(Varner’s technical boxing, coupled with the point deductions, should have won the day.)
Jamie Varner is no stranger to controversy. There was the infamous “mouthpiece timeout” incident when he beat “Razor” Rob McCullough at WEC 32 to win the Lightweight belt. Less than one year later, he defended that belt against Cowboy Cerrone at WEC 38, beating Cerrone for most of the first four rounds and then suffering an illegal knee to the head that left him crawling on the ground and not being able to continue, retaining the title by a technical split decision. The Cerrone fight had fans booing him loudly and questioning his heart long after he left the cage with a broken foot, broken hand and damaged eye. Truth be told, neither of those fights earned Jamie much love from the fans.
After losing his most recent fight, a title unification bout that saw current WEC champ Benson Henderson choke him out midway through the third round, the pressure was on Varner to get back in the win column against an opponent he referred to as “the toughest guy you’ve never heard of”, Kamal Shalorus. The “Prince of Persia” is a decorated, world class wrestler who throws every punch with aggression and reckless abandon. Unfortunately for Varner’s testicles, he threw three kicks with reckless abandon as well. The first two landed in the second round, the latter one justifiably leaving Varner writhing on the canvas in pain. Referee Josh Rosenthal had no choice but to take a point from Shalorus. The third one, another spot on groin-knocker that again left Varner on all fours, landed in the first 30 seconds of the final round. However, despite the fact that Kamal had already been warned and had a point deducted in round two, Rosenthal declined to take another point from Shalorus. Varner even pleaded with Josh that he “had to take a point” but the ref refused. I don’t think anyone could have taken issue with Varner if he had declined to continue (although I’m sure many would have anyway). But give credit where credit is due. In a fight that seemed to be in the bag for C-4, he “manhooded” up and agreed to continue knowing that he would have to go four and a half minutes with Shalorus and risk the ability to ever father a child.
Watching the fight, it was easy to question why Josh didn’t take the point away but quickly dismiss it as academic as long as Jamie didn’t get finished in the third round. Varner’s hand speed and technical striking were on display for most of the first two rounds as he consistently scored on Shalorus, rocking him several times. Kamal’s offense amounted to nailing Jamie with a good number of leg kicks that actually didn’t crack his nuts, but the general consensus had to be that Jamie had won the first two rounds, which would put him up 20-17 going into the third. Shalorus looked to have the advantage in round three, which was relatively even on the feet but saw Kamal secure a takedown and maintain top control for a good two minutes. He didn’t inflict much damage before Varner escaped but he did enough to win the round. 29-27 Varner, right? Wrong. One judge gave Shalorus all three rounds and had the fight 29-27 in his favor! The other had it 29-27 Varner and the third judge had it 28-28 for a draw. Had Rosenthal rightfully taken the point for the third groin shot in the final round, Varner walks away with a split decision victory and a rumored rematch for the belt. Instead, he walks away with another broken hand, a world of groin pain, a draw on his record and, hopefully, a new legion of fans that will recognize the heart he showed in fighting on against a ton of adversity for what should have been a great win. Now the question of who will get the first shot at Ben Henderson’s newly minted unified championship belt may be answered on August 18th in Las Vegas when rising star Anthony Pettis takes on wrestling phenom Shane Roller.
• Grispi vs. Aldo? Twenty-one-year-old Josh Grispi looked amazing in slapping one of the best guillotines in the business on L.C. Davis and putting him to sleep at 2:33 of the first round. “The Fluke” is for real, coming back from a serious ankle injury he suffered when he submitted Jens Pulver the exact same way just over a year ago. Now 4-0 in the WEC, Grispi put himself in the conversation for a shot at Jose Aldo. The smart money says Gamburyan has next dibs on the title shot, but no one would be disappointed if Aldo vs. Grispi got announced tomorrow.
• “8 Years in the Making” Canadians Mark Hominick and Yves Jabouin talked about fighting on the Canadian circuit together for the last eight years. But with 44 combined fights between them, the two had never met until WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby made it happen in their home Canada. The two didn’t disappoint, putting on a striking war that earned them “Fight of the Night.” The first round saw the faster and flashier Jabouin throw punch after punch and kick after kick at a pace that earned him the round but saw him slow in the second. Hominick’s technical striking and superior ground skills took over as he stopped his fellow countryman at 3:21 by TKO.
• In Earlier Action The WEC’s first ever Bantamweight Champion Eddie Wineland hit Will Campanzano with a crushing body shot that put an end to a fight that could have been stopped about 30 seconds earlier. Wineland earns his third straight win in the WEC and the “Knockout of the Night” bonus. Chris Horodecki dominated late replacement Danny Downes to earn his first win in the WEC. Downes, a Duke Roufus trainee who took the fight on a few day’s notice, showed good toughness before submitting to a rear naked choke in the third round.