An injured Brian Bowles has withdrawn from his title bout against World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Torres at WEC 40 on April 5 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, but top-10 ranked Takeya Mizugaki has stepped out of the wings to fill the void. The replacement bout has been agreed to and will be inked shortly, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations.
The undefeated Bowles, who’s clocked in four straight WEC victories, suffered a severe back injury on Monday and will recuperate for the next month, said a camp source.
The 25-year-old Japanese standout has been offered a five-fight deal with the promotion, according to his management, with Mizugaki’s first order of business to be against the revered East Chicago, Ind., native in a five-round title tilt.
Torres (35-1), one of the sport’s most accomplished competitors, will carry an incredible 16-fight winning streak into his third title defense. The 28-year-old firebrand last competed in December when he throttled the previously undefeated Manny Tapia at WEC 37, burying the Californian under a second-round barrage of punches and elbows. Torres has finished his last 11 opponents -- six of them inside one round -- and has not tasted defeat in more than five years.
Mizugaki (11-2-2) was an overwhelming favorite in Greatest Common Multiple’s Cage Force bantamweight tournament, where he punched out veteran Masahiro Oishi in December’s final to take the title. The former Shooto rookie MVP is currently ranked as Sherdog.com’s No. 6 bantamweight.
Also on the card, former featherweight title challenger Jeff Curran will make his long-awaited debut at 135 pounds when he meets the fast-rising Joseph Benavidez at WEC 40.
A polished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Curran (29-10-1) has dropped back-to-back fights to the world’s top two featherweights -- Mike Thomas Brown and Urijah Faber -- and has not competed since June. The 31-year-old holds victories against former International Fight League featherweight champion Wagnney Fabiano, Rafael Assuncao and Antonio Carvalho, among others.
Benavidez (9-0), a Faber protégé, made a successful promotional debut at WEC 37 last December, though he was taken the distance for the first time in a unanimous decision victory against Danny Martinez. Six of his nine wins have come by submission.
Brian Knapp contributed to this report.