World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) made its first trip ever to Illinois tonight. And an absolute war broke out between main event participants, bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and Takeya Mizugaki, at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.
Mizugaki -- a top five 135-pound fighter in the world who took the fight on relatively short notice when Brian Bowles was forced out because of a back injury -- did what no man has been able to do in almost exactly four years: Take Miguel Torres the distance.
In fact, Torres revealed that he had never gone five full rounds at anytime in his sparkling career. That says quite a bit about the Japanese import who was also making his debut for the promotion this evening.
Mizugaki made it quite clear early on that he was going to go toe-to-toe with the champion and take his chances standing rather than mess around on the ground with the slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Torres was more than happy to oblige, sticking his jab and stinging Mizugaki from the outside all night long.
Torres was also very effective in close quarters, working the clinch and "dirty boxing" whenever the distance was shortened. He attempted a few leg locks and submission holds here and there, but Mizugaki avoided those attempts like the plague.
Mizugaki cut Torres open in the the third round, which required a stoppage and medical attention. There was a moment there where it looked like the ringside physician was considering whether or not to let Torres continue; however, he smartened up fast and fortunately and the action was allowed to continue.
And boy was it a slugfest -- both fighters put it all on the line to the delight of everyone watching.
Mizugaki was throwing with bad intentions, but Torres was just too elusive and could not be pinned down or hurt throughout the entire fight. Torres went on to earn an extremely gritty unanimous decision nod from all three judges.
He deserved it.
But, Mizugaki, too, deserves a ton of credit for doing what he did this evening. And there is no question that we will see more of him soon on Versus ... possibly even in a rematch against Torres in the near future.
For now, however, it appears that Torres' next opponent will be Bowles, pitting the top two 135-pound fighters in the world against each other once and for all. That's one heck of a match up that, just like tonight, will spark some crazy fireworks.
In the co main event, former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber's protege, Joseph Benavidez, kept his perfect record intact with a very impressive showing against a very dangerous veteran, Jeff Curran, to earn a unanimous decision.
Curran -- a former featherweight -- was the favorite heading into the 135-pound tilt and was even calling out Torres prior to the fight against Benavidez. It appears that he got a little ahead of himself because he had no answers for Benavidez' unorthodox and relentless attack.
Benavidez kept Curran off balance all night, pushing the pace and staying in his face for the full 15 minutes. It's clear that Benavidez has been working diligently alongside Faber to hone his skills -- he is very unpredictable and explosive just like the "California Kid."
While he may not be quite ready for a title shot, Benavidez is certainly ready to challenge the other contenders in the 135-pound division. Hopefully, that happens sooner rather than later.
In other televised action, Shane Roller -- known for his outstanding wrestling credentials -- showed off his power, drilling Ben Henderson with a big right in the opening seconds of the 155-pound bout. "Smooth" perhaps should have kept the snazzy bifocals on that he wore into the ring -- he clearly didn't see that one coming.
But Henderson had an answer ... two of them.
He was able to shake the cob webs, as well as defend a very serious-looking guillotine choke attempt while trapped up against the cage, to reverse Roller and get the fight on equal footing once again.
It didn't stay that way for very long.
Henderson clipped Roller with a big straight left and followed it up with a looping right, which put Roller on the express train to Queer Street. Roller appeared to go limp and was not defending himself from the barrage of strikes the Henderson was throwing at his face.
The referee had no choice but to jump in and save him.
Roller protested the stoppage, but he appeared to be in serious danger. Talk about a change of fortunes -- he appeared to be well on his way to a first round stoppage of his own before Henderson turned the tables.
Last but not least, featherweight newcomers Raphael Assuncao and Jameel "The Sergeant" Massouh touched 'em up in a nice battle to kick-off all the televised action. There was a ton of hype behind Assuncao coming into the match -- he's being talked about as a possible 145-pound title challenger.
He delivered, earning a unanimous decision win.
It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Massouh demonstrated a fantastic chin and solid submission defense throughout the entire fight. Assuncao mixed up his attack all night long -- strikes, submission attempts, ground and pound. You name it and Assuncao tried it, but it just wasn't enough to but away the very tough Massouh.
But a win is a win and it will go a long way toward his chances of one day challenging for a title. He's a fight or two away, meaning that we hopefully get to see him test his skills against other division players such as Wagnney Fabiano or even Benevidez.
Put simply, there are tons of great fights in the featherweight class.
WEC 40 was a solid night of fights when all was said and done. The Torres-Mizugaki fight alone was worth the price of admission. All the other action was just gravy.
For complete WEC 40: "Torres vs. Mizugaki" results click here.