Miguel Angel Torres notched his first UFC win on Saturday, but not in a fashion MMA fans were accustomed to the former WEC champion. Torres made his name in the now-defunct WEC for getting in absolute firefights and always coming out with a KO or Submission victory.
But when Torres entered into the UFC octagon fans were shocked and upset when Torres came out reserved and refused to engage with Antonio Banuelos' attempts at in-fighting and kept Banuelos on the end of his jab. Fans rained down their boos as they voiced their displeasure that Torres was not fighting in his accustomed fashion.
This performance came as a shock to many fans, and already reaction is blaming it on the UFC "win-first" culture infecting Torres. However this fight should not have caught fans this off guard, in his last WEC fight against Charlie Valencia, Torres showed a very similar game plan on the fight, the only difference being that he was able to rock Valencia in an exchange and then lock in a choke on the dazed fighter.
Torres learned the dangers of his in close brawling when he lost his title to Brian Bowles, when he was chasing down Bowles after landing a solid strike Torres caught a right hook flush on the chin and suffered his first KO loss. Torres then was out grappled and choked out by Team Alpha Male Joseph Benavidez in a No. 1 contenders’ match.
Torres complied much of his amazing 39-3 during a time when the bantamweight division was mostly a mystery with fans. Now challenged with a new breed of fighters, the former champion was faced with the real possibility of people a fossil over night and Torres knew he had to change up his training.
He traveled to Tristar Gym to train with striking guru Firas Zahabi to revamp his whole fighting game. Zahabi pointed out a clear hole in Torres' game: he is a very long, lanky fighter but he engaged in close quarters and didn't use his reach at all.
Against Banuelos the fans saw the realization of much of Zahabi's retraining of Torres' fighting style. Torres pumped a snapping, accurate jab into Banuelos' nose and eyes and when Banuelos tried to close the distance, Torres slid to the side and counter with stiff right hands.
While fans were unhappy with this fight the real difference between this fight and the Valencia fight was the Banuelos' chin proved strong enough to stop for being rocked by Torre's right cross.
This performance has drawn the ire of fans and Joe Rogan alike, but it should draw praise. Torres' old brawling style was to his detriment and he is now fighting to his strengths and benefit. He was able go into a fight, technically dominate a fighter on the feet and not revert to brawling at an inopportune time.
Torres' performance was textbook of the longer fighter and used fantastic footwork and movement to keep Banuelos at distance. Torres' offense will continue to improve because he is now a better striker than he ever was in the WEC.
If fans need to direct their ire for getting some less than a Fight of the Year candidate perhaps they should target Banuelos, who was unable to do anything in this fight. He seemed unwilling to close the distance and content to counter-punch the air two feet in front of Torres and he never attempted a single takedown.
Some judges could have scored fights 10-8 simply based on Banuelos landing only two, three and five strikes in each round respectively. While Banuelos did manage a nice flurry at the end of the fight, it was really 14 minutes too late to show any offensive inclination.