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Who’s doubting now?

Bowles may be quiet outside the cage, but the message he sent by beating Torres was loud and clear

WEC 42

Justin M. Bowen

The referee stops the action as Brian Bowles attacks Miguel Torres as the two face off for the world bantamweight championship during WEC 42 at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sunday night.

A Shock to the System

Brian Bowles remained perfect Sunday night earning the bantamweight belt at WEC 42 with a first-round knockout of Miguel Torres, snapping his 17-fight win streak.

WEC 42

Brian Bowles attacks Miguel Torres as the two face off for the world bantamweight championship during WEC 42 at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sunday on Aug. 9, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

There was definitely a feeling in the air at the Hard Rock Casino Sunday night that Brian Bowles, a timid-looking kid from West Virginia with perfectly combed hair, had no chance.

Even though he held a perfect mixed martial arts record of 7-0 and has finished every opponent he’s ever faced, he just didn’t look like the guy who could take the WEC bantamweight belt away from Miguel Torres.

It took him one round to prove everyone wrong.

“This is why we have fights. The level of competition in the WEC is so high that anything can happen on any given show,” said WEC general manager Reed Harris. “I am proud of Brian for coming in here and doing what he needed to do to win this fight.”

It looked as if Bowles was on his way to becoming Torres’ 18th straight victim after taking a hard right hand halfway through the first round. The blow sent Bowles on a retreat across the Octagon.

Smelling blood, Torres pressed forward with a flurry of hooks that Bowles somehow knocked away before countering with a right of his own that ended the fight by TKO at 3:57 of the first round.

“He hit me with a few punches, had me rattled for a second,” Bowles said. “I started backing out and he started bringing the heat, throwing ones and twos. I’ve seen him do it before in some of the tapes I’ve got of him.

“I kind of got my composure back, looked up and threw a big right hand that landed on his chin.”

Keeping his composure is something that seems to come naturally to the ex-police officer, who is one of the most soft-spoken fighters in the organization.

It’s clear that nothing rattles this kid.

Just minutes before Bowles entered the arena for the main event, bantamweight top contender Dominick Cruz was asked in the Octagon not how he would prepare for either fighter, but how he would prepare specifically for Torres — as though the fight had already been determined.

Instead of getting butterflies, Bowles became so calm it actually frightened him.

“I was confused with it myself,” Bowles said. “I finally go out there to fight and I thought, ‘Man, I’m not nervous at all. I need to get myself psyched up.’

“But I’ve seen a lot of fighters walk out totally confident and I realized maybe that’s how I should be. Just stay calm, know that I’m prepared and go perform like I know I can.”

That demeanor should help Bowles deal with the added pressure that comes the second a championship belt goes around a fighter's waist.

Although Torres said the demands on his time were never enough to lower his performance, it was a challenge to be on constant call as the longest standing champion of the organization.

"I'm sure he's going to be a good champion for as long as he holds the belt," Torres said. "But he'll see that there are a lot of responsibilities that go with it, good and bad. Everybody is always asking what you're doing, what you're thinking, how you're feeling. It gets hard to focus on the fight sometimes. It's a lot of pressure."

The loss was just the second of Torres’ MMA career, dropping his overall record to 36-2.

The 28-year-old fighter hadn’t lost in nearly six years and said that Sunday would be a welcome challenge to his career.

“No excuses, Brian hits really hard and in this sport one shot can change anything,” Torres said. “I’m going to start from the beginning and it’s going to be fun. It’s hard to keep pushing yourself when you’re always at the top.

“This is the biggest challenge of my career now and, honestly, it’s something I look forward to.”

Until the former pound-for-pound candidate works his way back to the top it might be Bowles’ division to run if he continues dominating opponents the way he has.

It may have taken some time, but he’s got his share of believers now.

“We really don’t even know how good Brian Bowles is yet,” Harris said. “He’s rolled through every fighter in my company. Every fight he’s won handedly and he’s got a long career ahead with us.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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