WEC 52: "Faber vs. Mizugaki" has come to a close from "The Pearl" at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Urijah Faber's quest for gold in the bantamweight division is officially underway.
"The California Kid" made his debut in the 135 pound division in the night's main event, taking on former number one contender, Takeya Mizugaki. He came through with a great performance to the tune of a first round submission victory, putting the rest of the weight class on notice.
Urijah had a fight on his hands early on as Mizugaki's takedown defense was holding up early and he was landing some hard shots in the exchanges. But Faber exploded out of nowhere to take the Japanese fighter's back with about a minute to go in the round, and from there it was only a matter of time before he locked in the choke.
Mizugaki held on for as long as he could and refused to tap, but Faber worked his way under the chin and put the Japanese fighter to sleep with just ten seconds left in the opening round.
With another first round submission victory over current bantamweight title holder Dominick Cruz already on his resume, as well, it seems like a rematch with the champ is a definite possibility for a future UFC show. The bantamweight division is a crowded one, though, and Scott Jorgensen is next up for a title shot already.
It's up to the UFC now, but it's going to be fun watching this division unfold in the coming months.
Faber had two of his Alpha Male teammates competing on the main card as well, with Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez in action, and it would turn out to be a great night overall for the up-and-coming fight camp.
Mendes - an undefeated wrestling stud - was featured in the co-main event opposite Javier "Showtime" Vazquez in a battle of surging featherweight contenders, and he dominated his way to a ninth straight victory with a healthy dose of ground and pound.
"Money" won the fight with his takedowns and ground control. That won't do much to separate himself from the "lay and pray" tag that he's trying to avoid, but the truth is, he also showed improved hands and an overall stand up game throughout the three round battle, too. He landed some good shots on Vazquez and was the better fighter in all areas tonight.
In the end, the decision was an easy one for the judges as they awarded him the unanimous decision.
Brazilian jiu jitsu expert Wagnney Fabiano made his debut as a bantamweight, coming down from the featherweight division to face Benavidez, the division's former top contender. Things didn't work out as well for him in his debut as they did for Faber in his.
Fabiano was beat to the punch repeatedly by the quicker and more athletic Benavidez on their feet early, and when the fight went to the ground in the second round he showed that his "Joe-jitsu" was superior there, as well. He set up the guillotine choke two or three times before he finally locked it in and forced the submission.
Benavidez continues to impress, taking this fight on short notice against a bigger fighter, and then beating that fighter at his own game. His only losses are both to current champion, Dominick Cruz, and both of those fights were very competitive. He is without a doubt one of the top bantamweights who will be making the move to the UFC.
Submissions ace Erik Koch notched the second straight win of his WEC career and third overall under the promotion. He didn't need to go to the ground to get a victory in this one, either.
Newcomer Francisco Rivera stepped up on short notice for this fight after Josh Grispi was pulled in favor of a title shot on the UFC 125 card. His inexperience and lack of preparation showed. Koch kept his distance and dominated the fight on his feet.
He went upstairs with several kicks until he finally connected on one that dropped the WEC newcomer. From there Koch finished him off easily with punches for the second technical knockout of his career just over a minute and a half into the fight.
Damacio Page - one of the more feared strikers in the bantamweight division - made his first start in over a year tonight, taking on talented wrestler, Demetrius Johnson. The Greg Jackson disciple came out strong in the early going, but the cage rust started to show in the second round and eventually cost him the fight.
Johnson was able to wear Damacio down with a combination of speed, nicely timed takedowns, and smothering ground control throughout the final two rounds. Then halfway through the third "Mighty Mouse" slapped a tight guillotine choke on his tired opponent, and Page had no choice but to tap.
For a fighter considered too small for the bantamweight division, a win over a top guy like Page is a nice feather in his cap - but we haven't seen the last of Demetrius Johnson.
That's a wrap from "Sin City." Check out our live blow-by-blow coverage of the main event right here.
WEC 53 will be the final show for promotion before the merger with the UFC officially takes place. "Henderson vs. Pettis" is set for December 16 at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona, and it is scheduled to air live on the Versus network.
Lightweight champion Ben "Smooth" Henderson will defend his title for the final time in the featured main event fight opposite Anthony "Showtime" Pettis, while bantamweight kingpin Dominick Cruz will put his gold up for grabs against Scott Jorgensen in the co-main event.
For more on the upcoming WEC 53 fight card click here.