MMA Review: #586: WEC 26: Condit vs. Alessio
-Three title fights were on tap for Zuffa’s second WEC show as they were looking to build champions for their upcoming run on Versus – this time we had the Bantamweight title (champ Eddie Wineland vs. Chase Beebe), the Featherweight title (the original Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz fight!) and finally Carlos Condit vs. John Alessio for the vacant Welterweight title.
WEC 26: Condit vs. Alessio
Las Vegas, Nevada
-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir.
This was a great fight on paper – UFC veteran Larson, who’d actually fought in the Octagon for his last outing, was bringing a massive 22-1 record to the cage with his only loss being in the UFC to Jon Fitch, while Marco Ruas student Apple was unbeaten at 9-0 and had quite the reputation from the regional circuit. Personally I remember being really hyped to see Apple on the bigger stage as I was a fan at the time of the Marco Ruas camp (mainly because of Justin Levens) and was hoping to see him win.
Fight begins and these guys are both in seriously good shape. Apple pushes forward to begin but doesn’t land any early strikes, and Larson tags him with a left hand. Apple charges in but finds himself forced into the cage, and from there Larson drops for a single leg and plants him on the ground. Guillotine attempt from Apple but Larson smartly passes out to the side to avoid and then frees the head. Half-guard from Apple but he takes some heavy ground-and-pound and ends up giving his back. Larson slaps both hooks in and Apple’s in trouble. Larson works for the choke, but he can’t quite sink the arm underneath the chin and a scramble from Apple allows him free, but only underneath side mount. Apple rolls for a possible heel hook from there, then switches to a toehold, but Larson postures up to avoid and he begins to land some heavy punches. Apple rolls into an inverted guard but eats some more punches before going back to the leglock. Larson escapes though and drops some heavy bombs from the top, going into side mount before Apple reaches underneath to try a sweep. Larson avoids that and goes into an armbar, and then he switches that into a kimura and winds up on top, where he forces the arm back for the tapout.
Tremendous grappling from Brock Larson for the finish, and it was a fun opener too even if it was slightly one-sided as Apple was overmatched on the ground. Apple only ended up fighting a couple more times after this one – mainly in StrikeForce – and he’s since gone into movies as far as I’m aware, obviously appearing in a big role in Tom Hardy’s Warrior a few years back. Larson meanwhile ended up losing in a WEC title challenge later in 2007 and then had a short UFC run before going back to the regionals and then retiring last year. He was always an underrated fighter actually.
Wineland had won the Bantamweight title at WEC 20 under the old management with a TKO of Antonio Banuelos, and this was to be his first defense against wrestler Beebe, who was making his WEC debut with a record of 9-1. At the time I remember those in the know (mainly on the DVDVR board) saying that the real #1 135lber in North America at least was Miguel Torres, and whoever won this one was likely keeping the belt warm for him.
First round begins and Wineland comes out sniping at Beebe from range, dropping him early with a counter right hand, but Beebe shoots and manages to get to the clinch. They exchange knees before Steve Mazzagatti calls a quick break. Big right hand connects again for Wineland. Takedown attempt from Beebe but Wineland stuffs it easily. Beautiful left hook lands for Wineland. Beebe fires back with a combo of his own. Low kick from Wineland but Beebe eats a right hand on the counter. More combinations get through for Wineland but Beebe manages to clinch and force him into the cage, landing an elbow. Wineland does a good job of escaping and he continues to snipe at Beebe, landing some clean punches as the challenger tries to close distance. Takedown is blocked by Wineland and he drops Beebe hard with a one-two, but Beebe does a tremendous job of recovering and he gets back up. More punches land for Wineland and Beebe tries to fire back, but he’s clearly not that comfortable standing with Wineland. A single leg attempt is more effective though and he plants Wineland on his back in full guard. Good upkick from Wineland but Beebe stays on top and drops a heavy right en route to passing into half-guard. Wineland shrimps back to full guard but it looks like he might be bleeding. Reversal allows Wineland to his feet though and they separate. Jabs and a right hand land for Wineland and he just about dodges some big counters from Beebe. Takedown puts him on his back again however and the round ends on the ground. 10-9 round for Wineland for the knockdown and overall better striking.
Second round and Wineland indeed has a cut over his left eyebrow. Left hook opens the round for Wineland and he follows with a right hand. Takedown attempt from Beebe and he manages to complete the single leg and force Wineland down. Beebe looks for side mount, but Wineland works full guard back only to take some ground-and-pound from the challenger. Wineland spins away from the cage using his feet and then goes for an armbar, but somehow Beebe slips his arm free and remains on top despite Frank Mir thinking it was over. Beebe gets into side mount and then steps to mount and now Wineland’s in trouble. Beebe drops some big elbows and punches and it looks like the Mazz is considering stopping the fight! Wineland tries to hip escape but he can’t shake Beebe off here, and he’s taking a lot of punishment. More shots connect for Beebe but he’s not quite doing enough to force the stoppage. Wineland is just about managing to survive here. Beebe continues to beat him down, but the round ends with no stoppage. Definitely a 10-8 round for Beebe though.
Third round and Wineland doesn’t look too badly hurt by the previous round. He’s definitely more wary of the takedown though. Good low kick lands for Wineland and he fires off some punches, but Beebe shoots underneath and plants him down with another single leg. Wineland gets to full guard and looks to spin for an armbar, but Beebe avoids that and moves right back into side mount. Wineland manages to manoeuvre back into full guard, but he’s taking elbows and he’s really bleeding now too. He just seems to have nothing for Beebe off his back. Beebe isn’t doing as much in this round but he’s still landing enough shots to keep Wineland down. Just under two minutes remaining and Steve Mazzagatti calls a stand-up, and Wineland’s face is a MESS. He’s got a cut on his forehead as well as his right ear now. Wineland manages to land some punches from the outside, but Beebe also catches him with a solid right hand. Couple more glancing combinations land for Wineland, and Beebe goes for the takedown again, but Wineland grabs him into a TIGHT GUILLOTINE….only for the buzzer to sound. 10-9 Beebe and this is becoming a real war now.
Fourth round and they circle and exchange some punches with Wineland moving around better in this round. He’s got a lot of blood coming from that right ear though. Wineland connects with some jabs and manages to dodge a takedown from the outside. Bit of a telegraphed shot there. Nice counter right connects for Wineland as Beebe lands with a couple of shots of his own. Another double leg attempt is stuffed by the champion. Solid right hand connects for Beebe. Good left hand from Wineland but Beebe manages to grab onto a single leg and grounds him again, landing punches from the top as Wineland tries to kick him away. Beebe settles into the guard and continues to land shots before hitting a crazy slam right into the cage. Never seen that before! Wineland just looks terrible here in terms of all the cuts. He keeps throwing his legs up for a high guard, but he can’t seem to get Beebe off him and he’s taking more methodical shots. Wineland manages to slow him down somewhat but the round ends with the fight on the ground. 10-9 Beebe and this is his fight unless he gets stopped in the fifth.
Fifth round and Wineland comes out swinging, landing with a superman punch, but Beebe connects with some punches of his own in the early exchanges. Neither man looks tired at all which is impressive. Wineland pops him with some more punches and keeps moving around, but he’s just not doing enough to make up for the previous three rounds. Looks like he’s probably anticipating the takedown. Big body kick lands for the champion but Beebe seems fine. He’s basically walking through Wineland’s punches now although he’s not landing much of his own. Two minutes to go and Wineland stuffs a takedown nicely and makes the challenger pay with a left hand. Good step-in knee ala Donald Cerrone from Wineland, but the Mazz thinks it was a groin shot and calls time. Beebe’s okay literally seconds later and they restart. Nice combination from Wineland and he backs Beebe up and then lands a knee when the challenger goes for a takedown. Jab responds for Beebe but he’s really being backed up by Wineland now. Another takedown is stuffed by Wineland, who moves Beebe into the fence, landing a sharp knee to the gut, and they break off. Fight ends with both men swinging heavy punches. 10-9 Wineland but it’s not enough, I’d call it 48-46 for Chase Beebe.
Judges have it 48-47, 48-46, and 48-46 all for the new WEC Bantamweight Champion, Chase Beebe. This was a really enjoyable five-rounder actually – I remember hearing at the time that it was a bit dull, but in fact it was a fun, back-and-forth fight with Beebe coming back from a horrendous first round to ground Wineland and basically beat him down and dominate him for the next three rounds. The story of the fight was essentially that Wineland just had nothing for Beebe off his back and couldn’t stop the takedown. Strangely enough though Wineland is still a very relevant fighter today in the UFC while Beebe held onto the belt for one defense (against Rani Yahya) before being destroyed – as those hardcore fans expected – by Miguel Torres, and his career never truly recovered. Funny how things turn out in the end!
So yeah, this is where the rivalry all began. At this time Cruz was totally unknown, making his WEC debut at 9-0 but I think most people saw him as an opponent-of-the-month type deal for Faber, who was rolling over everyone and was clearly looking towards fighting the bigger names of the division, namely guys like Jeff Curran, Jens Pulver and Kid Yamamoto. Surprising not to see Urijah in the main event by now but that would obviously come later. As far as how the rivalry started? The story goes that Cruz decided to sign his autograph over the top of Faber’s face on the posters for this show (as Cruz’s face didn’t appear on there) which wound the California Kid up pretty badly. Cruz looks so young here it’s hilarious. To be fair he was only 22 I guess.
Round One begins and Faber throws out a head kick that glances off Cruz’s arm. Right hand follows and has Cruz covering up. You can sort-of see flashes of Cruz’s future style with the wild movement, and he opens up with a combo ending in a head kick of his own. Nice counter right hand lands for Faber and he rushes Cruz only to find himself taken down. Scramble from Faber allows him back up, but Cruz pushes forward and dumps him again with a knee tap. This time though he leaves his neck open, and Faber quickly grabs onto the guillotine and sinks his guard in, and from there he flips Cruz over onto his back and uses a one-arm mounted guillotine to force the tapout.
Well, that was a great fight for the 1:30-ish that it lasted. And hey, if Cruz can say he beat Urijah twice, at least Faber can always say he never got as clean a win as this, a first round tapout. Pretty crazy to look back and see the start of one of the most storied rivalries in MMA history – Cruz would of course not only go on to beat Faber twice, but also a couple of Faber’s protégés (Joseph Benavidez twice and then TJ Dillashaw) and it was only in December when a Team Alpha Male fighter in Cody Garbrandt was finally able to topple the Dominator. The best thing you can probably say is that this loss arguably spurred Cruz on to become the great fighter he is today. Tremendous stuff even if it was very short.
Welterweight title had been vacated by Mike Pyle when Zuffa took over – no idea why exactly; I know Hermes Franca vacated his Lightweight title because he was in the UFC, but I have no idea with regards to Pyle and why he didn’t stick around. A check of his record shows he was with the IFL and then Elite XC though so maybe that’s why. Anyhow! Alessio was coming off an unsuccessful run in the UFC where he’d lost two fights, but at the same time he’d also won his previous two in the WEC which explains why he was given a shot at the title, while Condit – another refugee from the dead WFA promotion – had debuted in the WEC with a win over Kyle Jensen at the inaugural Zuffa show. Most of his fame still came from his run in the Rumble on the Rock tournament in 2006 where he’d beaten Frank Trigg and Renato Verissimo in pretty big upsets at the time. From what I remember this was seen as a close fight coming in. Pre-fight Condit’s mean-mugging is something to behold, even for him, wow.
Fight begins and they circle before Condit wings an uppercut into the clinch. Alessio shrugs him off though and he seems pretty calm. Few more strikes glance for Condit from the outside. Takedown attempt from Alessio and he manages to slam Condit to the ground, dropping down into side mount. Condit looks to lock up a kimura on the left arm instantly and then he gets full guard and hits a SICK sweep, but Alessio explodes to his feet before he gets mounted. Low kick from Condit is caught and Alessio dumps him to the ground again, this time into butterfly guard. Condit kicks him away and aims some upkicks at him, and they come back to their feet where Condit breaks a clinch with a pair of knees. Another knee glances for Condit as he’s being far more aggressive here. Flying kick glances for the Natural Born Killer and a body kick follows. Good left hand from Alessio backs Condit up momentarily but he comes back with a low kick. Single leg attempt from Alessio and he really works for it, but Condit defends initially until Alessio manages to drive him down and take side mount. Condit works back into half-guard but it looks like Alessio’s going to be able to keep him down this time. Couple of elbows get through for Alessio before Condit scrambles into full guard. Again Condit manages to catch him with an upkick and then grabs the ankle to trip him down and pop up, though. We’ve got a minute to go in the round. Nice combo from Condit but he misses a flying knee and winds up on his back before popping up. Crowd are chanting for Carlos now as he lands with a body kick. Combo ends in a flying knee again but Alessio catches it and goes for the takedown. Condit blocks that with a standing kimura attempt, forcing Alessio to break, and then ends the round with a pair of kicks. 10-9 Condit as he was the aggressor throughout, landed the better strikes and while he was taken down a couple of times he got straight back up.
Condit again presses forward to open the second round, throwing some big kicks that miss as well as a glancing left hand. Alessio fires back with a flurry and then hits a takedown to guard, but Condit again stays active from his back, working with elbows and hammer fists as Alessio tries to drop some punches of his own. Mini-slam from Alessio keeps Condit grounded but Condit manages to kick him away and pop back to his feet. Big right hand connects for Condit and he stuffs a takedown before landing with a combination. Alessio looks like he’s slowing down. Clinch from Condit and he lands a hard knee before breaking with a short right hook. Another body kick lands for Condit and then he follows up with a VICIOUS COMBO, rocking Alessio’s world with a pair of left hands and a head kick. Takedown attempt from Alessio is stuffed this time and he’s in trouble here. He manages to complete another takedown, but Condit uses a kimura attempt to spin him around and takes top position in guard. Elbows and punches connect for Condit from there, but as he tries to drop a big right Alessio rolls and gets back up. Condit follows him and grabs the plum clinch to land a series of knees, and Alessio’s in trouble again. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Condit again and he lands some knees from the clinch before looking for a trip of his own. Alessio defends, but eats a pair of really vicious knees and then Condit rolls into a kimura Karo Parisyan-style. Alessio manages to avoid that, but he winds up on the bottom in half-guard, and fro there Condit punishes him with shots until he gives his back. Body triangle from Condit and he SINKS THE CHOKE….and Alessio taps out literally a second before the buzzer!
Awesome showing from Condit. Post-fight he says he knew he just needed to pressure Alessio and he’d be able to finish him and sure enough that proved correct. Alessio was able to get a bunch of takedowns but was never able to do anything with them thanks to Condit’s skilled guard and scrambling game, and on the feet he looked like a sitting duck as Condit proved to be by far the more varied and aggressive striker. This would prove to be the beginning of a tremendous run for Condit, as he defended his WEC title three times before moving to the UFC and well, we all know what happened there. One of the most exciting fighters of all time in my opinion. As for Alessio, he continued fighting with the WEC but never found himself in another televised bout, and then he moved back to the UFC briefly in 2012. Not sure if he’s still fighting as he hasn’t fought since 2015. This was a really cool main event, at any rate, with plenty of action thanks to Condit.
-Highlight reel hits pretty instantly and we’re done.
A must-see show for any WEC or UFC fan right here, as we got a fun opener between Apple and Larson, one of the more forgotten but excellent five rounders from this time in Beebe/Wineland, the beginning of a storied rivalry in Faber/Cruz and then the beginning of a great run for Carlos Condit in the main event. Not quite as good as the very best WEC shows from 2009-10 (WEC 41 or 48, for instance…) but it wasn’t far off. Thumbs way up.
Best Fight: Wineland vs. Beebe
Worst Fight: None
Overall Rating: ****1/4
Until next time,