MMA Review: #587: WEC 27: Marshall vs. McElfresh

-On paper this was pretty clearly the weakest card of the three untelevised Zuffa WECs, as we had no Faber, no Condit, no Razor Rob and as far as I can tell, nothing outside of a pretty middling Lightweight match between Jamie Varner and Richard Crunkilton got removed through injury or anything like that. I guess it didn’t really matter though given the shows were all being chopped up for the WrekCage clip shows anyway.

WEC 27: Marshall vs. McElfresh

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Frank Mir, who remains awesome.

Lightweight Fight: Charlie Kohler vs Sherron Leggett

These guys were both making their WEC debuts; Leggett on a big eight-fight win streak including a win over future UFC contender Nik Lentz, while Kohler had won three in a row at King of the Cage shows. Can’t remember seeing Leggett anywhere before this but Kohler I definitely remember from his WFA fight with Vitor Shaolin where Shaolin carved his head up with elbows.

Round One gets underway and both guys look like pretty big Lightweights. They exchange punches right away at a pretty frantic pace before Kohler looks for a takedown, but Leggett stuffs it using a whizzer and then dives on a single leg of his own. Kohler tries to defend, but Leggett keeps driving and manages to dump him onto his back in guard. They exchange from there with Leggett looking to pass, but Kohler manages to tie him up. Mini-slam from Leggett and it looks like Kohler is bleeding from above the left eye. Oma plata attempt from Kohler and it looks pretty tight, with Kohler sitting up to apply the pressure, and from there he reaches under and tries to get an arm triangle at the same time! Leggett manages to avoid so Kohler goes for an armbar, only for Leggett to manage to slip free from that and get on top in side mount. Tremendous stuff. Leggett practically kneels on his face before settling into the side mount, and it looks like he’s reaching over to prep a kimura. Kohler gets half-guard though to prevent that only for Leggett to pass to mount. Hip escape puts Kohler back in half-guard quickly and then he moves to full guard, and takes another mini-slam. Really hard flurry from Leggett hurts Kohler, who tries an armbar that fails and allows Leggett into side mount. More elbows get through for Leggett and Kohler is on the verge of being finished here. He manages to secure half-guard, but he takes more shots and Leggett ends the round with a flurry from mount. 10-9 Leggett in a really good round.

Round Two and Leggett looks a bit gassed coming out of his corner. Kohler looks a mess though. Flurry from Leggett sets up a takedown right away and he drags Kohler down and avoids some sort of guillotine variant to work into side mount instantly. Kohler tries to reverse, but Leggett spins out to the side and lands some thudding punches before Kohler stands. Leggett forces him back down and keeps landing punches from the side with Kohler turtled up, and it doesn’t look like Kohler has much left. Back elbow does land for him but he’s taking a lot of abuse here. Brutal knee to the body connects for Leggett and he follows with a couple more whilst also landing punches. More knees connect and this ought to be stopped now. Kohler is totally stuck in the position and can’t really defend. More knees and punches land for Leggett and referee Yves Lavigne calls the stoppage. Bit of a late one in my opinion.

Fight was a ton of fun – the first round was fantastic with Leggett’s wrestling and ground-and-pound and Kohler’s wild submission attempts – but despite Leggett looking more tired coming into the second he just overpowered Kohler and destroyed him on the ground with those knees. Stoppage was really nasty as Kohler took at least three or four heavy knees to the body that he didn’t need to, as well. Excellent WEC debut for Leggett although he didn’t really go on to great things after this, a loss to Jamie Varner being the only fight of his I can really recall.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ariel Gandulla vs Gary Padilla

Another fight between a pair of largely unknown fighters here. Padilla was coming in from the Californian Total Combat promotion, where he’d gone 7-1 with the only loss coming to Sokoudjou, who had of course shot to fame a few months prior to this show with his big KO wins in PRIDE. Gandulla meanwhile was a Cuban ex-pat ala Yoel Romero or Hector Lombard, although he never reached their heights obviously. Here he was 4-0 with one No Contest against a pre-TUF Tom Lawlor, apparently because both fighters FELL OUT OF THE CAGE. Seriously!

First round begins and the crowd are randomly booing, no idea why. Gandulla is a HUGE guy for 205lbs while Padilla looks chubby, like a natural 185lber. They circle before Padilla shoots for a takedown, but Gandulla stuffs it and separates with an uppercut before throwing a big flurry that Padilla manages to survive. Right hook lands for Padilla as the announcers mention that Gandulla is already 38, which is similar to the other Cuban fighters I’ve mentioned. Big winging right hands miss for Gandulla. Leg kick answers for Padilla as Gandulla is just plodding forward. He catches a kick and forces Padilla into the fence, then answers a right hand with a big combo as they break. Big right misses for Padilla as does a takedown attempt, and he eats a right hand on the way out. Nice body kick connects for Padilla. Big combo answers for Gandulla and he shrugs off a clinch. They clinch back up and Gandulla goes from a single leg into a foot sweep and dumps Padilla down. He allows him up and lands with some punches as they break off, surprising he wouldn’t try some ground-and-pound there. Couple of decent shots land for Padilla and Gandulla just isn’t being very aggressive. They exchange again with both guys glancing on shots, and that’s the round. Close one to call, probably 10-9 Padilla.

Second round and Gandulla is still just plodding forward. Padilla walks into a pair of big right hands though and Gandulla lands some more shots and begins to chase him down. He gets too wild however and a front kick to the body drops him, and from there Padilla tries to capitalise, but Gandulla springs back up and spins him into the fence. Low blow from Padilla causes Gandulla to collapse though and referee Josh Rosenthal has to call time. Gandulla takes a good couple of minutes to recover and then they restart and circle around with little action really. Couple of kicks glance for Padilla but he slips on one and takes some big shots before managing to get out of range. Gandulla has some serious power in these flurries but he’s just not throwing enough for my liking. Leg kick from Padilla is caught and Gandulla lands a series of right hands on him again. This is a dull fight. Padilla just can’t seem to hurt Gandulla and while Gandulla is hurting Padilla when he hits him, he’s too passive. Crowd are into Padilla and he’s swinging hard, but not landing enough. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Gandulla for me.

Third round and Gandulla comes out swinging and lands some haymakers that force Padilla to backpedal pretty badly. Literally every time Gandulla hits him he seems like he’s hurt. He does come back with a chopping leg kick though. Decent left hand from the Cuban catches Padilla leaning in. Gandulla’s mixing some jabs in now which is keeping Padilla back out of range. Another nice leg kick connects for Padilla. Flurry lands for Gandulla and Padilla again has to back out of range. This is a boring fight though as there’s a lot of plodding inactivity between the flurries from both men. More of the same follows with Padilla being slightly more active, but having to back up as soon as Gandulla lands punches. Takedown attempt from Padilla with just under a minute to go, but he can’t get the Cuban down and he eats some clubbing blows on the way out. Round ends on the feet and I’d go with Gandulla, 29-28.

Judges have it 29-28 Gandulla, 29-28 Padilla and 29-28 for Ariel Gandulla. Crowd don’t seem happy with that verdict but whatever really. The fight largely sucked as it seemed like Padilla was the technically more polished fighter, but Gandulla was the better athlete by miles and every time he landed punches he was hurting Padilla; he just didn’t really push the fight enough to come close to a finish. Real yawner unfortunately.

Middleweight Fight: Jason Mayhem Miller vs Hiromitsu Miura

Mayhem had come to the WEC via the WFA buyout (he’d had one fight with them on their lone 2006 show) but from what I remember hearing – and I could be wrong here – the reason he was put in the WEC and not the UFC was because he only had one fight left on his deal and he wasn’t expected to stick around for some reason. Indeed this would be his only appearance in the WEC before he bolted to Mark Cuban’s HDNet Fights and then onto DREAM and StrikeForce. Still maintain that he missed a major opportunity for himself right before this as his showing against GSP was star-making even in losing, and he could easily have had a long run in the UFC off that. Ah well. Opponent Miura was coming into the WEC off runs in K-1 Hero’s, DEEP and Pancrase, with a record of 7-3. Most interesting? His first career fight – and loss – apparently came at the hands of Joe D’Arce, inventor of the now-famous choke.

Round One opens with Mayhem in a karate stance, but he does land a really nasty leg kick in the early going. Another low kick connects for Mayhem but Miura comes back with a low kick of his own and a left hand. Takedown attempt from Mayhem and he muscles Miura up for a slam down into half-guard. Slick pass into full mount follows for Mayhem and he slaps both hooks in right away as Miura turns his back. Miura is in trouble with Mayhem on his back. Body triangle now for Mayhem and he begins to work for the choke, landing punches to soften Miura up, but the Japanese fighter defends it well. He can’t shake Mayhem at all though due to the body triangle. Good elbows to the body land for Mayhem but he also gets a warning for some of them being vertical ones. Such a ridiculous rule. More punches land for Mayhem but the choke doesn’t really look close. He decides to flurry with punches to attempt a finish instead, but Miura manages to defend enough to survive. Round ends with Mayhem in firm control and really it has to be a 10-8 due to Miura having practically no offense.

Round Two and Miura comes out swinging, backing Mayhem into the fence before clinching. Mayhem breaks off and wings with an overhand right, before ducking for a takedown that Miura avoids. Hard right hand connects for Miller. Nice leg kick follows. He’s dropping his hands a bit now though and Miura lands a couple of counters on him. Clean right lands again for Mayhem. Clinch from Mayhem but he gets tagged by a right hand inside by the Japanese fighter. Leg kick from Miller is countered by a hard right hand. Takedown attempt is blocked by Miura, but Mayhem gives him a knee to the body in response. Good combination lands for Miura and Mayhem looks like he’s bleeding from the mouth a little. Big exchange sees both men land punches and Mayhem might’ve gotten slightly hurt there as he has to back up. Knee from Mayhem is answered by a Miura right hand. Body kick glances for Mayhem. Big left hook connects for Miura as Mayhem lunges in. Takedown attempt from Mayhem but Miura sprawls and so he spins into guard, but can’t get him down that way either and has to stand. One minute to go and Mayhem connects on another good leg kick. Takedown attempt from Mayhem is countered by a big judo throw from Miura, and he begins to land some nice punches as Mayhem turtles up. Miura keeps pouring it on, but Mayhem completes a single leg as the round ends. Close round but I’d say Miura just about edged it.

Round Three begins…and Mayhem lands a groin kick that absolutely FOLDS Miura. Looked unintentional but that was a bad one. Ref Steve Mazzagatti has to call time, but Miura recovers quicker than Gandulla did earlier and they get going and trade off with punches with both men landing some hard shots! Miura really goes for it with a flurry, but Mayhem manages to shoot a takedown and somehow wriggles onto Miura’s back from there, and goes from that into a BANANA SPLIT ATTEMPT. Basically a hold that rips the hip joints apart from what I can tell, this looks NASTY. First time I can ever remember seeing it in MMA too. He goes from that into a twister attempt but Miura avoids that as Frank Mir goes wild on commentary. Mayhem decides to slap both hooks in instead to go for the more conventional rear naked choke, but Miura again works well to defend it. Time is running out for him though as he just can’t shake Mayhem off his back despite being able to survive. He looks like he might be able to turn into Miller’s guard though and manages it with less than a minute to go. Flurry of punches lands for Miura before Mayhem kicks him off and gets back up. He goes for the takedown again but Miura counters with another judo throw, and then lands some punches from the clinch as Mayhem stands! This is a great fight. Both guys look quite tired and rightfully so. Blatant low blow lands for Miura and the Mazz calls time, but they restart very quickly and Mayhem clinches to land a pair of knees from the plum. They break off and that’s it. I’ve got it 29-27 for Mayhem, either way he’s surely got the decision.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Mayhem; disappointing that nobody gave a 10-8 first round but then I guess Mayhem only had positional dominance rather than doing a ton of damage. This was a GREAT FIGHT though thanks to Mayhem’s great grappling and Miura’s pace and sheer toughness. If Mayhem had pulled off that banana split then it’s probably an all-time highlight reel but as it is, it feels like a bit of a forgotten gem that’s definitely worth finding on Fight Pass. Tremendous stuff and it’s such a pity that Mayhem’s prime didn’t take place in the UFC as he could’ve been a major star had he managed to keep his head in the game, and as it was once he did have a UFC run he was largely past his best and also had pretty clear mental problems.

WEC Light-Heavyweight Title: Doug Marshall vs Justin McElfresh

Rhino had won the LHW title just before the Zuffa takeover back at WEC 23 by knocking out TUF veteran Lodune Sincaid, but this was actually his first defense. He’d initially been booked to defend against Jorge Oliveira at WEC 25 in what sounded like a pretty cool fight actually, but Oliveira dropped out for some reason and then never fought for the Zuffa WEC, no idea why as he was always an exciting fighter with a lot of skill. McElfresh was basically plucked from nowhere for this fight – he did have a 5-1 record but I have no idea why he was thrown right into a title fight, unless Sean Shelby or whoever was booking at this point just wanted a highlight reel win for Rhino. On a side note it’s hilarious to see almost-clean shaven Rhino at 205lbs looking like a completely different guy to how he did at Heavyweight with a full beard. Like someone put his tattoos onto another person even!

First round begins and McElfresh has a massive reach advantage. Big leg kick lands for Rhino and he follows with another and a left hand as McElfresh is walking him down and not really using that reach. Couple of jabs land for the challenger but he keeps on walking into range and gets caught with a nice right hand to the body. Another leg kick lands for Marshall. McElfresh keeps walking forward, but a left hook rocks him and three or four clubbing follow-ups have him badly hurt as he desperately tries to grab Rhino. Leg kick sets up another big shot for Rhino and then he works McElfresh over with some hard punches from the clinch. Combo lands for McElfresh and he clinches up, but Rhino clubs him with a hard right hand and then a couple more break the clinch and set up some WILD HAYMAKERS! Big combo drops McElfresh face-first and that’s it.

Post-fight Rhino says McElfresh’s jab was pretty powerful and puts over his toughness, but also calls the knockout a “KD”, as in knocked dead. Pretty bad promo but ah well. Fight was fun enough, if a bit crude, as McElfresh just didn’t use his height and reach at all and kept walking into Marshall’s power punches, and if you walk into a guy who hits that hard then it’s only a matter of time. Rhino would go on to one more title defense (against Ariel Gandulla) before dropping the belt to Brian Stann, and last I remember seeing him was in Bellator.

-Highlight reel promptly follows and that’s that.

Final Thoughts….

This was a weaker card on paper and it was that way in execution for the most part too. Opener was decent as was the main event, but neither set the world alight and Gandulla/Padilla was downright awful. The Mayhem/Miura fight however was REALLY good, making it a one-fight card. I’d say find that one on Fight Pass and skip the rest. Thumbs down for WEC 27.

Best Fight: Mayhem vs. Miura
Worst Fight: Gandulla vs. Padilla

Overall Rating: **

Until next time,

Scott Newman: