LAS VEGAS – Miguel Angel Torres is one of the most well-rounded mixed martial arts fighters in the world, but he looked like a one-dimensional boxer on Wednesday in his World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight title fight with Manny Tapia at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Tapia had spoken frequently prior to the fight about knocking out Torres, who didn't fail to notice Tapia's bold words.
So Torres played Tapia's game and, as it usually is in Torres fights, it was a no contest. Torres knocked Tapia down twice and pounded him on the ground, forcing a stoppage at 3:04 of the second round.
"Manny was talking about knocking me out, but I have pretty decent standup," Torres said after improving to 35-1.
Tapia had blood streaming down his cheek at the postfight news conference, courtesy of Torres' jab. And though Tapia (10-1-1) didn't believe he could lose a toe-to-toe slugfest, he was quickly disabused of that notion.
Seconds into the fight, Torres popped him with a jab that had Tapia blinking.
"I always thought I had a great chin, but I guess not," Tapia said.
As easy as Torres made it look, he could probably have had an even shorter night had he opted to take the fight to the ground and utilize his jiu-jitsu skills. In his last outing, a June 1 stoppage of Yoshiro Maeda, Torres showed one of the few flaws in his game when he got angry after being cut.
He let his temper take him out of his game plan and he was determined not to let that happen on Wednesday.
"Sometimes, when I go into a fight, I get emotional and I get kind of crazy," Torres said. "If I stay calm, my fights turn out this way."
Tapia offered little resistance and Torres was hardly pushed. He realizes that won't happen in his next outing, which is likely to come against Brian Bowles.
Earlier on Wednesday's card, Bowles defeated one-time Olympic boxer Will Ribeiro, winning a $7,500 submission of the night bonus with a guillotine choke at 1:11 of the third round.
Bowles is a former wrestler who has good standup and jiu-jitsu. Former UFC middleweight Rory Singer, who is one of Bowles' coaches, said the matchup will be much more challenging for Torres than many may believe.
"I believe Brian is as complete a package as they come," Singer said. "He's constantly improving in all aspects of his game. He's been training with us for 4½ years or so. He had about five years of wrestling before he came to us. The fact of the matter is, he grapples with black belts weekly, and submits them. He boxes with professional boxers, which is why I didn't have issues with Will's boxing, because he's been boxing better guys, who are professionals.
"Brian has a good wrestling background. He's got the jiu-jitsu, he's got the standup and he's always improving. He's as tough as they come."
Torres said he's eager to face Bowles because he respects the variety in Bowles' game and
how hard Bowles has worked to improve. The East Chicago, Ind. native said he came to the WEC because he wanted to challenge himself against the best bantamweights in the world. Complete fighters like Bowles, he said, are the reason.
"When I was fighting in my early days, I was fighting a lot of big guys, 165, 170, 175 pounds, but we didn't have guys like this," he said, nodding toward Bowles. "He's a very dangerous opponent."
There are few more dangerous than Torres, who is ranked sixth in the Yahoo! Sports poll of the world's best fighters. Coming in behind Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is hardly anything to apologize for.
But Torres noted that he has a bulls-eye on his back as a champion and knows he has to fix the flaws that exist in his game, even if they're not immediately noticeable to the average observer.
Singer heaped praise upon Torres, but insisted he's far from unbeatable, despite his glittering record and the series of one-sided victories he's had since signing with the WEC last year.
"Without a doubt, Miguel is a phenomenal competitor and he's a well-rounded guy," Singer said. "But he knows as well as the rest of us as fighters and people who are in the sport know that he has holes in his game. He's got a temper. He knows he has to check that on occasion. He didn't check it when he fought that Japanese gentleman. I've seen holes in his game and those are the things we're going to work on."
Bowles, certainly, is eager for the challenge. He's four in a row in the WEC and has won a bonus in each of his last three outings.
There aren't a lot of guys in the division who are considered on equal terms with Torres, but Bowles might be one of them.
"He's awesome," Bowles said of Torres. "Anybody with a record that good is obviously a good fighter, but I like to think I match up well with anyone."
And that is what has Torres relishing the thought of matching his skills with Bowles.
"If you want to call yourself a champion, these are the kinds of guys you have to fight," Torres said of Bowles. "He's good got standup, he's got good ground and he pretty much can go wherever the fight goes. Guys like that are the toughest and the biggest challenge and that's what I'm looking for."
- Miguel Angel Torres