LAS VEGAS – For all the talk about the rapid evolution of mixed martial arts, sometimes the basics are still the best bet.
That was the credo World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Chase Beebe lived by in his title defense against Rani Yahya in a WEC 30 co-feature at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Wednesday night.
Faced with the challenge of a world champion jiu-jitsu practitioner who threw him off his game plan, the former Purdue University wrestler used simple, old-fashioned Midwest wrestling conditioning and will to outlast his foe. Beebe retained his by unanimous decision, with official scores of 49-46, 49-46, and 49-45. Yahoo! Sports scored it 49-46 Beebe.
"He was something else," said Beebe. "Sometimes it takes you a little while to get warmed up, but he came out real strong and made me kick it into another gear."
Yahya made a strong impression in his WEC debut in June, submitting Mark Hominick in just 1:19. The Brasilia, Brazil native came out with similar fire Wednesday night, going for no fewer then 12 submission attempts in a frenetic first round.
"I gotta be honest with ya, he trapped my knee pretty good and I thought he had me," said the 22-year old Beebe (11-1). "The first couple rounds I doubted myself and wondered if I could continue. That's a bad thing to think during a fight, but he had me wondering about myself."
But Beebe turned things around in the second and then really put the pedal to the medal in the third, taking it to the ground and slowly wearing down his foe. Beebe spent much of round three attempting to submit Yahya (11-3) on the ground, first going for a guillotine and later a rear naked choke. In between, he connected on enough punches from the ground to open a cut under Yahya's left eye.
"My game plan was to keep things standing up, because he's so strong with his submissions," said Beebe (12-1), who made his first successful defense of his 135-pound title. "But it just didn't work out that way and eventually, something goes off in your head and you realize you have to go with the flow. You can't let up for a second with him, he's so smooth on his transitions."
Yahya came out in the fourth round and attempted to shake things up with a couple low kicks followed by a high kick, but Beebe soon had his opponent back on the ground. By the final round, Yahya looked like he was ready to call it a night, while Beebe appeared to get stronger.
"I'll tell you what, I was more tired than I looked," said Beebe, a Chicago native who was cornered by UFC standout Clay Guida. "But I could tell that he pretty much had enough. When you know your opponent is running out of gas you have to just keep pushing."
By contrast, "Razor" Rob McCullough apparently decided he doesn't get paid by the hour, so there's no need to go all five rounds. The WEC lightweight champion needed just a minute and 29 seconds to finish off challenger Richard Crunkilton via TKO.
"I'm not there to waste time in the cage," said McCullough (17-1). "I want to finish my opponent off and go home."
Crunkilton comes from a wrestling and jiu-jitsu background, but he made a second-guessable decision to stand and trade with McCullough, who has a Thai boxing background.
The challenger found himself on the wrong end of a hellacious right hand which appeared to end the fight. But Crunkilton got back up and kept swinging. Crunkilton did manage to pop McCullough and open up a cut, but McCullough responded with another flurry that finished off the fight.
"I'm not surprised he came out and tried to take it to me," said McCullough, who trains at the Team Punishment camp in Big Bear, CA, with the likes of Tito Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. "He's a tough dude, he's a stud. When he hit the ground, with his skill, I wasn't going to go in there and have him grab a leg or something and get me in trouble. He's a warrior and he got right back up."
The win was the ninth in a row for McCullough. Crunkilton, whose only previous loss was to Hermes Franca, dropped to 14-2.
WEC 30 notes
More WEC on Versus: The WEC has managed to find its niche in a crowded mixed martial arts market by focusing on bantamweights like Beebe and featherweights like champion Urijah Faber. The Versus network has seen enough to want more.
Wednesday night's show was the last of a deal to air three live WEC cards. But the WEC and the network announced a new pact. Versus has committed to 15 more live WEC cards and 20 pre-taped shows.
"The WEC has become a staple of our network" said Mark Fein, the senior vice president for promotion and production with the network. "The numbers have been growing with each show and we're pleased to give them an even bigger role on our channel."
Small cage, fast fights: Another aspect of the WEC's success is the smaller fighting surface, as competitors square off in a 25 foot x 25 foot cage, which is 20 percent smaller than the UFC's octagon. This encourages faster action, as seven of the 10 matches on the card finished in the first round.
Stann at attention: Brain Stann is known for his work in the U.S. Marines, and for good reason: The first lieutenant was awarded the Silver Star for bravery in Iraq.
But guess what? The dude can fight in the cage, too. Stann upped his career record to 5-0 with yet another first-round stoppage, this time over Jeremiah Billington (10-2), with a TKO in 3:07.
Billington actually got in the first big shot of the match with an uppercut, but Stann rocked him back with a big straight right. Stann floored Billington and laid in some solid ground-and-pound work, then got up and landed some big bombs to finish the fight.
"I could see it in his eyes, he was through," said Stann, who was won all five of his pro MMA matches via first-round TKO. "I realized I had to go in there and finish him off."
Best undercard match: Bryan Baker (6-0) rallied to beat Jesse Forbes after 4:15 of back-and-forth middleweight action. Forbes locked Baker in a guillotine early, but Baker kept his wits and dropped his opponent with a textbook slam. Forbes continued to attempt submissions, but faded faster than the Yankees with a three-games-to-none playoff lead. Baker gradually overpowered his foe and wore Forbes out with a ground-and-pound assault before referee Herb Dean called a stop to things.
Coolest submission: Lightweight Donald Cerrone beat Kenneth Alexander in 56 seconds with a combination of a triangle neck crank and an armbar. Alexander, who trains at Urijah Faber's gym in Sacramento, scored a takedown against the Greg Jackson-coached Cerrone to start the match, but Cerrone (8-0) found an opening and worked his magic.
What would have been the coolest submission if not for Donald Cerrone: In a welterweight matchup, Las Vegas's Blas Avena used needed just 29 seconds to submit Joe Benoit with a guillotine. Avena (5-1) sunk in the hold standing, then took it to the ground before finishing off Benoit.
Karalexis cleared: Lightweight Alex Karalexis has been cleared to fight again after breaking his right hand in his June win over Josh Smith. Karalexis is expected to be the next challenger to McCullough's title, and McCullough surprised reporters with strong words. "Alex better bring a pillow with him, because I'm going to put him to sleep," he said.
- Rani Yahya