The Beginning Of A New Era:
The Beginning of a New Era:
Razor Takes WEC Lightweight Title in WEC’s Inaugural Zuffa Show
By Steven Marrocco
(Las Vegas, NV — January 20th) The name on the cage said World Extreme Cagefighting, but for all intents and purposes, the WEC’s 26th installment was a Zuffa affair. Nixing their small pentagon for the traditional octagon, the night featured fighters from the promotion’s younger days, but with a decidedly slick twist in packaging and presentation. Indeed, it seems the WEC is destined to become the Bushido of the West, grooming up and coming fighters for the big show.
A centerpiece of the new wave in talent is Lightweight "Razor" Rob McCullough, a WEC fixture for years by his own choosing. When FCF last spoke to him, he had resisted several offers to go to the Ultimate Fighting Championship due to the generally low premiums paid to starting fighters. An open invitation to season 5 of the Ultimate Fighter was turned down. Instead, he had flourished in the WEC (and the short-lived WFA), building a name amongst hardcore fans. With Zuffa practically coming to him, much was riding on his debut.
Casual friends with Rob outside the ring, opponent Kit Cope hammed it up at every opportunity, baiting Rob with a slapstick routine that drew an icy stare from the Razor. After a brief circle, Kit threw a hard kick to the body that Rob caught, slamming him with a right hand that sent them to the mat. Content to work in Kit’s half guard, McCullough worked to pass Kit’s guard, peppering the vaunted kickboxer with punches to the body.
Surprisingly, the much-touted stand-up war between the two turned into a ground exposition, as Cope attempting to secure a shoulder lock from the bottom. For a moment, it looked well cinched; however, Rob quickly pushed off the offending leg and went back to half guard. Not one to back down, Cope immediately spun for Razor’s leg and went to work on a heel hook, then a toehold. McCullough showcased calmness on the ground, sitting on the leg in question, punching down on Cope as he worked to complete the lock.
After working out of the hold, the two stood up in the clinch, where McCullough kneed Cope in the head a few times before slamming him back to the mat. Somewhere between side mount and half guard, McCullough threw a short elbow to Cope’s side. After a few seconds, Cope grimaced in pain and rolled over, tapping out at 2:53 of the first. "I don’t know if it was on the takedown," McCullough pondered backstage. "I’ve got a saw right hand. He yelped, like when you kick a dog." Upon replay, it was not clear that the elbow had caused one of Cope’s ribs to break, as Cope himself was unsure, but nevertheless, the fight was decisive.
"I want everybody to realize, I’m not just a one-dimensional kickboxer," McCullough said confidently after the show. "I trained my ass off for this fight. I’m married to this job. Mixed martial arts is the only thing I can imagine myself doing."
In Featherweight action, youngster Urijah Faber took on submission artist Joe Pearson. Pearson, coming off a big win in a recent Pride, wasted no time in working for a submission after being slammed into the cage. Faber simply overpowered him, wrestling out of each and every attempt to fire hard elbows down from Pearson’s guard. Eventually, a right hand tagged Pearson a little too hard, causing him to clutch his forehead in pain. Rearing back again, Faber threw a right elbow that brought an immediate tap out at 2:31 of the first.
Welterweight John Alessio showed no mercy to vet Brian Gassaway, using a perfectly executed inside trip takedown to deposit the Chicagoan on the mat. After a steady series of strikes from Gassaway’s half guard, Gassaway turned his back and succumbed to a rear choke at 4:50 of the first.
Undefeated middleweights Logan Clark and Blas Avena put on a three-round war of attrition that would determine one fighter’s first loss. Indeed, Clark’s cardio and heart allowed him to bounce back from a lackluster first to take Avena down in the second and ground and pound for the remainder of the bout. A series of four nasty elbows from Avena’s half guard brought a TKO victory for Clark at 4:23 of the 3rd.
Despite middleweight Fernando Gonzalez’s effective counterpunching and brutal kicks to the body, opponent Brendon Seguin used his overzealous striking charges to take him down at will. Smothering Gonzalez for most of the second and third, scoring consistently with elbows and punches, Seguin got the go ahead 30-27 nod from all three judges.
Popular WEC vet Olaf Alonso ran into the hammer that was Alex Karalexis’ right hand, absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment on his feet and on the ground. Karalexis displayed a far more refined game on the ground, as he neutralized the submission artist and rained down elbows and punches at will. Midway through the second, a large gash had opened on Olaf’s nose, prompting a doctor stoppage at 3:53 of the first.
Rumble on the Rock tournament winner Carlos Condit steamrolled vet Kyle Jensen, tapping him out with a rear-naked choke after a frenzied scramble on the ground at 2:10 of the first.
The Pit fighter Antonio Banuelos proved to be as exciting a fighter as he is a cornerman, outclassing Midwesterner Mike French at every turn. For his part, French proved to be an extremely tough opponent, taking all the punishment Banuelos dished out, but he never had a chance to mount a solid offense. Banuelos easily walked away with the unanimous decision.
The always impressive Rich Crunkilton put his bid in for the next WEC lightweight title shot, applying the under-utilized "Anaconda" choke to take Oregonian Mike Joy out at 4:23 of the third round.