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Varner and Shalorus Draw; Hominick and Grispi Impress

Frank Curreri, WEC – A high-stakes battle between Kamal Shalorus and Jamie Varner, with the winner possibly earning a title shot, took an unfortunate turn Sunday night when their gritty, gut-checking clash was declared a draw.

By Frank Curreri

EDMONTON, Alberta – A high-stakes battle between Kamal Shalorus and Jamie Varner, with the winner possibly earning a title shot, took an unfortunate turn Sunday night when their gritty, gut-checking clash was declared a draw.

Although both fighters inflicted their fair share of damage on the other, the difference proved to be a costly point-deduction against Shalorus for an illegal kick to the groin that caused Varner to writhe in pain on the canvass for a prolonged period in the second round. It was one of three potent, dead-on low blows Shalorus would deliver during the wildly entertaining three-rounder, which saw Varner pushed to the brink much like his barn-burning clash with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

The judges scored it 28-28, 29-27 for Shalorus, and 29-27 for Varner.

“I’m pretty sure I broke my right foot and my right hand,” Varner said as he iced his right hand immediately after the decision was announced. “But I’m not going to lie, I think I won the fight.”

Varner would limp out of the Octagon and favor his right leg, using the support of his cornermen as he hopped back to his locker room. In addition to his groin and hand, Varner also appeared to suffer plenty of damage to his left leg, his lead leg, which Shalorus repeatedly hammered with thumping low kicks throughout the affair.

The former WEC champion had started the evening in impressive fashion, outboxing his Iranian-born opponent and drilling him with potent 1-2 combinations, including a right hand that momentarily buckled the iron-chinned Shalorus. Varner also grazed his opponent with head kicks, yet Shalorus never stopped charging forward and as the bout wore on, his wild punches began to find their mark on Varner’s face with increasing frequency. To his credit, despite being dropped twice by low blows, Varner never allowed the referee to halt the contest and gamely fought on. Shalorus, a former Olympic wrestler with a new record of 6-0-2, claimed his low blows were inadvertent.

“I swear I’m not like that,” he said. “I’m warrior, I don’t cheat. It’s just an accident. I was trying to cut down his speed because Varner is fast and has power.”

Jamie Varner, who had equated Benson Henderson’s victory over him to hitting the lottery’, will now probably have to wait to get another crack at the WEC lightweight belt that he relinquished earlier this year.

In other action Sunday night at Rexall Place arena:

Yves Jabouin vs. Mark Hominick

They waited eight years to settle a heated debate, and their all-out war produced an unequivocal truth: Mark Hominick is Canada’s top featherweight. “The Machine,” as he is called, stalked Jabouin throughout the bout and pounded him with head and body shots. The speedy Jabouin countered his countryman with ferocious leg kicks and stinging punching combinations that caused a sizable welt to form under Hominick’s right eye.

Truth be told, the round one that these two fighters waged is one of the finest, most beautiful displays of kickboxing this writer has ever seen. Technical brilliance reigned supreme, and in between the high kicks, rib kicks, jabs and everything else – Jabouin even managed to score with an astounding three spinning backfists AND a spinning elbow for good measure. But in the end, it wasn’t technique that seemed to carry the day, it was grit and determination. Quite simply, Hominick’s relentless stalking, heavy-handedness and the blistering pace he set seemed to take a toll on Jabouin, who began to noticeably slow down in the second round.

A body shot by Hominick was one shot too many; Jabouin fell to the canvas. Hominick followed him there, pouncing with heavy shots on top. Jabouin somehow mustered the strength to get to his feet, and the assault continued. Hominick would pay for his lack of caution; a right hand by a desperate Jabouin put Hominick on the deck. Yet the ground has always been more Hominick’s domain than Jabouin’s. The Shawn Tompkins protégé reversed and mounted Jabouin. Then he fulfilled the dream that so many fighters have when thinking about a grudge match: he pounded away, shot after shot, on a vulnerable and trapped Jabouin.

At 3:21 of round two, the war of attrition was over; Hominick prevailed by TKO, pushing his record to 18-8.

“Those body shots really affected me,” Jabouin said afterward. “They took the little air I had left in me out of me … From the get-go I didn’t feel good. I felt like I was out of air. I feel like I had this fight but I just didn’t feel like it was my night.”

“He’s a tough man,” Hominick said. “This fight was eight years in the making so it was the most emotional fight I’ve ever been in. It’s Father’s Day and I lost my father four years ago, so it’s very emotional.”

Hominick also commended his former adversary.

“That’s the first time in my career that I’ve had someone live up to the words that they are going to stand and go toe to toe with me,” he said.

Hominick also made it clear that, while he’s not mentioned as a potential top contender to Jose Aldo’s throne, he wants to be.

“Nobody in this division can bring the kind of fight to Jose Aldo that I can. No disrespect,” he said.

Josh Grispi vs. L.C. Davis

Jose Aldo, meet Josh Grispi. The 21-year-old Bostonian conquered his 10th straight opponent with relative ease, choking out highly-ranked contender L.C. Davis midway through the opening round. Amazingly, the one-sided outcome marked the ninth time in his past 10 fights that “The Fluke” has stopped a foe in the first round.

Grispi’s win, which came after a year-long layoff, answered a lot of questions relating to his health and possible “ring rust.”

“I’m too young for ring rust,” he said afterward, while admitting that “I was so nervous for this fight, but I came in here and did my thing.”

Grispi said the victory over Davis (16-3), by guillotine choke, was a gift to his father.

“Happy Father’s Day,” he said. “This is what he wanted so I gave it to him.”

Grispi, 14-1, has now positioned himself as a top contender to the throne of WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Like Grispi, Aldo is young (23) and a master finisher. The Brazilian is considered by many to be among the Top 3 fighters in the world pound-for-pound.

Chris Horodecki vs. Dan Downes

Moral victories tend to have little worth in professional sports, but the losing effort of Wisconsin’s Dan Downes offers yet another strong counterargument to that norm. Based on first impressions of his lanky, pear-shaped frame, as the young Irish-American walked into the cage he appeared to be the human equivalent of chum about to be served to a frenzy of sharks (or in this case, his opponent, former International Fight League champion Chris Horodecki). Sure enough, Horodecki had his way with the Marquette University college graduate from the opening horn, scoring a takedown and locking in a deep guillotine choke. Downes, who had taken the fight on just a few days’ notice as a replacement for Ed Ratcliff, fought off the oxygen deficit for a long time before escaping. With thousands of his fellow Canadians spurring him on, Horodecki earned another takedown and “Danny Boy” showed his grit and determination once more by fighting off a rear naked choke attempt.

In the second stanza, Horodecki, a noted Muay Thai specialist under Shawn Tompkins, reverted to his bread and butter attacks. He wasted no time tagging Downes with a 1-2 combination to the face and followed that up with a knee to the face. Downes, perhaps due to the ridiculously abbreviated training camp, seemed to be winded and fighting back on fumes. Yet he stubbornly kept charging forward and winging punches that had little steam on them. On three different occasions in the fight Horodecki had landed spinning back kicks that wowed the crowd but did nothing to stop his flat-footed foe from coming forward.

Horodecki racked Downes with a high kick, clipped him with an uppercut and a 1-2 combination to the head and body. And Downes slowed down but never folded. Unfortunately for the former U.S. Secret Service intern, well-applied chokeholds trump toughness. As the late great Helio Gracie declared, the choke is the best maneuver in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, precisely for the aforementioned reason. And so Downes had met his match in the third stanza when Horodecki took him down and sunk in a rear naked choke. Finally, 1 minute and was 9 seconds into the round, “Danny Boy” was forced to concede defeat and tap out.

It was the first loss of Downes’ career after six straight wins, but his stock probably rose in defeat. He certainly earned the respect of Horodecki.

“Danny is super-tough. He’s a tough, tough Irish kid.” Horodecki said. “Thank you for stepping up to the plate … Hat’s off to him.”

Will Campuzano vs. Eddie Wineland

Eddie Wineland’s resurgence continued with a blistering fistic assault on Will Campuzano, whose valor and speed kept him competitive in the scrap until his chin and body could no longer hold up to the former WEC champion’s monster right hands. Campuzano posed problems for the Indianan early, whacking away at Wineland’s lead leg with hard low kicks. As the action heated up, Wineland seemed to find a chink in the Dallas-area fighter’s armor and correctly began countering those leg kicks with hard overhand rights. Twice in the first round those right hands knocked Campuzano to the canvas, though it was difficult to discern how much of the fall was due to trying to balance on one leg.

In the second round a nip-and-tuck fight was altered by the course of back-to-back right hands from Wineland that rocked Campuzano. Smelling the hurt, Wineland pounced on his fallen foe and unleashed a hail of punches from the top position. To the astonishment of many in the raucous, pro-Wineland crowd, a woozy Campuzano struggled to his feet and swung wildly in desperation.

With Wineland slumping against the fence in survival mode, Wineland kept uncorking more hard right hands; but it was a vicious straight right to the rib area that finally caused Campuzano to crumple to the canvas. Wineland pounced and the referee halted the bout at 4:44 of the round.

During his celebration, Wineland (17-6-1), a former WEC bantamweight champion, made a gesture around his waist, miming that he wants his belt back.

Karen Darabedyan vs. Will Kerr

Armbar defense will probably consume the consciousness of Karen Darabedyan in the weeks and months ahead after dropping his second straight bout via Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s most basic submission. In a sequence eerily reminiscent of his last performance against Bart Palaszewski, Darabedyan scored a takedown, was controlling Will Kerr on top, then succumbed to a first-round armbar. Kerr, a court marshall who lives and trains in New London, Connecticut, choked up when discussing the first WEC win of his career.

“That wasn’t the gameplan. I was going to stand and go for a takedown later on,” conceded the 27-year-old, who pushed his pro record to 9-2. “I wanted to prove that I belong here.”

Darabedyan, holder of triple black belts in judo, taekwondo and karate, dropped his second straight fight following a ground-breaking win over former WEC lightweight champ “Razor” Rob McCullough.

Wagnney Fabiano vs. Frank Gomez

One thing was virtually certain at the conclusion of this undercard bout: It was not going to be bumped onto the televised portion of WEC 49. Quite frankly, though Fabiano succeeded at imposing his will and controlling the fight on top, the action was about as exciting as standing in a long line at the grocery store.

In keeping with his methodical style of fighting, Fabiano kicked off the first stanza with a takedown, passed guard, and then secured a deep guillotine choke off the ensuing scramble. The drama built as Fabiano squeezed away, but the suspense subsided when Gomez popped his head. Not much else happened for the remainder of the round save for a second Fabiano takedown. In the second round, Fabiano again imposed his will on Gomez, scoring two more takedowns – and escaping from a gogoplata submission attempt – and controlling on top for most of the round. Round three – more of the same, though Fabiano did whack Gomez with the best punch of the night – a hard overhand left that stunned the New Mexico-based fighter. A takedown followed, making it an easy verdict for the judges, who handed Fabiano a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27 across the board.

Erik Koch vs. Bendy Casimir

There are defenses to virtually every technique in MMA, but the triangle choke undoubtedly ranks among the most difficult moves to escape. Especially when a 6-footer like Erik Koch is the guy with his legs around your neck, constricting the oxygen flow like a python. So it goes without saying that when Frenchman Bendy Casimir found himself trapped in that dreadful place, the tap out was not far behind. The gesture conceding the fight came at 3:01 of the first round, pushing Koch’s record to 10-1 and serving notice to his peers that he is a 21-year-old veteran.

“I hope it sends a message out to the 145 division that I’m no slouch,” the Iowan said. “I may look like a kid but I’m here to fight.”

Diego Nunes vs. Rafael Assuncao

In the end, after 15 minutes of spilled blood and mutual carnage, Diego Nunes fell to his knees and burst into tears of joy. There could be no unjust outcome in this one, but when the suspense settled it was Nunes who got the nod over fellow countrymen Rafael Assuncao, eking out a split decision by judges’ scores of 30-27 (Nunes) 29-28 Assuncao and 29-28 (Nunes). Each round was like a carbon copy of the previous, with Nunes continually scoring with low leg kicks and Assuncao occasionally cracking his adversary with hard right hands. Against Assuncao’s wishes, it was almost exclusively a standup affair, though the transplanted Atlanta-based fighter held his own in that realm, bloodying Nunes’ nose in the first 30 seconds of the bout with a wicked right hand. Nunes later returned the favor, opening a gash under Assuncao’s left eye.

Assuncao had attempted a few takedowns, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt (an honor that applies to Nunes as well) was repeatedly rebuffed until late in the fight.

With the victory, Nunes rebounded from a loss to L.C. Davis and pushed his record to 14-1. Assuncao dropped his second straight, falling to 15-3.

Chris Cariaso vs. Rafael Rebello

This was a topsy-turvy scrap for the opening two rounds, with Rebello scoring five takedowns over that span and Cariaso scoring with a steady stream of kicks and a crisp 1-2-3 combination to his Brazilian foe’s head. But with the outcome up in the air it was Cariaso, the fresher fighter, who wore down his opponent with knees from the clinch, a timely takedown and a pretty kick to the face to cement the win with just 30 seconds left. The judges awarded the San Francisco-area fighter a unanimous decision by scores of 29-28, 30-26, 29-28, pushing Cariaso’s pro MMA record to 10-1.

“I had a little bit of first time jitters in there,” Cariaso said, “but I shook those out and want to show the world how good I am.”

Renan Barao vs. Anthony Leone

Hailed as “The Next Big Thing” out of Brazil, Renan Barao was impressive but not overwhelming for much of his bout against an unbeaten and very game Anthony Leone before exploding with a fight-ending armbar. A highly-touted teammate of WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Barao controlled most of the action with a bevy of leg kicks, knees and elbows, and weathered a few hard-charging combinations from his surprisingly resilient New York opponent, who had taken the fight on three weeks’ notice. Due to Leone’s failure to make weight, the bout took place at a catch weight of 143 pounds rather than 135 pounds. While Barao did not seem as blazingly quick as Aldo – and who is, really? – he displayed remarkable poise and a big bag of tricks. He coasted in winning the first two rounds, then took Leone down in the third round. When Leone fished for a kimura from the bottom, Barao capitalized with a textbook armbar counter, earning the tap out at 2:29 of round three. The triumph lifts Barao's record to 21-1, 1 NC.