I have often talked at length about how important it is for mixed martial arts fans to support their local organizations, in addition to legally supporting the sport’s upper echelons. Looking back, perhaps I was especially passionate about that issue because of my lack of access to top-notch cards on a routine basis. If I weren’t a ten hour drive away from Las Vegas, I may not have been so interested in going to Warriors Collide shows held in abandoned middle schools in Las Animas. Essentially, what I’m saying is it’s going to be tough to go back to dirt-floor equestrian centers and hotel ballrooms after experiencing WEC 51 live and in person.
There really isn’t a bad seat in the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, where the card was held. I was in a box (nicely stocked with Coors, in a situation that I imagine involved geography overcoming Zuffa endorsement deals, and Grey Goose) overlooking the floor and I couldn’t notice any obstructed seats that I would be loath to pay for. In the infrequent event that a cameraman needed to directly impede our view from the box, the arena’s walls had four huge HD projection screens showing his work. Some of the floor seats, I felt, could have used upgrading – I’d like to think that Reed Harris and company could vouch for folding steel chairs with a little bit of padding. After writhing on one of those at a MADD panel earlier this week, I’d hate to spend five hours on one.
Yes, five hours. The doors opened at 3:30 PM, with the first undercard fight (Demetrious Johnson v Nick Pace) starting right after the top of the hour. My group – consisting of Donald Cerrone’s younger sister Ashleigh, a friend of hers and the friend’s boyfriend – arrived right in between those two marks, allowing the two of us (the two ladies went back to the hotel to put their faces on, which I felt was more than a little unnecessary – I mean, it’s a fucking fight) to hustle up to our box and begin enjoying the show. Johnson is Benavidez-short, but won a lopsided decision after remembering his ability to wrestle.
Note: I walked in with my ticket, asked where the suites were, walked to an elevator, went upstairs and entered my box – I was never checked or ID’ed or anything throughout the duration of the show. Not only was the lack of hassle awesome for running downstairs for cigarettes, but I feel there’s a very real crashing possibility here. Keep in mind the next time you’re feeling bold at an event.
Antonio Banuelos came out to “Laser Cannon Deth Sentence” (yes, Deth does not have an “a” here) by Dethklok (see?), which instantly makes him one of my favorite fighters ever – much like when Tamdan McCrory tried to come out to “Thunderhorse.” Seems Zuffa is getting over the whole picking-entrance-music-for-fighters thing, which is wonderful. Chad George is super tough and has a future at the weight, but getting Banuelos in an undercard fight is just ridiculous.
Tyler Toner’s strong home town advantage – amplified by the Colorado state flag carried by his corner – wasn’t enough to overcome the Nova Uniao trained Diego Nunes. Nunes didn’t show any ill effects of the altitude en route to a unanimous decision. Toner will go back to the drawing board, confident in his striking but with holes to fix in his clinch/grappling game.
The judge that gave Ed Ratliff two rounds against Chris Horodecki should be drawn and quartered.
Think Antonio Banuelos is crazy for an arena still waiting for seats to be filled? How about Mike Brown? I kind of thought Cole Province would get a Wikipedia page by virtue of getting nuked by Brown, but no such luck thus far. Brown/Nunes makes a bunch of sense to me.
The undercard wrapped up with the Mongolian Wolf, Zhang Tie Quan, latching a quick guillotine on defeated TUF competitor (and previously undefeated) Pablo Garza. As soon as I saw Quan’s hair line, I knew the AP had made a mistake reporting him as being 25 (he’s actually 32) – that’s not ancient, so I don’t understand how such a large mistake was made. I ended up talking to Garza after the card was over, as he decided to take advantage of the same shuttle service we did from the bar following the card (appropriately called “Electric Cowboy” – going to retrieve my cell phone later today). Pablo let me know that this was his third fight in six weeks and that he was guaranteed a return invitation from Zuffa in exchange for taking the fight on such short notice. Then, he agreed with me when I told him my opinion on wrestling in MMA (synopsis: if you can’t get up, then shut up). Awesome guy, not at all inflated by his recent exposure. I’ll be rooting for him.
So holy shit, are we ready to start the main card?
Leonard Garcia was 2-2-1 in his last five fights leading up to WEC 51, and for all intents and purposes he should have been 0-5. While people choose to focus on his war with (read as: robbery of) the Korean Zombie, but in my humble opinion, he also lost the Roop fight and the Massouh fight (the latter more than the former). I’ll be damned if I didn’t fully expect to hear him win once I realized it was yet another split decision. Luckily for all, Garcia’s magic only worked on one of the judges, and the fight was correctly awarded to Mark Hominick, who gave better than he got.
In the “we got screwed by Leonard Garcia” fight of the night, George Roop showed Chan Sung Jung why nobody is emulating his striking. Yes, the lack of wasted movement, the ability to throw from a firmly planted base at all times – all well and good. Plus, it’s cool to watch. It’s just not very effective. That whole “planted” thing works against you when you get kicked in the face. The Zombie will probably have a job if he can beat whomever they give him, but it’s clear now that it needs to be similarly skilled mixed martial artists, not people above him in the pecking order. Sung’s form of karate just isn’t going to carry him to the top of the division.
Miguel Torres got back in the win column – and gave a sigh of relief to those of us that still have him highly ranked – with a second round RNC win over Charlie Valencia. Frankly, I’m surprised that Torres had the trouble that he did securing the win, but maybe I was just overlooking Valencia. If Brian Bowles, like, ever fights again, I’d like it to be against Miguel before Dominick.
Man. What a card! And I haven’t even gotten to the rematch of last year’s best fight!
After the fight, Donald Cerrone referred to returning to his rodeo roots (note: this is not some bullshit marketing ploy. The man rides bulls) as the catalyst behind his amazing performance. None of us knew watching it, but we did know we were seeing a different version of the Cowboy. Gone was the sad, ill-fated flailing at take down attempts. Gone was the “when the hell is he going to get going?” feeling that normally accompanies the first two rounds of a Cerrone fight. Gone, even, was the tentative Varner that milked a 3-0 lead on the scorecards into a title defense last time around. Jamie was game(y), but Donald was the better man. Who isn’t looking forward to a third fight, and if not, who would you like to see these two up against next?
Finally, le main event. I was one of the few and the proud that, while cowardly picking Aldo, gave Manvel a chance in this bout. If you can control position and you have world-ending power in your dominant hand, you’ve got a chance to beat just about anyone (see Bader, Ryan). Remember that Jose (that’s a hard “J”) is not undefeated, is super young (read: younger than me) and does not have the strength of schedule that an Anderson Silva, GSP or Shogun Rua does. Then, forget everything I just told you to remember and watch the man fight. I can’t name a fighter that uses leg kicks better, even against a takedown machine like Gamburyan. I can’t name a fighter that does a better job of pouncing when they smell blood (feel free to correct me here).
I can’t name a better fighter than Jose Aldo. I can only name fighters with similar skills and a deeper list of quality wins.
I can’t let this hit 1,500 words and feel good about myself, so I’ll end with this: crying about the dearth of quality promotions in MMA and simultaneously crying about the lack of a WEC/UFC merger = LOL. I want a merger so the little guys get paid better, but I’m consistent. Try it out sometime.