Hermes Fights Off Early Jitters To Retain Title;ufc Vets Shine At Wec 24: “full Force”
Hermes Fights off Early Jitters to Retain Title;
UFC Vets shine at WEC 24: "Full Force"
Report by Steven Marrocco – Photography by Daisy Rosas
Looking more and more like the AAA farm club of the UFC, vets and aspiring competitors of the octagon did their best to impress Dana White and Co., who held court ringside for most of the evening. WEC promoter Scott Adams and White have long been friends, and it becomes clearer with each show that the friendship is paying dividends to the smaller brother of the two. Possibly the shortest show in recent WEC history, the main event seemed to arrive at the blink of an eye and cap off a night of brief but exciting fights.
Workaholic lightweight Hermes Franca made a point to come back to the WEC after his two wins in the UFC, citing their early support of him as a motivator to defend his title. Standing across from him was Nathan Diaz, a fierce competitor who peppered Franca early with a barrage of straight punches and hooks before taking Franca down. From the outset of the fight, it looked like the Hermes who had won all of his 2006 fights had not shown up, as he looked bewildered amidst the onslaught of Diaz’s early attack. Firing short uppercuts and knees from the clinch, Diaz largely manhandled Franca for the entire first round, save for a late guillotine attempt that Diaz rode out to the bell.
Admitting he had experienced a greater than usual influx of pre-fight adrenaline, Franca went back to his corner looking exhausted. "When they shut the cage in the beginning of the fight, I finally realized ‘I’m fighting,’" Franca explained later. "It made me very tired from the beginning"
Whether that realization woke him up, or his corner gave him a major pep talk, Franca came into the second round a changed man. Catching a Diaz roundhouse kick, Franca tossed Diaz to the mat, unleashing a flurry of punches that mostly connected and put Diaz in danger of a stoppage. Finally working back to his feet, Diaz worked a takedown as Franca again attempted a guillotine, as Diaz responded with the short uppercuts and knees that were so effective in the first. After Diaz reversed his attempted takedown, Diaz looked to continue a ground and pound assault, until he overextended a downward right cross and Franca immediately slid his hips out, extending his legs over Diaz’s left side and cranking an armbar that forced Diaz to tap out at 2:46 of round 2.
In the evening’s co-main event, John Polakowski and Olaf Alonso fought their hearts out for the third time as they attempted to close the book on their friendly rivalry. Alonso looked very impressive in the initial round, scoring consistently by picking his shots and counterpunching against Polakowski’s flurries of looping punches. A straight right cross drew a gasp from the audience and puzzled amusement to Polakowski’s face, as he worked to establish dominance by cutting off the cage from the circling Alonso.
Screaming at him throughout the first round, fellow SLO’er Chuck Liddell mimed a looping uppercut, as Polakowski bounced in his corner between rounds, looking like he had been on the receiving end of more damage.
Though Alonso started strong by catching Polakowski’s kick and slamming him to the mat, attempting a crazy spinning roll into a toe hold, his cardio became an issue soon after as the fight went back to the feet. From there, Polakowski’s relentless attack wore Alonso down gradually, as his flurries met their target’s with far greater accuracy. Desperately working for a takedown, Alonso clung to Polakowski’s leg as Polakowski hammered away at his head to close out the round.
"I got tired halfway through the second," Alonso said after the fight. "I spent the two weeks before the fight in bed with a cold. It prevented me from getting enough oxygen to my lungs."
Polakowski took the lead from the outset of the third, taking advantage of Alonso’s tiredness with more flurries of punches as Alonso attempted to go back to counterpunching with less success. Swinging for the fences at the end of the fight, they immediately embraced at the bell as Polakowski thanked Alonso for standing with him. In the end, Polakowski ran away with the later part of the fight, but suprisingly received the vote of confidence from only 2 of the 3 judges, with one ringside judge scoring 29-28 in favor of Alonso.
UFC vet Terry Martin stayed cool under pressure against the relatively inexperienced Keith Barry, as Barry swung for the fences early in the fight. After an initial stall in the action after Martin slammed Barry into the mat, Martin ducked a series of bolos to deliver a short left hook that sent Barry to the canvas in a daze. Keeping the pressure on, Martin continued to connect with punches from the top position until Barry turned onto his stomach to avoid any further punishment and the ref jumped in to save him at 2:52 of the first round.
Fellow UFC vet Justin Eilers stayed patient and waited for the proper moment to pounce against his foe Josh Diekman, countering his initial flurry with crisp combinations that stunned the challenger early. Reversing Diekman’s takedown, Eilers rained down punches to end the bout at 2:29 of the first round. Strutting around the cage post fight, he turned to the UFC president and shouted "I’m back, Dana!" with a smile on his face.
Settling a trumped up score was local favorite Poppies Martinez, who brought along a phalanx of boys and girls dressed in traditional Native American garb, dancing down the aisle to a loud incantation and an explosion of fireworks. After an errant kick from opponent Robert Breslin ended their last bout, Martinez sent him reeling back with a series of quick punches, countering Breslin’s sloppy takedown attempt with a guillotine that ended the fight at 0:52 of the first round.
Other fellow UFC vet Justin Levens looked as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders after decisively knocking Oregonian Justin Hawes into another planet early in the first round. "It was an absolute must win situation," the ecstatic Levens said afterwards. "To come from three losses, I just knew I could not lose."
SLO fighter Glover Teixeira kept his composure after undeafeated newcomer Thierry Sokoudjou displayed the crisp counterpunching and kicking skills that won him the Heavyweight belt this year at Total Combat 15. Finding his range after missing his initial flurries of looping crosses, Glover’s left hook found Thierry’s chin as he backed away to the cage, sending Thierry pitching forward to the canvas, knocked out at 1:49 of round 1.
Although he didn’t exactly follow the game plan set forth by his cornerman Nick Diaz, David Terrel controlled his fight with Pacific Martial arts fighter Mike Moreno, taking him down at will and scoring enough with punches from the top position in the first two rounds to negate a third round comeback by Moreno, earning him a unanimous 29-28 decision.
After a slow start, Patrick Kaase found his stride and reversed out of a rear-naked choke to finish opponent Jarrod Kwitty with strikes. Although, Jarrod’s jiu-jitsu skills were quite formidable, he wasn’t prepared for the consequences of a lost submission and gassed out shortly after the rear-naked attempt failed, receiving enough punches from Kaase to justify a stoppage at 2:30 of the second round.
WEC 24 "Full Force" Full Results: