Things We Learned: WEC 51

Photo by Tracy Lee
Jose Aldo is Unstoppable

We all know that no one is really unstoppable, except maybe Megumi Fuji, but Jose Aldo is the closest thing we have to an unbeatable fighter on the men’s side of things right now.

Once again, Aldo demolished a top contender, feeling out Manny Gamburyan for the first round before burying the Armenian judoka early in the second behind a quick right, a big uppercut and some speedy ground and pound. Watching how quickly the bantamweight champion goes from stalking to finishing the fight is incredible, and it’s one of the reasons Aldo is in the midst of such a dominant run.

What is scary about Aldo is that (1) we still haven’t seen his jiu-jitsu game and (2) he certainly looks like he could climb to 155 and do just as well as a lightweight. His blend of speed, power and killer instinct doesn’t come along all that often. He’s going to be hard to stop.

It’s Pronounced Joe-Say

Yes – he pronounces it differently than hundreds of other guys whose name is spelled the exact same way, but if that’s how he rolls, you’ve got to hook Aldo up with the proper pronunciation of his name.

How the WEC hasn’t sorted this out by now is a little bit ridiculous; he’s the most dominant fighter on your roster and a sure-fire star if you marketed him half as much as you force Faber down everyone’s throats, so how come no one knows how to properly say his name?

Cerrone Shows Evolution

Everyone expected the long-awaited rematch between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jamie Varner to be an entertaining slugfest with the two lightweights trading blows for 15 minutes. Many were even expecting to see takedowns during that time, but few would have guessed that it would be Cerrone doing the better wrestling.

A kickboxer by trade, Cerrone caught Varner off guard on a couple different occasions to score the important takedown points. While Varner managed to get back up quickly each time, it clearly threw off his rhythm and forced him to hold back a little to protect himself from being dumped as the fight progressed.

This was easily the best all-around performance of Cerrone’s career, and seeing him add some wrestling to his strong stand-up and submission games brings him closer to being a complete fighter and perhaps contending for the lightweight title once again someday.

Varner Needs to Embrace “The Dark Side”

When you’re almost universally disliked, any effort to try and change that overwhelming opinion is futile. Varner needs to accept this and follow down the path traveled by Josh Koscheck and embrace his opportunity to be “the bad guy.”

As soon as the lights went out and Varner’s music went up, the booing began. It continued as Bruce Buffer introduced the former lightweight champion, quieted during the bout itself and rose once more throughout Varner’s post-fight interview. Even when he was being congratulatory of Cerrone, the fans kept booing.

Instead of being the misunderstood / unappreciated emotional guy that he is, Varner should just say, “screw it” and relish the role the fans have bestowed upon him. Sometimes when the world hands you lemons, you should just cut them open, squeeze the juice into the eyes of everyone around you and laugh as they howl in pain.

Varner needs to stop trying to make everyone lemonade. They don’t want it, at least not from him.

Big Win for Torres

Former bantamweight champion Miguel Torres had the fierce look back in his eyes Thursday night. An incredibly charismatic and entertaining individual outside the cage, the ferocious Torres we saw opposite Charlie Valencia hadn’t been present in his last two trips to the cage.

Torres showed that he rediscovered his killer instinct, nearly finishing Valencia at the close of the first round and sealing the deal with a rear-naked choke early in the second. The lanky Latino fighter stalked his opponent like he had many opponents in the past, being the aggressor and capitalizing on every opportunity to attack.

One fight doesn’t erase the memory of Brian Bowles’ big right hand or the massive wound opened up by Joseph Benavidez before he choked out Torres, but this was certainly a step in the right direction and an encouraging sign for Torres and his fans.

George Roop: Covert Zombie Killer

You know that guy who always hung out with your super-hot high school girlfriend? The one she always told you was just a friend and “harmless,” who just liked hanging out with her and didn’t like her “like that?” That guy who was conveniently always there when she was mad at you, handing out the Kleenex and biding his time until he undoubtedly kicked you in the head by stealing her away from you?

That’s George Roop, and he pulled that same move on “The Korean Zombie” this week.

Roop wore his “Korean Zombie” t-shirt to the weigh-ins, smiled from ear-to-ear and seemed to just be enjoying the attention of fighting Chan Sung Jung. He too appeared harmless, working through an even first round until … BOOM!

The former TUF contestant dropped Jung with a fierce head kick, putting the “Korean Zombie” to sleep and walking away with an additional $10,000 for Knockout of the Night.

The moral of the story: you always have to be wary of the harmless ones, even when you’re a zombie.

The Importance of Following a Gameplan

Mark Hominick is currently riding a three-fight winning streak because the Canadian tactician formulates a strategy heading into his bouts and sticks to it. Everything he works on in his training camp, he puts into practice in the cage on the night of the fight.

Conversely, Leonard Garcia comes into his fights with a strategy in mind, but that thing gets thrown out the window as soon as the fight begins. Strategy is nowhere near as fun as flinging wild haymakers over-and-over, landing a ridiculously low percentage and eating a mouthful of jabs all night long.

Hominick is now one step closer to a title fight, while Garcia keeps moving further away from the featherweight belt he challenged Mike Thomas Brown for in March 2009. For all the exciting fights he has been a part of, Garcia has gone 2-2-1 since stepping in with Brown, but is a bad decision and a point deduction away from being 1-4.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole “sticking to the gameplan” idea?

Big Win for Zhang, Zuffa

Tie Quan Zhang made his WEC debut a winning one on Thursday night, submitting Pablo Garza in the first round to remain unbeaten and hand the former TUF candidate his first professional loss.

While the win was impressive and important for “The Mongolian Wolf,” it was more important for Zuffa. The parent company of the WEC and UFC has been working hard to make inroads into the vast Chinese market in recent months, and having a successful Chinese fighter on the roster is incredibly beneficial.

Don’t be surprised if you see Zhang make the move into the UFC sooner than some of his lightweight counterparts in the WEC.

Time for UFC and WEC to Get Together

As much as free fights on a Thursday night are greatly appreciated, seeing the outstanding action from WEC 51 just five days after the underwhelming offering that was UFC 119 only furthered the argument that it’s time for the two Zuffa companies to come together a form one organization.

While the WEC delivers exciting events every time out, their going nowhere in the ratings and have done little to build the star power of talents like Aldo, Dominick Cruz, Anthony Pettis and Ben Henderson. At the same time, the UFC keeps churning out events in great numbers with fewer must-see matchups each time.

Hypothetically speaking, combining these two events would have produced a solid event, with Aldo and Gamburyan headlining and Mir and Cro Cop in the co-main event. Round out the main card with Cerrone – Varner, Dunham – Sherk and Nogueira – Bader, with Miguel Torres and the Matt Serra – Chris Lytle fight rocking Spike. Tell me you wouldn’t want to see that card?

One Last Point About Jose Aldo

If he decided to move up to 155, he’d be UFC lightweight champion inside a year. He’s that damn good.

Think about the guys he would be facing, then think of the fighters he’s already disposed of in the WEC. Some are similar in styles and approach, and Aldo has ran through all of them without being tested.

Of the top ten lightweights in the UFC, only Gray Maynard strikes me as a threat, simply because he is a big ’55 with outstanding wrestling. But with the way Aldo destroyed Mike Brown, my money would be on Aldo in that one too.

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