Just over a year ago, many fans and writers were crowning Miguel Torres the best bantamweight fighter on the planet. It was a legitimate claim as Torres had won 17 fights in a row up until that point, finishing 15 of those opponents in the same time frame. He had exhibited good stand up, an iron chin, and the ability to link submission attacks on the ground effortlessly. However, he ran into a huge right hand from then #1 contender Brian Bowles at WEC 42 and got knocked unconscious for the first time in his career. He blamed the loss on getting complacent with his training camps and made an effort to change that with his training camp as he prepared for Joseph Benavidez at this past weekend. Although tentative early, Benavidez began to push the pace as the fight went along, and the longer he was in there with the former champ the less respect he gave him. As we all know the rest of history after that point in the fight.
Is that going to be a re-occuring trend?
With his performances(and help with the media) Torres had built this invincible aura around him. It seemed as if he could do whatever he wanted in the cage. If you wanted to stand and bang, he'd beat you there. If you wanted to take him down, he'd just submit you. However, now after suffering back to back dominating losses, will other bantamweights view him in the same light? The same fighter that ran through each opponent time and time again, or will they sense some vulnerability now?
This situation kind of reminds me of the Mirko Cro Cop KO loss to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70. It seemed as though that loss took some of Mirko's soul with it. It also took away the mytique and aura that Mirko once possessed, and I wonder if Torres will follow the same path? The difference between Cro Cop and Torres is that Torres is in his physical prime right(29 years old) now, whereas Cro Cop was well over the age of 30 when he made his UFC debut and began going downhill. Torres still has time to correct the flaws in his game(notably take down defense and much needed strength), but only time will tell if he's willing to do what it takes to evolve with the fight game. It's no secret that other bantamweights are gunning for the top spot. Dominick Cruz is a prime example of that. The question now is: Will other bantamweights go into fights with Torres now with less respect and more confidence in their abilities to beat him?
SBN coverage of WEC 47: Bowles vs. Cruz