Once again, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) tonight delivered another action-packed card, proving that it is indeed among the top mixed martial arts promotions in the business.
Two champions retained their belts, one didn't and several up-and-coming fighters solidified their positions as potential threats down the road.
WEC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit had perhaps his biggest test to date against Japanese import and skilled Judo player, Hiromitsu Miura. He threw everything but the kitchen at the former middleweight and Miura returned fire, putting "The Natural Born Killer" in some very dangerous -- and rare -- positions.
Miura leveraged his Judo background to toss, sweep and trip the champion early and often. Condit was eager to showcase his stand up skills and Miura was kind enough to oblige.
Condit -- for the most part -- got the better of the exchanges. That's not to say, however, that Miura didn't land some nice junk -- he did some damage. And he really looked impressive when he was able to work his ground and pound.
But Condit was able to survive and reverse most if not all of Miura's attacks. He was slick on the ground as usual with his jiu-jitsu, but Miura was able to power out of all of them.
By the time the fourth round came around, both fighters were clearly gassed. Miura dug deep and had Condit in trouble; however, he likely blew his load and had nothing left once Condit was able to get to his feet.
In fact, Condit hit him with a weak-looking fly knee that sent him crashing to the canvas. He followed it up with some strikes, which Miura didn't have the energy to defend. The referee at the point had seen enough and called a halt to the action.
It was a great fight -- Condit showed the heart of a champion and Miura showed he deserved to challenge for the 170-pound title.
There's no doubt that a rematch could be in the cards in the near future.
Steve Cantwell waited for his rematch with WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Brian Stann. And it was well worth it.
He decided to stand and bang with the "All American" despite getting knocked out when the pair first met. From the opening bell, both fighters were swinging for the fences. Cantwell appeared to be more accurate and the more diverse striker, mixing it up with some solid knees, kicks and punches.
Stann, on the other hand, looked stiff and threw his punches with his head down. It should come as no surprise that he did not find his mark. What is a surprise is his conditioning -- the former Marine was clearly wiped from the first round action.
And in the second round Cantwell clipped him with a looping punch behind his left ear. It didn't appear to be a devastating blow, however, Stann dropped like a sniper picked him off from the rafters.
In fact, he didn't do much to defend himself once he was on the canvas. Cantwell landed a few strikes and that was it -- the WEC has a new 205-pound champion ... again.
Stann showed class at the end of the fight, wrapping the belt around the new champion. He might get another shot at reclaiming the strap sooner rather than later because the competition at light heavyweight is thin in the WEC.
Indeed, we could very well see the rubbermatch between Cantwell and Stann sooner rather than later. Let's just hope Stann is ready to go five rounds.
In other championship action, 155-pound titleholder Jamie Varner retained his belt with an eye-opening first round technical knockout victory over the previously undefeated Marcus Hicks.
Hicks was a serious threat to Varner because he is so compact and strong. He is also a worldclass Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist with decent stand up skills.
And Hicks started the night off right with some big throws and a guillotine choke attempt, which seemed to throw off Varner early on. However, "The Worm" connected with two huge knees that appeared to turn the tide.
From that point on he had Hicks on the brink of collapse with clean shots that went unanswered, however, he just wouldn't go down despite the punishment.
Finally, Varner was able to put on the finishing touches and, in the process, defend his title for the first time. He called out the winner of the fight between "Razor" Rob McCullough and Donald Cerrone in his post-fight remarks.
That should be good.
Rounding out the main card was a bantamweight brawl between Brian Bowles and Damacio Page. The two fighters set a frantic pace early on, throwing leather with reckless abandon.
Bowles attempted numerous submissions, but Page was able to defend ... almost.
He went for a takedown and Bowles timed it just right, jumping and wrapping his limbs around Page in midair. Page's arms were trapped and he had Bowles wrapped around his neck -- there was nothing he could do ... not even tap if he wanted.
The referee noticed the situation and stepped in as soon as the fighters hit the mat. Another 10 seconds and Page would have gone to sleep.
With the win Bowles keeps his perfect record intact and his sights set on an eventual title shot. In fact, WEC Bantamweight Champion Miguel Torres was all smiles ringside.
Probably because a showdown with Bowles might be up next before the year expires.
All in all this was a great night of fights. The production was solid and the announcers did a fine job -- Frank Mir even had to take care of some business early on in the telecast, pushing aside someone who accidentally appeared in the foreground.
And there's even more to come on September 10 with WEC 36, which will feature the rematch between Paulo Filho and Chael Sonnen, as well as Urijah Faber putting his 145 pound belt on the line against Mike Brown.
To check out the WEC results and blow-by-blow commentary click here.