Over the last week, fans had three events to choose from to get their mixed martial arts fix.
Last Wednesday, Strikeforce put together their Los Angeles show, headlined by Robbie Lawler and Babalu Sobral, in celebration of contractual agreements with EA Sports.
In typical fashion, the fights—decent at best—were overshadowed by their campy, undervalued production: an unfortunate reality that will continue to hinder Strikeforce’s staying power as a legitimate threat to the UFC’s dominance in the American MMA market.
Next, we were treated to the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 finale show Saturday night on Spike TV. Due to the lack of star power, expectations were set reasonably low in anticipation for the ultimate gatekeeper, Keith Jardine, and stubborn wrestler turned mediocre striker, Matt Hamill—who’s coming off a beating at the hands of Jon Jones at the last TUF finale in December.
In comparison, the TUF finale out-shined Strikeforce in overall fight and production quality, with inspirational performances from both Hamill and Season 11 winner Court McGee.
Finally, the week was topped off with the WEC’s inaugural Canadian event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada headlined by former lightweight champion, Jamie Varner, and the hard-hitting Persian Prince, Kamal Shalorus.
WEC 49 delivered in a huge way, reminding fight fans that while they might not be the most commercially successful MMA organization, they consistently put on some of the year’s best matches.
This observation is a real testament to their fighters.
The lighter warriors don’t revel in the monetary luxuries of being the top paid guys in the sport, living large with pay-per-view percentages and lucrative sponsorships, but their fighting spirit and technical prowess is second to none outside of the UFC.
Some hardcore fans would disagree with the latter part of that statement, arguing that the WEC serves up a ratio of quality better than the UFC, while only putting on half the amount of shows. There is some validity to that opinion; mainly illustrating the fact that the WEC does out performance the occasional UFC card.
All in all, the Canadians were gift wrapped a stellar card that included five great matches, two or three which will be considered diamonds in the rough by the time 2010 comes to an end.
Eddie Wineland, 25, (17-6-1) —three fight win-streak
The former bantamweight champ brought it hard to Will Campuzano in this two round stand-up battle—proving to be the more efficient striker. To Campuzano’s credit, he did take this fight on short notice and still put forth a competitive effort against a former title-holder.
Throughout the fight, especially in the second round, Campuzano started to find a rhythm in his combinations, but failed to land most shots due to Wineland’s superb head movement.
The match was over once Wineland started landing his own combinations, keeping Campuzano up against the cage until he planted a thunderous body shot that dropped him to the mat—one of the two devastating body shots thrown throughout the night.
Verdict: This was a strong win earned in dramatic fashion for Wineland. At 25 years old, he clearly has plenty left in the tank after his first title reign, and a promising return to glory if he keeps performing like he did against Campuzano. Let’s give him Brian Bowles.
Chris Horodecki, 22, (15-2) —one fight win-streak
After an unexpected lost to Anthony Njokuani in his WEC debut, the 22 year old Polish prospect displayed numerous skills in his victory over newcomer Danny Downes—after Ed Ratcliff pulled out days before the event.
The Horodecki—that nearly submitted Downes in the first round, changed up his levels landing a variety of strikes in the second round and displaying great cardio to accompany his rear naked choke in the third—is the Horodecki insiders were raving about before his entry into the WEC.
Verdict: Like Horodecki said in the ring after his victory, “hats off to Downes” for his valiant effort despite being outclassed and outgunned. Horodecki is one of the many young promising prospects in the WEC stable that possess the potential to become a future champion. Let’s give him Will Kerr or a rematch with Anthony Njokuani.
Josh Grispi, 21, (14-1) —10 fight win-streak
Part of what helps drums up support for the WEC from the diehard fan sector, are fighters like Horodecki and Grispi. Fans are able to watch the sport evolve before their own eyes, as this new generation of mixed martial artists comes to fruition.
Gone are the days of fighters entering the mixed martial arts game with a one-dimensional background. Now the sport harbors competitors who begin their fight journey as mixed martial artist first and foremost.
They come into the foray with the refined skill set of a complete fighter
Josh Grispi is one of these guys and proved it against LC Davis. It did not take him long to render Davis unconscious: Grispi wielded his long reach with kicks, Davis quickly took the fight to the ground, Grispi sunk in a nasty guillotine that put Davis asleep.
Quick and easy for the youngster.
Verdict: There will undoubtedly be a title shot for this young gun within a year if he continues down this path—coming back after a year of inactivity to choke out a game Davis is reason enough. Let’s give him the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki.
Mark Hominick, 27, (18-8) —three fight win-streak
This all-Canadian co-main event had all the ingredients of a true MMA fight of the year—not slugfest of the year like Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung (The Korean Zombie).
Both Hominick and Jabouin fought at such a stunning pace, possibly the quickest paced fight of the year, circling around each other throwing stinging shots from good angles, erratically feinting. It was intense to watch
Even though Jabouin got his share of shots in, Hominick was just a hair faster, getting his combinations off first.
I can’t remember the last time I saw such a beautiful liver shot, let alone two great body shots in one night. Once Hominick dug his fist into Jabouin’s liver, he swarmed his crumpled opponent with a storm of punches, in what appeared to be the end of the fight until, to many fans’ disbelief, Jabouin stood up.
Not only was he able to get to his feet, he simultaneously blasted Hominick chin with a flush hook that dropped him on his back. Equally incredible, Hominick overcame being dazed to reverse Jabouin into a mount position, where he ground and pounded his way to victory.
Verdict: Hominick looked impressive, both technically and mentally—Jose Aldo’s list of potential challengers seems to grow after every WEC event. Let’s give him Mike Brown or Leonard Garcia.
Jamie Varner, 25, (16-3….1) —no fight win-streak
Once, twice, three times the nutcracker. Somebody please get Kama Shalorus a copy of Grey’s Anatomy (the book) so we can highlight the “no-kick” zones for him. The Prince of Persia’s inside left kicks went too far north, too often, cracking Varner’s man-sack three unprecedented times.
With no title shot on the horizon for Shalorus, maybe the former wrestling champ should consider being a walking prophylactic in his free time because Varner might have some issues getting Jamie Jr. into the world after those low blows—assuming he has any DNA tadpoles left.
Aside from the ridiculous low blows, the match was very intriguing, laced with strategy and technique. It’s not hard to believe Varner was once the WEC’s lightweight kingpin. His counter punching combinations were spot-on and footwork was excellent against a robotically tenacious Shalorus.
That would be one scary Aladdin! There is no disputing whether or not the 37 year old has power and resilience—that much is evident.
On a tactic note: chopping down Varner’s lead leg was a good strategy.
That’s the good, but the bad might tip the scale. At his age, it’s difficult to withstand that kind of punishment a counter fighter like Varner can inflict. Those loopy punches make matters worse.
Technically speaking, Shalorus is a sloppy fighter that refuses to use his wrestling strength as a primary weapon in the cage. At this level of MMA, it’s one of the detrimental flaws in his game that will ultimately prevent him from being a champion.
Verdict: Don’t think I wasn’t going to mention how horrific the officiating was during the main event. If I was Varner, I would have used my unbroken fist to punch referee Josh Rosenthal in the face for not deducting another point and my unbroken foot to shove up Cecil Peoples’ ass in hopes of hitting his head.
The old saying goes: Don’t let it go to the judges. In most cases, that’s perfect advice, but in some fights, it can’t be helped. In professional sports it’s vital to have professional officiating, not only for the legitimacy of the sport, but also for the well-being of the athletes.
Varner gets kicked in the cup three times, breaks his foot and hand, has his opponent deducted a point (only once), all for a draw. That has to hurt worse than those gut shots. Let’s give him…a Kit-Kat bar. No, let’s give him the winner of Shane Roller vs. Anthony Pettis or an immediate rematch with Shalorus and a sponsorship deal with NUTTYBUDDY .