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WEC 35 thrills aside, champs have yet to face real challengers

Mir, the hyperbolic color commentator for Versus and UFC fighter, pumped up Condit's game Sunday evening all the way until the WEC champ finished off Hiromitsu Miura in the fourth round of their thrilling battle.

While Condit is a terrific multi-tool fighter, his résumé simply doesn't support being placed alongside Georges St. Pierre or Jon Fitch. In terms of rankings, Condit's only real measuring stick came during a loss to current EliteXC champion Jake Shields.

Condit simply lacks the opposition that could propel him into the top five. (Ironically, Shields is also among the many titleholders who find themselves with only a few real challengers for their belts.) Three losses in eight months from 2005-2006 -- including the decision to Shields, the only fight of Condit's career against a top-10 opponent -- makes it impossible to rank Condit among the very best. And chances are that won't change if he remains in the WEC.

Much of the depth at 170 pounds resides in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Condit is unlikely to leave the organization known for promoting some of the best 145-pound-and-under fights in the sport. As of now, his toughest tests would come against fighters he's already defeated. A rematch against Brock Larson, for instance, might be interesting, but another win won't do anything to raise Condit's stock.

He's going to have to find some strength if he wants a legitimate shot at the top 170-pound wrestlers. Miura (9-5) wasn't expected to be much of a test, but several times Condit flew through the air with fancy trips and throws. He failed against Shields because he couldn't get up off the bottom. Against the likes of G.S.P., Fitch, Josh Koscheck or the other physical grapplers in the division,

Condit might not have enough right now, but one thing is for certain: Condit will find a way to pull through and inevitably break into the top. And on the side, it's nice to know Mir can support a man who, quite possibly, may one day give the ex-UFC champ a run for his money.

Madam Guillotine

The guillotine, (see Brian Bowles' win over Demacio Page), is undeniably, one of the most effective submissions in MMA. Even the best fighters get caught in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu choke. Maybe simplicity is the key.

Breathtaking blowout

Boy, can Marcus Hicks can take a shot. Or 20, actually. While lightweight Jamie Varner (15-2, 2 NC) was impressive in his first WEC title defense, Hicks should be credited for holding on as long as he did. Varner, enjoying a nine-inch reach advantage, plastered his challenger with right hands and knees that should have put him down. But Hicks, now 8-1, absorbed the punishment, making a one-sided blowout about as exciting as it could be before he was finally put away.

Syndrome of the uncontested

Like Condit and the other aforementioned titleholders,Varner, 23, is lost in the shadow of UFC's lightweight division. He'll find it difficult to make it into the top 10 if he can't compete against the best. Fortunately for him, 155 pounds is the deepest division in the world and he won't be lacking in tough fights. They just won't be the kind of fights that do much for his status.

Trilogy in the making

No one would dare call 27-year-old Brian Stann a coward, even if the "fatigue" excuse was actually legitimate in his defense against Steve Cantwell. The loss of the former Marine's WEC light heavyweight title shouldn't be much of a surprise, really. Except for his powerful right hand and stout heart, Stann fights like a rookie because, well, he basically is one. The constant pitter-patter of a jab-straight, the hands that go up with a step back that immediately follows -- Stann isn't there yet. But he recognized that when he said "I have so much to learn and I showed that tonight." Fear not, the ex-champ will continue to progress in his latest spin on battling.

Cantwell (6-1), meanwhile, properly exploited Stann's deficiencies by staying light on his feet, delivering with power and moving with speed. He wasn't afraid to mix it up, and several times the 21-year-old stood in front of Stann to take part in vicious exchanges. Cantwell's varied attack was impressive -- not just because of his punches, kicks and knees, but also because of the locations he hurt the former champion. Stann was in the fight until Cantwell started working the body over with digging hooks to both sides.

Now that the series is split between the two fighters, it's probably safe to predict the third installment will happen by the middle of next year.