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Brown Devours Garcia, Retains WEC Featherweight Title

Frank Curreri, WEC – Mike Brown is starting to make this look easy. For the second straight fight, the WEC kingpin steamrolled through one of the world’s top featherweights, finishing off Leonard Garcia in less than two minutes on Sunday at American Bank Center.

By Frank Curreri

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. – Mike Brown is starting to make this look easy. For the second straight fight, the WEC kingpin steamrolled through one of the world’s top featherweights, finishing off Leonard Garcia in less than two minutes on Sunday at American Bank Center. That Brown won was not surprising. The rapid fashion in which he did it – dropping the iron-chinned Garcia with a massive right to the temple in the opening seconds and then submitting him with an arm triangle – was both stunning and breathtaking to watch.

“I’m just happy to be here,” said Brown, who won his ninth straight and improved to 21-4. “I just stuck to my game plan. I do what I do every fight. I swing for the fences every time and try to put ‘em down. I keep my hands up. I do my thing.”

Much like his previous fight with Urijah Faber, the former champ whom he dethroned, Brown simply landed a perfect punch early and then pounced when he smelled hurt. Garcia threw a wild left and Brown countered with his crushing right. As Garcia collapsed, Brown got on top of him and desperately uncorked heavy punches and elbows. When Garcia turned, Brown took his back and tried to sink in a rear naked choke. In a scramble, Brown trapped Garcia’s arm and choked him out, forcing the tap at 1:57 of round one.

“No excuses, man. He hit with a good shot. I tried to recover and fight for you guys,” Garcia, a native Texan, said somberly to the crowd afterward. “I guarantee you one thing: I will be back and I will fight Mike again. I just got caught with a shot. I apologize and I will be back for you guys.”

Brown now holds the distinction of being the only fighter to stop the hard-nosed Garcia inside of the distance. Now considered a “real” champion since he has successfully defended the title, Brown is on a collision course for a sequel with Faber, who was sitting cageside.

“Man, the fans want to see me and Urijah,” Brown said. “I’d love to fight Urijah again. Urijah is the man, so let’s do it again buddy.”

Ricardo Lamas vs. Bart Palaszewski

Experience matters in MMA, but it’s not the Holy Grail. Lamas, with only five fights under his belt, proved that tonight with a commanding performance against respected veteran Bart Palaszewski (who has more than 40-plus fights). Lamas, who took this bout on five days notice as a replacement for the injured Rich Crunkilton, kept his fellow Chicagoan off-balance with a deft mix of boxing, low kicks and ground-and-pound. While standing up in Palaszewski’s guard, Lamas repeatedly punished his foe with powerful shots to the face, causing a mouse to form under Palaszewski’s left eye. Palaszewski was game and kept hunting in vain for a mistake to capitalize on.

The judges awarded a unanimous decision win to Lamas, with scores of 30-27 across the board.

Said Lamas: “He is a real dangerous striker on his feet so I tried to take it to the ground where I figured I had the advantage and it worked out for me.”

Chris Mickle vs. Jose “Junior” Aldo

How do you stop Jose Aldo? Chris Mickle didn’t provide the answer to that question. Any hopes of a Mickle upset were dashed early. The courageous Iowan shot in for a takedown and was greeted with a potent knee to the face. Then came a high kick to the face. Then a hail of 10 or so explosive punches that dizzied Mickle and forced referee intervention at 1:39 of round one. Four fights in the WEC – four knockouts. Aldo moved to 14-1 while Mickle fell to 31-12-2.

Marcus Hicks vs. Rob McCullough

Apprehension, unfortunately, seemed to grip both fighters throughout much of this anticipated matchup. The first and third rounds were for the most part forgettable, but the second round produced fireworks. Hicks broke the lull with a steaming overhand right that floored McCullough, then Hicks immediately followed his wounded foe and locked in his signature guillotine choke.

McCullough managed to free his neck and gain top position, where he unleashed an effective volley of punches. The athletes got back on their feet, with Hicks landing another hard overhand right, but McCullough seemed to flip a switch and control the rest of the fight with low and high kicks, punching combinations and a thumping left kick that hurt Hicks to the body.

The third round seemed to be a coin toss, with neither man asserting himself or stepping up to try and claim victory. So lethargic was the action that the referee actually threatened that he would stop the fight and call a “no contest” unless the action improved (which seemed an extreme overreaction, by the way).

When the dust settled, McCullough won a majority decision by scores of 29-29, 30-27 and 29-28.

Phil Cardella vs. Danny Castillo

When you fight Phil Cardella, you are essentially fighting a junkyard dog. That is what Castillo learned in this matchup of contrasting styles. Early in round one Castillo, the superior puncher, seemed to be imposing his will with crisp combinations to the head and thunderous shots to the body. But while most fighters might be slowing down from such an assault, Cardella was just heating up. The unorthodox Texan, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Relson Gracie, repeatedly bull-rushed through Castillo’s arsenal and pulled the fight to the ground. In a reversal of fortunes, all Castillo could do on the mat was try to stall and survive and hope that the referee would force a stand-up due to inactivity.

The best moment of the bout came in the waning seconds of round two, with Castillo in Cardella’s guard. As Castillo attempted to standup, Cardella fired a brutal upkick that violently whipped Castillo around and sent him slumping down. He fell perfectly into a Cardella triangle. It appeared the end was near but Castillo was saved by the horn signaling the conclusion of the round.

Round three featured more of the same, with Cardella repeatedly forcing the action to the ground, landing elbows and heel strikes and Castillo stalling in his guard. With about 30 seconds left, Cardella improbably trapped his opponent in another triangle choke, and then switched to an armbar. Castillo held on as time expired and escaped with a split decision victory by scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 (for Cardella).

With the win, Castillo improves to 7-1. Cardella is now 12-3.

Damacio Page vs. Marcos Galvao

It didn’t take long for this to become a rough night for Galvao, and a splendid one for Page. At the opening horn Page charged his adversary and forced him against the cage, then cocked back deep and fired a hard right that landed flush against Galvao’s chin. A moment later, yet another wild right hand rocked Galvao, and then three more, dropping him to the mat. Galvao pounced with yet another booming right hand that clobbered Galvao, rendering the Brazilian in a frozen pose and unconscious. Just like that, 18 seconds into the fight, it was over.

“I knew if I could stand up with him that I could knock him out,” said Page, a bantamweight who trains under Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “After that first right I felt I had him.”

With the win, Page improved to 11-4; Galvao fell to 9-3-1.

Alex Serdyukov vs. Johny Hendricks

This bout, the last WEC welterweight match in history, proved to be one of the evening’s best. Hendricks, determined to make other fighters respect the power in his hands, cracked Serdyukov time and again in the first 9 minutes, even wobbling him late in the second round with a wicked left hook to the temple. Smelling the hurt, Hendricks unloaded what seemed like two dozen or so punches before the stubborn Serdyukov finally fell down. Hendricks took Serdyukov’s back and tried to reign down punches but seemed too fatigued to seal the deal. Serdyukov, amazingly, recovered and fought back to his feet as the round ended.

In round three, Hendricks seemed to tire and Serdyukov upped the ante with a full-fledged attack of knees, jabs and takedowns. Hendricks repeatedly tried for takedowns but was rebuffed. In fact, Serdyukov would sprawl and trap Hendricks underneath of him, where he unleashed some potent elbows to the two-time NCAA wrestling champ’s back and rib area. It was too little, too late. Hendricks had his hand raised with a unanimous decision.

Rafael Rebello vs. Kenji Osawa

Rebello would have preferred to keep the fight on the ground but had to settle for a stand-up affair with Osawa, who stuffed the Brazilian’s takedown attempts and repeatedly landed the cleaner, more telling punches and kicks. Rebello, a product of American Top Team, was the aggressor throughout, throwing haymakers and wild shots to try and set up his takedowns. For the most part Osawa eluded those punches and continually peppered Rebello with a crisp left jab and a straight front kick to the midsection. In the end the judges awarded Osawa a split decision by scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 27-30.

Greg McIntyre vs. Alex Karalexis

Shout it from the rooftops, brother: “I’m back, baby! I am back! I’m back!”

Pretty much everybody at the American Bank Center, from the judges to the front-row fans to the guys in the upper deck, could hear Karalexis emphatically declaring that he has recaptured his mojo and halted a two-fight losing streak.

The native Bostonian took control of the fight mid-way through the first round, slamming McIntyre hard with a double leg takedown that made McIntyre’s head bounce off the canvas. Karalexis immediately went to work, dropping bombs that landed clean on McIntyre’s face and forced a referee stoppage at 4:19 of the opening stanza.

“It’s been a rough year and a half for me,” said Karalexis, formerly known as “The Assassin” before changing his nickname to “T-Rex” before this fight. “I didn’t want to just win, I wanted to be dominant. This is it man, this is the Alex Karalexis everyone is going to see, except I’m going to just get better and better and better.”

John Franchi vs. Michael Budnik

Franchi prevailed in his WEC debut, taking control in the third round to narrowly escape with a victory over former X Games stud Michael Budnik. Both men predominately and willingly engaged in a fast-paced, back-and-forth ground war that saw them exchange heel hook attempts and upkicks. Franchi repeatedly scored takedowns and occasionally landed punches from the top and combinations on his feet. It was a topsy-turvy affair and the judges awarded Franchi a split decision, pushing the New Yorker’s record to 5-0.

Mike Pierce vs. Justin Haskins

The first bout of the night was primarily a wrestling match until late in round three, when Pierce unloaded with a vicious left hook to the body that made Haskins collapse to the canvas at 3 minutes 39 seconds.

The end came suddenly as both fighters were locked in a clinch. Pierce had controlled much of the opening two rounds with several takedowns – including a hard double leg slam and a suplex – but was unable to keep Haskins down for long or inflict much damage from the top. With the win, Pierce improved to 7-2; Haskins fell to 4-3.

“I didn’t realize he had such a good clinch defense. It just took a couple of rounds until I opened up and went to the body,” Pierce said afterward, offering his impression of the dramatic knockout. “I heard him go to the ground and make sounds and I finished him off.”