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WEC 53 Preview

By on December 16, 2010

As excited as I am for the WEC’s fighters to get more money and fame while fighting under the bright lights of the UFC, I can’t help but be a little sad about the final WEC event tonight. Even before Zuffa bought the promotion, the WEC was putting on great fights. It’s fitting, then, that we end the run of the promotion with a great card headlined by two title fights.

Let’s get right into some last minute predictions for tonight’s main card, starting with the two non-title bouts.

Shane Roller vs. Jamie Varner

The two fighters that Shane Roller has lost to in the WEC over his seven fight tenure are both in the lightweight title bout, so it’s not as if Roller has lost to any bums. Of course, Varner’s no bum, though he is 0-3-1 in his last four fights. He’s fought very tough guys in that stretch, too, but such is life in the WEC. He’s obviously best known for his little feud with Donald Cerrone at this point, and no matter what happens with either guy’s career, the UFC should keep them both on to face each other once per year until one of them decides to retire for good.

I’m always tempted to favor the better wrestler in fights like this, as I don’t see Varner being able to stop Roller’s shots throughout the fight. I’m also tempted to take Varner simply because he’s a talented fighter with very good striking, but will he be able to land something while fending off takedowns left and right? I have to say no on that account.

Prediction: Roller by decision

Donald Cerrone vs. Chris Horodecki

It’s hard to believe that Horodecki is just 23 years old, as I remember seeing him for the first time in his IFL days four years ago. Horodecki is a tough fighter who will need every bit of that toughness against Cerrone tonight, who is very near the top of the ladder in the WEC’s lightweight division. Cerrone will have reach on Horodecki, and Cerrone will be harder to take down than what Horodecki might expect.

If Horodecki does get the takedown, he will be facing submission attempts in bunches, which has caused even seasoned fighters to wilt under the pressure that Cerrone brings. There’s always the chance that Horodecki lands a big shot, as he does have some power, but Cerrone also has a pretty good chin, so that’s pretty much a wash, too. I think Horodecki gives a good account of himself here, but he’ll do so in a losing effort.

Prediction: Cerrone by submission

Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen

Cruz has put together a nice little run as the bantamweight champion, and his last loss came at a weight class that didn’t suit him in the first place (as a featherweight against Urijah Faber in 2007). Since then, he’s used his elusive style to puzzle and frustrate employees over his last several fights. Jorgensen, on the other hand, makes no bones about what he’s going to do: he pressures, he swings to put guys away, and does everything at full blast.

The question, then, is whether Jorgensen can close the distance and keep it close; ideally, Jorgensen would fight this one in a 4×4 cage. If he is content to let Cruz strike at range, he’s asking for a 25-minute loss by judges’ decision. There’s no question that Cruz will look to control the fight: the pace, the distance, etc. If Jorgensen wants to win, he definitely has to not allow Cruz to do those things. I think that Jorgensen will not come in and give Cruz too much respect, which means he will be pushing the pace.

Now, if it goes to the later rounds, this may become a problem, as Cruz is okay with fighting into the fourth and fifth rounds. Will Jorgensen be up to that task, though, if he’s already been practically killing himself trying to chase Cruz down and keep him within arm’s reach the whole time?

Call me crazy, but I’m going to go with the upset here and pick Jorgensen to win. Cruz has all the tools to win, but I keep coming back to Jorgensen catching Cruz a few times, putting him on his back and eventually cinching in one of his ultra-tight guillotine chokes for the big win.

Prediction: Jorgensen by submission

Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis

Everyone is saying that the stakes are higher for this than any other WEC bout, which is puzzling. The owner of the featherweight and bantamweight titles right now is already widely considered to be the best in that weight class in the world, but earning a title shot against the UFC champ is somehow more important? Did we forget that Cruz and Jorgensen are fighting for a UFC title tonight?

At any rate, Henderson is the favorite here and is the most legitimate claim that the WEC has to a top ten lightweight fighter. His wrestling and athleticism are off the charts, and he’s becoming a big-time threat to submit opponents, as well. So why am I leaning towards picking Pettis?

Part of it is that Pettis’ striking is as good or better than any aspect of Henderson’s game. Part of it is because I think that Henderson’s style will give Pettis opportunities to land shots throughout the fight. Part of it is because I’ve seen enough MMA fights to know that things people don’t expect to happen often do happen.

Henderson is not a “lay and pray” type fighter. He’s going to push the pace throughout and look to finish, and that may not serve him so well in this one. As a superior wrestler, he could take fights like this if he resigned himself to fighting a conservative fight, but can he do that? Sure, he can finish Pettis, too. His submissions are outstanding and his striking is improving, though Pettis is far better in that area. However, you can only pick one thing to happen, and I think Pettis catches Henderson at some point when the champ makes the mistake of backing straight up from an exchange.

Prediction: Pettis by KO/TKO

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