Testing Torres: What Waits for the Champ

Dec 5, 2008
He’s a lean mass of sinew and muscle with a reputation for cracking heads and limbs that has him popping up in pound-for-pound debates left and right. And with good reason, as no one seems willing to venture a name within his own division that would do any better than some random fan wearing a knockoff Affliction T-shirt.

No, you’re not knee-deep in another article pondering if Chuck Norris is the only man who can stop Anderson Silva’s reign of fistic terror. The pugilist in question is Miguel Torres, who has risen to demigod status in the bantamweight division after his clinical vivisection of Manny Tapia on Wednesday.

Of course, fight sport has a long and proud history of demigods, and that same history has taught us that it is a select few who never find their equal. For Torres, joining that elite group means navigating a bantamweight division full of fighters ready to commit deicide.

Who exactly has the fortitude to topple Mt. Torres? I’ve got some ideas.

The Next in Line

Brian Bowles wasn’t supposed to be here, just another southern scrapper with more work ethic than talent. Sure, he’d hold his own, but it was a matter of time before he ran into the wrong fighter and got sent back home with tail tucked between legs.

After taking out elite Shooto contender Marcos Galvao and another highly regarded Brazilian in Will Ribeiro, Bowles now plays second fiddle only to Torres. With a title shot all but wrapped up for Bowles, he now has to resolve the Rubik’s Cube that is the wolf-haired WEC bantamweight champion.

That means using his superior wrestling to frustrate Torres from the opening bell. No, that doesn’t mean a lay-and-pray game plan, as Torres’ grappling makes him far too dangerous to keep on the ground for long stretches of time. Instead, Bowles has to mix it up and keep Torres from getting into a groove whether it be standing or on the ground.

What makes that approach dicey is Torres’ suddenly stifling jab, which left Tapia struggling to find a way to close the pocket without having a fist or an elbow deep in his grill. That and the disparity in the jiu-jitsu department makes Bowles less than a Ric Flair-level custom-made lock, but all things considered, he’s the most ready to tangle on even terms with Torres.

Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

WEC 37 was supposed to be
Curran's coming-out party.
The Wildcard

While WEC 37 served as a launching pad for Bowles’ bantamweight title bid, it was also supposed to be a coming-out party for Jeff Curran. An ill-timed hand injury has Curran’s bantamweight debut on hold for 2008, but no one should be doubting anything about “The Big Frog” save for that tragic nickname.

The sport is flush with examples of weight-cutting giving failed title aspirations a second life, and having already competed as both a lightweight and a featherweight, Curran would likely enjoy a hefty physical advantage over his bantamweight counterparts, Torres included.

Better yet, Curran is one of the few in the division who can roll on the ground with Torres without coming off Tom Cruise-level crazy. The downside is that Curran is nowhere near Torres’ caliber as a striker, and his wrestling likely isn’t enough to corral him either.

Gambling on having the jiu-jitsu to beat Torres is in the same league of stupidity as betting on the Lions to win … anything. The one thing Curran has going for him is that he’s proven his worth against top-flight grapplers such as Hatsu Hioki and Wagnney Fabiano while Torres has yet to take on the grappling elite of his division.

If nothing else, Curran would make for a good barometer of Torres’ grappling skill, and isn’t that every fighter’s dream? To be a good barometer?

The Rookie

Looking down the road, there is a youngster who should be on Torres’ and everyone else’s radar. The protégé of former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez was handpicked by MMA’s goldilocks and molded into his mirror image minus 10 pounds.

Sporting the same hyperactive style and penchant for unorthodox techniques, Benavidez turned his recent WEC debut against Danny Martinez into a master’s thesis on MMA. While taking out a journeyman bantamweight, regardless of how impressively you do it, is not fuel for a title run, the first step is always the one most likely to knock you off course and Benavidez handled it beautifully.

Now all that’s left is running through a division fraught with contenders while keeping a level head and topping it all off by locking horns with one of the MMA elite. However, let’s stay away from the doom and gloom by remembering that Benavidez is a true blue-chipper and as his arsenal grows, so do his chances.

Even then, you may need a microscope to measure anyone’s chances of taking out the nouveau one-man illuminati of MMA.
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