By: Sensei Thad CampbellSan Jose, CA –
Sometimes an opportunity is too good to pass up, even if the timing might not be perfect. Such was the case with the UFC offering Nick Pace the opportunity of his life. The young Bantamweight was coming off a controversial loss to Ivan Menjivar. The veteran Menjivar barely escaped the fight, avoiding a rear naked choke as the bell rang in the first and a vicious knee that forced him to run for the last minute of the 3rd. Somehow the judges determined that Pace had lost the fight despite two near finishes. No time to ponder though, as shorty after the bosses called with a seeming step up, Miguel Angel Torres. At one point the WEC Bantamweight champ was in the argument as the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Let alone at 135. It would seem the UFC brass saw the Menjivar fight differently than the judges. Torres barely lost his last fight, a number one contender fight which Demetrious Johnson barely eked out. That fight earned Johnson a chance at 135 champ Dominick Cruz. With Johnson being the only other loss on Pace’s resume, this seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. One fight and Pace has the opportunity to put himself in the title picture. The only downside? Like Menjivar, Torres brought a huge edge in experience into the fight. Boasting 44 fights with only four losses, Torres had finished almost as many fights (7) by triangle choke, as Pace had in total (8). Was Pace ready for the step up in competition.
The feeling in his camp was simple. The opportunity was too good to pass up. In the UFC there is no such thing as an easy fight, so why not take the opportunity to make a name for yourself against one of the most heralded fighters of his generation. Saturday night in San Jose, that’s exactly what Pace looked to do. The opportunity got off to a rough start as weigh in was a struggle. Pace was doing his normal weight cut when he was forced by the doctors to stop cutting with three pounds left to go. It was a huge disappointment to Pace who had missed weight once before in the UFC and vowed never to have that issue again. Unfortunately, the choice was taken out of his hands despite wanting to continue to drop to the allowable 136 pounds. That would leave Pace visibly upset at the weigh ins Friday.
The nervous energy seemed to be gone shortly after the bell rang Saturday night though. Torres has an almost unreal 76″ reach for a person 5’9″. That’s more than half a foot longer than the average person his height. This became a focal point of the fight as Pace was giving up 3″ in height and 8″ in reach. Early on Torres established his jab as Pace was most effective with inside low kicks., getting Torres off balance repeatedly in the opening minutes. Torres started letting loose with a long right hand. It was not heavy, but fast and landed a couple times. Pace was just short with a right of his own and eventually stopped trading punches in favor of clinching. The round came to an end after a cool sequence that saw Pace shoot for a double against the fence, transition to a high crotch single, then finish a takedown but roll out as Torres tried to counter with a kimura. The two ended right back on the feet as the round came to an end.
In between rounds Tiger Schulmann encouraged Pace to look for a takedown off of Torres right hand and it took less than a minute for Pace to do exactly that. Ducking under the right, Pace drove through a beautiful double leg, landing Torres on his back. The two would fight an interesting battle as Torres had half butterfly guard. While Torres was trying to do damage with elbows and punches to the head, Pace was intent on passing over Torres right butterfly hook. It took the better part of a minute, but Pace was finally able to pass the guard of Torres (a rare feet against a Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Black Belt who holds 23 submission victories in his career, most off his back). Pace controlled side mount for a few seconds and it looked to be a repeat of the Menjivar fight as Torres began to roll up to his knees. It looked for a second like Pace would take the back of Torres like he had Menjivar. Instead Pace went the other way, grabbing a hold of Torres neck where it looked like he may lock in a naked guillotine (think rear nake choke from the other direction). Torres showed his savvy though as he was able to shrug out of the lock by controlling one of Pace’s hands and get back to his feet. The round would end with Torres once again firing straight punches and Pace finding some success with a cross hook combination.
The third round saw Torres establish distance again while moving laterally to avoid takedown attempts from Pace. Pace found his distance a couple times though, especially with a couple knee kicks out of the clinch. Torres continued to control distance for most of the round and Pace couldn’t find another takedown or land a shot to stun Torres like he had in the Menjivar fight late in Round 3. It would be enough to earn Torres a unanimous decision, but to earn Pace the respect of his opponent who freely admitted he was cautious in the fight as he was aware of Pace’s strength in every aspect of MMA. “I had to be a little cautious and be smarter with the fight. He was real tough, I hit him with some good shots and I was wearing him out to the body, but he was a real durable fighter,” said the veteran Torres in praise of Pace.
It certainly was not the outcome Pace had in mind when accepting the challenge of fighting Miguel Angel Torres. However, to all the TSMMA and Nick Pace fans watching he proved that he belonged at the top levels of competition in the Bantamweight division and with a little more experience should find himself coming out on the other side of these decisions. We can’t wait to see him back in the cage soon!