LAS VEGAS, Jan. 20 — “Razor” Rob McCullough(Pictures) came to Sin City for one thing:
the WEC lightweight belt. He accomplished his mission in stellar
fashion, running through fellow Thai boxer Kit Cope in just under three
The co-main event featured WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber(Pictures) taking on PRIDE veteran Joe Pearson(Pictures) in his first title defense. Faber
was too much for the challenger, overwhelming him with slams and
punches from the guard early in the first round.
Inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s The Joint, a packed house
gave the WEC a warm welcome in its first foray into Las Vegas. The
debut of the brand under the expanding Zuffa umbrella was a
measured success. The nine-fight slate provided a number of solid
McCullough ended the night with an exclamation point when Cope
succumbed to a brutal series of strikes, the most prominent being a
vicious elbow from side-control that was quickly followed by a
tapout at 2:53 of the opening round.
Cope lay on the canvas holding his ribs and writhing in pain after
“Razor” was pulled off of him. He later informed the crowd he had
sustained a rib injury, although he could not recall exactly when
it happened in the fight.
In what was billed as a battle between top-level strikers only one
brief exchange occurred while the fighters were upright. McCullough
landed flush with a right hand that sent Cope retreating and as
Cope attempted to counter, McCullough planted him squarely on the
Cope, a relative newcomer to the sport of mixed martial arts, went
on the offensive, looking to secure a submission from his back.
First he tried to position himself for a gogoplata, making it as
far as placing his shin across McCullough’s throat. But “Razor” did
not panic and eventually wriggled free before punishing Cope with a
number of heavy punches and elbows.
Shifted under McCullough again, Cope then rolled for an ill-advised
kneebar. However, the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based “Razor”
rapidly scampered out of danger before pounding on his prone
McCullough eventually secured side-control before unloading the
“I trained my ass of for this, this is my full-time job,” the
victorious McCullough told Sherdog.com. “So, I wanted to show
people that I’m not one-dimensional. I’m an MMA fighter, I’m not
just a Thai boxer.”
The main event was deemed fight of the night and McCullough took
home an extra $5,000 check from WEC promoter Reed Harris. As for
future plans, speculation immediately turned to a McCullough-Rich
Crunkilton showdown. McCullough made it clear he is willing to take
on any and all challengers for his WEC lightweight belt.
Pearson’s troubles began when he attempted to counter a Faber low
kick by rushing the wrestler. Faber, a native of Sacramento,
Calif., had a response of his own, ducking under Pearson’s strikes
and lifting him into the air before forcefully slamming him to the
Without delay the WEC champ attempted to repeat his feat of
strength but was thwarted when the Miletich-trained challenger
untangled his guard as Faber lifted him into the air. Pearson had
no answer for the powerful Faber, and was soon hurtling towards the
mat again, recipient of another Faber slam.
The end came soon after when the champion pummeled away from inside
Pearson’s guard, landing a slew of heavy strikes. The final salvo
included a right hand that grazed Pearson’s forehead, followed by
another that crashed right into his jaw. Faber only relented when
referee Steve Mazzagatti recognized Pearson’s tapout and pulled the
champion from his opponent at 2:31 of the first round.
The impressive showing from Faber garnered him a bonus check for
knockout of the night and kept him atop the WEC featherweight
During his post-fight interview, Faber called out a man many feel
is the top 145-pound fighter in the world, Norifumi Yamamoto(Pictures). Whether or not that
challenge is answered remains to be seen.
John Alessio(Pictures) was a serious contender for the
vacant WEC welterweight title before his match with fellow veteran
Brian Gassaway(Pictures), but he may have upped his
stock even more after his skillful victory.
The fighters clinched after trading a few cursory shots but it was
Alessio who took control early with a beautiful outside trip
takedown from the clinch.
Alessio improved his position from half-guard to mount soon after
hitting the mat and began to riddle Gassaway with downward strikes.
Feeling the pressure, the Chicagoan gave up his back to Alessio,
who sank his hooks in short order before going to work on the
choke. Although he was defending well, Gassaway eventually fell
victim to Alessio.
“The Natural” baited his prey into defending one side and then
slipped his free arm under Gassaway’s neck to cinch the
fight-ending rear-naked choke. Gassaway held out as long as he
could but was forced to tapout with just 10 seconds remaining in
the first round.