At 34, the future seems uncertain at best for former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver.
The popular and distinguished veteran suffered his third consecutive defeat at WEC 38 on Sunday at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, Calif., as he submitted to a first-round guillotine choke from one-time featherweight king Urijah Faber. Neither of his past two losses has advanced beyond the second minute, leading many to wonder whether or not the time has come for “Little Evil” to call it a career.
“It sucks,” Pulver told WEC.tv. “I just lost three fights in a row. I don’t know what to do.”
Pulver (22-11-1) appears comfortable with his place in mixed martial arts history, despite having lost five of his past six bouts. The four men to whom he has lost in that stretch own a cumulative record of 64-13-1. His extended drought -- interrupted only by a quick submission victory against Cub Swanson at WEC 31 in 2007 -- began with his surprising knockout loss to Joe Lauzon 28 months ago.
“The legend’s all fine and good,” Pulver said. “Down the road, that’ll be a great thing to have, and it’s a wonderful commodity, but I want to be a fighter. I want to be competitive.”
His rematch with Faber lasted just 94 seconds. After he buckled from a body shot, Faber swarmed him with punches and locked in the seated guillotine choke that finished the fight. It was only Pulver’s second submission loss in the last eight years.
“That body shot hurt, and I fell under a guillotine,” he said. “What can I do?”
What’s next for Pulver remains unclear, even as he works under the watchful eye of revered MMA trainer Matt Hume.
“I just want to get back to the drawing board,” Pulver said. “I’m going right back to Seattle, and I’m going to continue to train. I’m coming -- again.”
Champion Under Fire
Jamie Varner left the San Diego Sports Arena as a champion under fire, even though his World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight title was fastened safely around his waist.
Varner (16-2, 2 NC) won a controversial split decision from Donald Cerrone in the WEC 38 main event after their showdown ended prematurely when the unbeaten challenger struck the champion with an inadvertent illegal knee in the fifth round. Unable to continue, Varner drew a chorus of boos from disgruntled fans, many of them believing he had asked for and found an easy way out of the fight.
Under California State Athletic Commission rules, the match went to the judges. Two of the three scored it in Varner’s favor, allowing him to retain the title.
“I want to win unanimously,” Varner told WEC.tv. “I don’t want to get booed by the crowd. I’ve worked too hard for that.”
The 24-year-old Varner (16-2, 2 NC) has made two successful title defenses during his five-fight winning streak. A rematch with Cerrone seems almost certain. Up until the foul, the two traded barbs in a competitive match that saw both of them marked by close-quarters combat. Varner scored almost at will with takedowns against the relentless Cerrone and cut the Jackson’s Submission Fighting standout with a crisp right hand in the third round.
“I know I was taking it to him,” Varner said. “I hurt him a bunch of times. I hurt him with my left hook. I hurt him with my right hand. I hurt myself hitting him with my right hand.”
Even Varner admitted the finish left a lot to be desired.
“I love to train,” he said. “I love to fight. I love to win, and I love to win unanimously, not bulls--t ways like this.”
WEC Awards $30K in Post-Fight Bonuses
Is Jose Aldo poised to become the next great featherweight?
Aldo won his sixth consecutive bout at WEC 38, as he knocked out Rolando Perez with a knee and ground strikes, earning a $7,500 “Knockout of the Night” bonus. Just 22 years old, Aldo (13-1) has finished all three of his WEC opponents with strikes and has quickly emerged as a contender for the featherweight crown.
Spawned by the same Nova Uniao camp that has produced top UFC middleweight contender Thales Leites and world-ranked featherweight Wagnney Fabiano, among others, Aldo has shown dynamic striking ability since he burst on the scene with a technical knockout victory against Alexandre Franca Nogueira in June. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he has yet to showcase the grappling skills that made him a BJJ world champion.
The WEC’s post-fight generosity extended beyond Aldo’s hand.
Despite the fact that their five-round title bout ended in controversy, Varner and Cerrone banked matching $7,500 “Fight of the Night” bonuses. In addition, Faber picked up a $7,500 “Submission of the Night” bonus after he coaxed a tapout from Pulver 1:34 into round one of their rematch. It was Faber’s 11th submission win in 24 career fights.
This & That
Varner, despite his split decision win at Cerrone’s expense, still has not gone the distance in a fight in nearly six years. Jesse Moreng was the last man to push the Arizona Combat Sports product to the limit at a Rage in the Cage show in April 2003 … Four fighters entered the cage at WEC 38 with unblemished records, and three of them -- Cerrone, Frank Gomez and Mike Campbell -- left it after suffering their first defeats. Only welterweight prospect Edgar Garcia, who smashed through Hiromitsu Miura in 78 seconds, remained unbeaten … Nine of the 20 fighters who competed at WEC 38 were making their promotional debuts. They went a combined 4-5 … Since he entered the WEC in 2006, five of Faber’s eight fights have ended inside one round … Miletich Fighting Systems product Jesse Lennox has finished all 10 of his wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission.