Leave it to the WEC to erase any bad memories lingering from UFC 119's lackluster event with a blockbuster of a show of its own.
Although the WEC, the sister organization to the UFC, focuses specifically on the lighter weight classes, the promotion is synonymous with exciting, fast and non-stop fights. Case in point: Two fighters on the WEC 51 main card, Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung, were involved in a clash at WEC 48 that was widely regarded as one of the best fights of the year and possibly the decade.
On that note, it was no surprise that the main event, nor several other bouts on the main card, ended in dramatic fashion. The surprising KO of Jung, the three-round war between Hominick and Garcia, the slick rear-naked choke by Torres, the hate-filled beatdown of Varner by Cerrone or the easy win by Aldo made for one of the best MMA shows of the year. Without question, the WEC is consistently the most entertaining MMA organization out there.
Main Event: Champ Jose Aldo vs. Manny Gamburyan (for featherweight title)
Aldo retained the featherweight belt with a KO victory over UFC veteran Manny Gamburyan. Aldo positioned himself on the outside of Gambuyran's reach in Rounds 1 and 2, peppering him with strikes and patiently awaiting for his opportunity to deliver a finishing blow, which came in the second round.
Aldo threw an uppercut that connected with Gamburyan's chin, causing the former UFC fighter to drop to the canvas. Aldo quickly finished him off with several more strikes, causing Gamburyan to lose consciousness.
With the win, Aldo goes to 8-0 in the WEC, having defended his title twice.
Donald Cerrone vs. Jamie Varner
The clash was easily the Fight of the Night.
The highly anticipated bout between Cerrone and Varner had been littered with bad-mouthing and accusations by both sides ever since Varner won their first bout over a year ago in controversial fashion. With fans decidedly behind Cerrone, 'Cowboy' took the fight to Varner immediately and with abandon. Cerrone got the better end of the exchanges, knocking Varner down on several occasions.
Timely takedowns and endless punch-kick combos gave Cerrone the redemption he so craved. Now that both fighters each have a win, I'm ready for the rubber match.
Miguel Torres vs. Charlie Valencia
It was an impressive performance by the former bantamweight champ, who needed a win in a major way. Torres, who previously defended his title three straight times, had most recently lost two fights in a row. Torres used his reach and quickness to set up a second-round rear-naked-choke submission, ending Valencia's three-fight winning streak. With Torres back on track and Faber dropping down to 135, it's about to get 'real' in the bantamweight division.
Chan Sung Jung vs. George Roop
Like Mark Hominick in the previous bout, Roop effectively minimized time in the pocket with the Korean brawler, allowing him to frequently utilize his jab from the outside. The UFC vet picked Jung apart with jabs and kicks in both Round 1 and 2 until he saw an opening in the second frame that allowed him to land a vicious kick to the head, knocking Jung out cold at the 1:30 mark.
I understand that Jung's performance against Garcia won him a lot of fans, but I think it was a mistake for a fighter like Jung who has won the majority of his bouts via submission to ignore a grappling strategy against a fighter in Roop with questionable submission defense.
Third time is the charm for Roop, who finally gets a win in the WEC.
Leonard Garcia vs. Mark Hominick
With accurate and well-connected strikes, Hominick outpointed Garcia to win via split decision. Hominick wisely resisted any thoughts of getting baited into a brawl with the Texas slugger.
Instead, Hominick methodically chipped away at his opponent for three rounds. In a fight in which I thought grappling might be the difference-maker, the fight never made its way to the canvas.
It's a solid win for Hominick, who is on a four-fight win streak. Garcia, on the other hand, is a fighter who has only won two out of the last six fights and must string some wins together to regain relevancy within the organization.
Pablo Garza vs. Tiequan Zhang
Zhang is a proficient wrestler that has amassed a 16-0 record in Asia. Zhang has been looked at as an MMA pioneer -- he could be the first of many Chinese fighters to enter into the U.S. MMA scene in the near future.
Garza, a last-minute replacement for Jason Reinhardt who was unable to pass a pre-fight eye exam, was no match for Zhang's superior ground technique. Zhang quickly secured a takedown early in Round 1, eventually scrambling into a guillotine choke from the bottom that forced his opponent to tap at 2:26 mark of the first round.
Mike Brown vs. Cole Province
Mike Brown didn't waste any time turning the page on his first-round loss against Manny Gamburyan at WEC 48.
Just 1:18 into the first round, Brown delivered a right hook that folded Province, allowing him to finish him off from the ground. Province, unable to get over the hump, has yet to earn a victory in his three-fight WEC career.
Chris Horodecki vs. Ed Ratcliff
Horodecki and Ratcliff are unquestionably more comfortable fighting on their feet. When you have two guys that are proficient in the same fighting disciplines as they are, you either get a slugfest or a sleeper.
In their case, it was the latter. In a bout that was a highly technical affair, it was the Polish fighter's kickboxing abilities that edged out Ratcliff on the cards. Horodecki delivered more accurate strikes and timely kicks, earning him the split-decision victory. Now on a two-fight win streak, Horodecki is beginning to make his presence known in the lightweight division.
Diego Nunes vs. Tyler Toner
This bout was a refreshing change from the previous clash between Banuelos and George.
Featherweight up-and-comer Nunes immediately acquired a takedown and eventually secured a guillotine from mount early in Round 1. Toner gutted out the attempt but was still unable to counter Nunes' swarming ground game. Round two started off with a solid body kick by Nunes that crumpled the home-town Toner against the cage.
Although, Toner eventually recovered, he was yet again unable to reciprocate Nunes' onslaught. The Brazilian fighter's strategy, which consisted of using his striking to setup the clinch and ground game, proved to be effective. Nunes easily earned the unanimous decision. Now 4-1 in the WEC, he's quietly creeping into the featherweight title picture.
Antonio Banuelos vs. Chad George
In what was an excruciating three-round 'feeling-out period', the fans in attendance witnessed only pockets of action throughout the bout.
In the first round when the fight finally went to the ground with about 30 seconds left, George secured a tight arm triangle that appeared to force Banuelos to tap as the bell sounded. In Round 2, it was Banuelos' late takedown and ensuing ground-and-pound that earned him the round.
In the final and decisive frame, Banuelos secured a key takedown midway through the round, allowing him to control the duration of the bout and earn the lackluster victory.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Nick Pace
The fight was close at the onset, with both fighters achieving dominant positions. It was the damage that Johnson delivered in the last 30 seconds of that first frame that won him the round and provided the necessary momentum for him to eventually win the bout.
Johnson continued to outpoint Pace in the clinch and on the ground in both round two and three in order to earn the decision victory. Although Pace rallied in the last minute of the fight, taking his opponents back, he really had no answer for Johnson's pressured attack.
'Mighty Mouse' goes to 1-1 in the WEC earning his first victory with the organization.