Faber-Pulver superfight seems inevitable

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LAS VEGAS – World Extreme Cagefighting is set up for the biggest match in its history after Wednesday night's show at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Featherweight champion Urijah Faber submitted challenger Jeff Curran with a guillotine in the main event. Earlier in the night, Jens Pulver, the first UFC lightweight champion and arguably the biggest U.S. name that has appeared in the WEC, debuted in the promotion as a featherweight and shocked Cub Swanson with an anaconda choke in a scant 35 seconds.

Pulver's impressive win only added to talk of a natural showdown.

Faber, 20-1, survived some early trouble, as Curran took him down and controlled him from the back, working for a choke for about 3½ minutes. But Curran, 31-9-1, never came close to finishing and Faber was able to reverse him late in the round.

Curran got on top to start the second round, but Faber recovered to bloody Curran, and finally, as Curran shot in for a takedown, Faber caught him in a guillotine and a submissions win at the 4:34 mark.

Pulver, 22-8-1, had far less trouble in what had turned into a heated situation with Swanson. The two were scheduled to fight on September 5, but a week and a half before the match, Pulver suffered a knee injury and pulled out.

Swanson, 11-2, claimed that Pulver was pulling out because he needed more time to train, which infuriated "Little Evil."

"You can say what you want about my skills, but to say I made came up an injury shows you don't respect what I've done and who I've faced," said Pulver, who admitted he came into the fight with a do-or-die attitude.

Pulver beat Caol Uno on February 23, 2001 to win the UFC lightweight belt when the division was created. But after scoring a huge upset over B.J. Penn to retain the title, he signed a more lucrative deal to fight in Japan with an organization that quickly went belly-up.

His career had its ups and downs, with him largely fighting bigger competitors, before returning to UFC last year with a shocking quick knockout loss to Joe Lauzon.

Still, Pulver gained national exposure as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, building to a rematch with Penn. Even before the loss, the decision was made that Pulver would move to 145 pounds, where he'd no longer give up size to all of his opponents.

"If things didn't work out, I was coming to the end of the line," said Pulver, who spent a few weeks working with jiu-jitsu coach Pedro Silviera to revamp his game.

Pulver felt his game had gotten predictable, as he relied on his boxing, even though his background included a strong wrestling base, including wrestling Division I at Boise State. He said that people said he was one-dimensional for so long that he was beginning to believe it himself.

The anaconda choke, worked from a front headlock position, was something he'd been drilling, since it's a position he expected to be in while using his wrestling. "I had to wake up the sleeping giant in me. I'm a wrestler and I had to get back to my roots."

"I'm excited for the opportunity," Pulver said about a title shot at Faber, who said he expected this would be different from his previous two fights because he didn't expect to build it up with trash talking.

"Jens Pulver is a legend in the sport," said Faber. "I watched him when I was a little scrapper back in high school. He was the man."

While no time frame was announced, both fighters and the promotion were openly talking about it as the obvious direction. WEC has six shows scheduled for live broadcasts on Versus in 2008.

Peter Dropick, the WEC's Vice President of Operations, said they'd likely move the fight out of the 1,000-seat Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel which had been the company's home base. The company is looking at running shows in 2,000 to 6,000-seat arenas in new locations around the country. Faber said he hoped the fight would take place in or near his home city of Sacramento.

Faber was clearly the star of the promotion from the moment he came out to the cage. Nicknamed "The California Kid," he's gone coast to coast trying to promote the organization, which is built around having the best smaller fighters in the country.

Faber was nullified early as Curran got behind him, and trapped him in a figure-four body scissors that took him several minutes to shake. Faber said he was only in danger of losing the round, which didn't much concern him in a five-round fight. He said he'd rather be in that position, because he's confident in his choke defense, than be in what would be considered generally a better position in a guard. He said that when he faced Bibiano Fernandes, a nine-time Brazilian Jiu-jitsu champion, he was in the same position and came back in that one as well.

Other results of note:

In the middleweight title fight, Paulo Filho kept his title, upping his record to 16-0, with a sluggish win over Chael Sonnen. Sonnen, a former All-American wrestler, dominated the entire fight, both the standing game and scoring several takedowns. Filho seemed to have nothing to offer, until the final seconds of Round 2. Filho hooked an armbar and referee Josh Rosenthal stopped it amidst heavy protesting from Sonnen's corner and even heavier booing from the crowd, thinking it was a premature stoppage. Sonnen, 21-9-1, admitted Filho had the move tight, but said he told Rosenthal "No" when Rosenthal asked him if he was going to submit, but Rosenthal made the call at the 4:55 mark of the round.

Doug "The Rhino" Marshall, 7-2 retained the light heavyweight championship beating Cuban refugee Ariel Gandulla, 4-1 with an armbar in 55 seconds.

Marshall noted that Gandulla said he was going to stand and trade, and that every one of his opponents says that. But after Marshall tagged him once, he was going for the takedown.

The first two matches, both involving bantamweights, had the most action.

Charlie Valencia, 9-3, outboxed Ian McCall, 6-1, early, and in the move of the night, dropped him with a high German suplex before finishing him in 3:19 with a guillotine.

Marcos Galvao, 9-2, who came in ranked among the tops in the division, was upset by Brian Bowles, 4-1 in a slugfest. Bowles was caught with a shot to the nose in the first round that bloodied him up and slowed him. But he came back in Round 2, knocking Galvao down. Galvao never fully regained his bearings and was finished with an overhand right at 2:09 of the round.

In a lightweight match, Ed Ratcliff, 6-0, stopped former Ultimate Fighter Alex Karalexis, 9-3. Ratcliff dominated the stand-up game in the first round, leaving Karalexis with major swelling under the left eye. The fight ended in Round 2, with Ratcliff putting Karalexis down and finishing him with punches on the ground at the 1:26 mark.

Bryan Baker, 6-0, took a unanimous decision over Eric Schambari, 7-1 in a middleweight match.

John Alessio, 27-11, had too much experience for Todd Moore, 9-1, winning all three rounds in a decision.

  • Also: Iole: Filho win causes controversy