Three Title Fights Headline WEC 32

Title Fights Headline WEC 32

Feb 13, 2008
I'll be honest here: I don't care what your plans are for Wednesday.

Poker night with the guys? Not important. Big chemistry midterm you need to bone up for? Irrelevant. Ending world hunger? OK, that gets you off the hook, but unless you're out saving the world, you need to be in front of your television come Wednesday night, taking in the WEC's best offering to date live on Versus (6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET).

Whether you're amazed by Carlos Condit (Pictures)'s Bob Knight-esque game face or pining to see Jamie Varner (Pictures) rock the electric boogaloo on national TV, there is no way any self-respecting mixed martial arts fan will pass on the WEC's bid to establish itself as something more than Zuffa's red-headed stepchild.

So read on and discover how "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" can be used to accurately prognosticate any MMA fight. At least, I think they can.

Carlos Condit (Pictures) vs. Carlo Prater (Pictures)
Now that Carlos "The Natural Born Killer" Condit has gone all Mickey Knox on the WEC welterweight division, he gets to do his own version of the "Chuck Liddell (Pictures) Revenge Tour 2005," starting with Thugjitsu disciple Carlo Prater (Pictures).

Despite coming from a gym that holds the best name this side of the Pacific, Prater (21-5-1) has spent most of his career toiling for local promotions in search of an opportunity that could catapult his career. That's not to say that he has been victimized by the illuminati his entire career. Prater has done himself a massive disservice by consistently coming up short at critical junctures.

Whether it's a pair of ill-timed losses to Keith Wisniewski (Pictures) or a more recent decision loss to Derrick Noble (Pictures), Prater has consistently failed to build on the momentum of past wins. Perhaps the only constant in his career has been his success in Albuquerque, the site of his rematch with Condit.

Having already defeated Condit on his home turf once before, Prater enters this fight with little to fear but plenty to lose. It's time for him to decide if he can close the deal or live on as MMA's own Shelley Levene.

The role of Blake is currently played by the defending champion, Carlos Condit (Pictures) (21-4), who has become the darling of both Mitch and Murray as well as the WEC.

Cured of the John Starks syndrome that held back his own career as it has for Prater, Condit has turned the WEC's welterweight division into fodder for an ever-expanding highlight reel. Three straight submission wins have proven that "The Natural Born Killer" is more than just another striker with a mean mug. Now a revenge win over Prater would close the chapter on past disappointments and perhaps cement his status as the best welterweight outside the UFC.

If revenge is the goal for Condit, he'll have to forgo his newfound submission wizardry in favor of the dynamic Muay Thai that has served him so well in the past. Despite training with Yves Edwards (Pictures), Prater remains most comfortable on the ground and will undoubtedly look to hand Condit another submission loss.

Given that the style clash remains the same, the real question is whether Prater, who remains essentially the same fighter, can overcome the strides that Condit has made in the past few years.

Sporting the same game plan against an improved opponent, Prater will find himself on the end of Condit's long reach before telegraphing a takedown attempt and wandering headfirst into a fight-ending knee.

But really, I think we're all looking forward to seeing just how long Condit can keep his "angry face" going this time around. Sources tell me that he has actually had the same look on his face for the past two weeks.

Rob McCullough (Pictures) vs. Jamie Varner (Pictures)
Whether you're a fan of mouthpieces shooting off into orbit or tragic post-fight dance routines, the WEC lightweight title bout between incumbent "Razor" Rob McCullough (Pictures) and Jamie "The Worm" Varner should have something to sate your fistic appetite.

Varner (13-2, 2 NC) was quickly cast as the lightweight division's usurper thanks to his own overactive vocal chords. He proved his worth, though, in his WEC debut against Sherron Leggett (Pictures) of the Tapout pseudo-army. Sporting a wildly aggressive style that included improved striking and takedowns straight out of the Alexander Karelin collection, Varner made quick work of the highly regarded Leggett and provided his usual post-fight proclamations of greatness.

That vintage Buddy Rogers interview style won't do Varner much good against McCullough (15-3), who has turned the WEC into his own personal stomping ground of late.

Recent success has provided a bit of poetic justice for "Razor," who saw his stock plummet after a disappointing loss to Harris Sarmiento (Pictures) in 2004. That loss turned into a launching pad for McCullough. He retooled his game and is in the midst of a nine-fight win streak that includes a classic knockout win over Olaf Alonso's mouthpiece and a revenge win over Sarmiento.

It was McCullough's first title defense, however, that sent a clear message to any would-be challengers. Matched against MMA's king of crunk, McCullough sent Rich Crunkilton to the canvas so many times that NASA is still trying to get an accurate tally.

Should Varner's ego get the better of him, McCullough is more than capable of providing a repeat performance against virtually any lightweight foolish enough to test his striking.

What this fight boils down to is whether McCullough is prepared to withstand Varner's explosive wrestling ability and surprising submission acumen. A rare breed in MMA, Varner is a converted wrestler who goes for submissions just as readily as he goes for takedowns.

A bit of blind faith is involved with picking either fighter. McCullough has yet to prove his takedown defense can hold up against a strong wrestler while Varner has never had to face a striker of McCullough's caliber.

Having seen Varner absorb a trio of Hermes Franca (Pictures)'s atomic knees, I'm inclined to believe that he'll be able to gather himself enough to score a takedown should McCullough land anything significant.

As for putting any faith in McCullough's ability to survive off his back, that isn't a bridge I'm quite ready to cross. Go with "The Worm" via rear-naked choke in the second round.

Between Varner's extended self-congratulatory acceptance speech and poorly choreographed dance routine, expect this show to run a little bit long.
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