs Curran.
Faber (20-1) survived a scary first round which saw fellow top ten featherweight Jeff Curran (28-9-1) take Faber’s back and continually attempt to sink in a rear naked choke for over two minutes. Curran made a statement right off the bat when he was able to take the former wrestling standout down to the mat. He quickly used slick jiu-jitsu techniques to slide into a dominant position but eventually found himself dodging punches on his back during the closing moments of the round.
The beginning of the second round saw the two grapple on the feet as Faber used a tight clinch to land heavy knees and sharp elbows that opened up a gash on the bridge of Curran’s nose. Faber was then able to wrestle Curran down to the canvas where he sunk in a ten-finger guillotine that ultimately forced Curran to tap out.
After the fight, Faber admitted that he gave up his back on purpose in the first round, possibly to try and get Curran to waste some of his energy in attempting a choke.
“I get my back taken on purpose all day long,” said Faber. “I don’t care. It’s a five-round fight, there’s no way that I’m getting choked out.”
When asked what was next for “The California Kid” by former UFC Heavyweight Champion and WEC color-commentator Frank Mir, Faber stated that he thought he was going to be matched up with Jens Pulver in his next fight.
“Looks like it’s going to be Jens Pulver,” stated Faber. “It’ll be an honor to fight that guy. I have a lot of respect for him. Let’s do it.”
Pulver’s WEC debut was a quick one as he needed only 35 seconds to dispatch of Cub Swanson in their bout.
The two exchanged jabs to start the festivities but Swanson (11-2) quickly shot in to attempt to take Pulver (22-8-1) down to the ground, a weakness of his in the past. Pulver stuffed the takedown and was able to muscle Swanson down to the ground before sinking in an anaconda choke that finished Swanson.
The weeks leading up to the fight were filled with verbal blows being thrown from both sides. Swanson accused Pulver of being one-dimensional and pulling out of their first fight for reasons other than a knee injury. Pulver swung back by criticizing Swanson’s lack of credentials in making those statements.
After the fight Pulver admitted that Swanson’s comments forced him to make a change in strategy that ended up working out great for the former champion.
“He brought it out of me,” said Pulver. “We had some heated conversations but I think we both needed it. I was like you know what? Enough with the left hand, everyone expects it. Let’s go out there and start grappling.”
Pulver also expressed excitement in the proposition of fighting Faber at some point next year, saying that he didn’t want to wait any longer than three months in order to get it on.
The other two championship fights on the main card featured a couple of surprise performances.
Team Quest’s Chael Sonnen put on the performance of a lifetime as he nearly finished Paulo Filho in the first round before ultimately losing in controversial fashion.
Sonnen (19-9-1) used a big reach advantage to pepper jabs and straight rights at Filho (16-0) during the opening moments of the first round. Sonnen then used his wrestling ability to pick up and body slam Filho to the mat. Sonnen screamed to referee Josh Rosenthal that Filho was unconscious but the fight continued on. Sonnen dominated the remainder of the ground with a striking assault and an occasional submission attempts in between to secure the lead in the fight.
Sonnen put Filho on his back once again in the second round but Filho was able to make up for a failed armbar attempt in the first by locking in another. Sonnen immediately started to scream in agony and Rosenthal jumped in to stop the fight. Sonnen started to complain that he never tapped nor asked for the fight to be stopped but his argument went on deaf ears as Filho was announced as the winner and retained his title.
Doug Marshall scored an impressive submission win over American Top Team’s Ariel Gandulla in order to retain his belt.
Marshall (7-2) was taken down by Gandulla (4-0-0-1) right off of the bat but Marshall swiftly started to work from an active guard. A failed triangle attempt translated into an armbar that forced Gandulla to tap out less than a minute into the bout and left him with an injured right elbow.
Marshall claimed that his technique on the ground is not a new aspect of his game.
“I’m constantly working my ground game in the gym,” explained Marshall. “I’m always working on it. I love the triangle. I went for it but his head was a little too high up so I went for the armbar instead.”
John Alessio def. Todd Moore - Unanimous Decision
Charlie Valencia def. Ian McCall - Submission (Guillotine)
Brian Bowles def. Marcos Galvao - KO (Punch)
Ed Ratcliff def. Alex Karalexis - TKO (Strikes)
Bryan Baker def. Eric Schambari - Split Decision