WEC 53 is headlined with two title fights including a lightweight bout with Ben “Smoothe” Henderson putting his belt on the line against Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, with the winner getting the first crack at the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard for the UFC lightweight title.
We’re sad to see them go, but we love to watch them leave (especially WEC ring girl Brittney Palmer) as these great WEC fighters make their transition into the UFC. Here are our ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff picks for this historic event.
Benson Henderson (12-1) vs. Anthony Pettis (10-1)
Odds: Benson Henderson -180, Anthony Pettis +150
DENNY HODGE: Pettis is an exciting young fighter that can finish fights on his feet and with his submission game, but will be facing a new level in competition as he steps in there with defending champion Henderson. Henderson usually dictates where the fight goes and has tremendous submission defense. Pettis will want to keep this fight on the feet, but will have trouble with the relentless attacking style of Henderson. Henderson will prove to be too much for the up-and-coming Pettis, winning by TKO.
RICHARD MANN: Watching Benson Henderson fight makes MMA seem so simple. All you have to do is avoid an opponent’s strikes, get on top and avoid submissions. Henderson also catches a guillotine when the situation arises. Before his last fight, the book on Anthony Pettis was that he was a flashy striker with terrible takedown defense. However, against Shane Roller, he showed good hips and stayed off his back. Despite Pettis’s improvements, Henderson will be single-minded in his approach to the takedowns. He will have very little offense and take home to decision. Henderson by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Ben Henderson.
JOHN BUHL: Pettis is a great fighter and this is a perfect main event to send the WEC off into the sunset. But Henderson is a very athletic and fairly well-rounded fighter in his own right. Unlike Roller, Pettis’s last opponent, I expect Henderson to do a better job mixing in his wrestling and striking together and pull off the decision win.
JACK BRATCHER: What a great main event. It is going to be very interesting and exciting to see how these guys do in the UFC lightweight division. Henderson has been on such a streak and until anyone shows us different I have to go with him. This is the biggest fight of Pettis’s career and I think, as always, he will make an impressive showing. But there can be only one, and that one tonight will be Ben Henderson via submission.
Dominick Cruz (16-1) vs. Scott Jorgensen (11-3)
Odds: Dominick Cruz -220, Scott Jorgensen +180
DENNY HODGE: Jorgensen will want to try to contain and control the frenetic movement of Cruz, who slips, moves, and bounces all over the cage nonstop. It will be a difficult task for Jorgensen to use his wrestling to maintain control of Cruz, who will be hard to take down and even harder to keep down. Cruz employs crazy angles in his boxing game and will pick Jorgensen apart en route to a dominating title defense via unanimous decision.
RICHARD MANN: I want to rip my eyes out when people rave about Dominick Cruz’s motion. He spastically moves around the cage and lands powerless strikes. Sure, Scott Jorgensen will have trouble with Cruz’s reach, but I still can’t pick against him. He is the better striker, wrestler and fighter. Jorgensen by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Dominick Cruz.
JOHN BUHL: I actually think Benavidez gave Cruz a bit of trouble at times with his boxing, which is something I didn’t expect. Cruz won the fight, but it wasn’t a dominant performance. However, Benavidez has a fast, unorthodox style. I don’t see Jorgensen being able to outmaneuver the manic movement of Cruz on the fight and this isn’t a match where Jorgensen will be able to rely too much on his wrestling. Cruz by decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Cruz’s only loss came over three years ago to Urijah Faber in his glory days. Since then, he has been unstoppable, winning seven straight.Jorgensen has looked very good lately but Cruz should be able to keep it on the feet and use his footwork and striking to pick Jorgensen apart for a decision victory. Cruz by decision.
Donald Cerrone (12-3, 1 NC) vs. Chris Horodecki (15-2)
Odds: Donald Cerrone -410, Chris Horodecki +310
DENNY HODGE: This is an interesting match up. Horodecki has the power to finish fights, but hasn’t in awhile, while being on the wrong end of a couple of bad knockouts.. Cerrone will bring the heat the whole fight and this one could very well be fight of the night. In the end, Cerrone’s ground game will be too much for “The Polish Hammer.” Cerrone by submission.
RICHARD MANN: On paper, this is a match up between two all-out strikers. However, if you watch his fights, Chris Horodecki always tried to take the fight to the ground when he fights quality fighters. It is hard to pick Donald Cerrone when he is fighting anyone thinking about takedowns. With that being said, I think Cerrone might stand a chance against Horodecki’s takedowns and on the ground he is the better grappler. Cerrone by submission.
BRIAN FURBY: Donald Cerrone.
JOHN BUHL: No offense, Horodecki, but Cerrone takes this one via TKO round 2. Especially if he comes out as aggressive and motivated as he looked doing the Varner fight.
JACK BRATCHER: Remember when the young Horodecki was tearing through dudes in the IFL and beating up grown men? That was awesome. It was also a long time ago – and it was the IFL. The odds-makers don’t have Cerrone at -410 for nothing. At this point in the game, and I hate to say it because I really do like Horodecki, but I don’t think he can hang with the top guys at lightweight. He should probably think about dropping weight now that they are headed to the UFC. Maybe Cerrone gets his first stoppave via strikes in this one. Cerrone via second round TKO.
Jamie Varner (16-4-3, 2 NC) vs. Shane Roller (8-3)
Odds: Jamie Varner -205, Shane Roller +165
DENNY HODGE: Roller has amazing wrestling, but Varner will be able to neutralize the take downs of Roller, and will have a decided advantage on his feet. After being booed most of the time for the past 2 years, Varner will enjoy the home field advantage in Arizona, and it will be weird hearing people cheer for him, but it’s well deserved, and he will not disappoint. Varner by TKO.
RICHARD MANN: If Shane Roller can survive the first round, then he has this fight in the bag. He has had trouble dealing with big power shots before, and Jamie Varner will certainly bring power into the cage. I am going to go with Roller outlasting Varner and taking the decision. Roller by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Jamie Varner.
JOHN BUHL: It’s easy to pick on Varner or write him off. He finds ways to irritate fans even when he doesn’t mean to, and Cerrone and Henderson took care of him without much effort. In between all of that, Kamal Shalorus kicked out his front leg and his nuts. Roller is a good wrestler, but I think Varner has enough ability there to fight him off, especially since I have yet to see Roller do a great job mixing in his wrestling into an MMA context. Varner wins a decision by superior boxing.
JACK BRATCHER: Varner really needs a win here if he plans on sticking around the UFC. Both guys are coming off losses. Both guys are pretty talented on the ground but I think Varner is the better boxer and will end up out-pointing Roller. Varner wins by decision.
Bart Palaszewski (34-13) vs. Kamal Shalorus (6-0-2)
Odds: Bart Palaszewski +145, Kamal Shalorus -175
DENNY HODGE: This one is going to be a banger. Both guys like to stand and trade, and trade they will. The question is, will Shalorus mix in some take downs against Palaszewski or be content to stay in the pocket and trade? I see him mixing up his game and I don’t see Palaszewski being able to stop the take downs.. Shalorus by decision.
RICHARD MANN: If Kamal Shalorus uses his wrestling this fight will become a train of takedowns. If he doesn’t Bart Palaszewski has a chance. However, I can’t pick Palaszewski at this level.. Shalorus by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Kamal Shalarus.
JOHN BUHL: This is another tough fight to call. Shalorus has a world class wrestling pedigree, but we haven’t really seen it yet in the cage. He did show some solid leg kicks against a ring-rusty Varner (ball strikes aside), but Palaszewski probably isn’t going to fall prey to those. I’m taking Bart Palaszewski by decision, under the premise that Shalorus hasn’t decided to put his wrestling to good use and unleash some nasty ground and pound.
JACK BRATCHER: I like pronouncing Bart’s name like this – “Pal-us-zooski”. It’s fun, try it. Palaszewski has been on a run as of late and is just way too experienced for Mr. Shalorus. Shalorus is a talented up and comer but is coming off a draw to Jamie Varner. Palaszewski by decision is how I see this fight ending — and remember — it’s “Pal-us-zooski”.
Tie Quan Zhang (12-0) vs. Daniel Downes (6-1)
Odds: Tie Quan Zhang -257, Daniel Downes +207
DENNY HODGE: Zhang is 12-0 and knows how to finish fights, as he did in his WEC debut. Downes lost his WEC debut by submission, but took the fight last minute, and is a very tough kid. I just can’t pick against Downes. Downes by KO!!!!
RICHARD MANN: The UFC is the number-one promotion in the world, but they are behind Strikeforce in one area. They usually struggle when trying to get a golden goose a win. However, for this fight, they have gotten their act together. Daniel Downes might be the best fighter Tie Quan Zhang has faced, but Zhang is still being set up for a win. Zhang by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Tie Quan Zhang.
JOHN BUHL: It’ll be nice to see Downes with a full training camp instead of the couple of days notice he had for the Horodecki fight. But Zhang impressed me in his win over Pablo Garza. Both guys have something to prove. Zhang, though, I think has been able to get past tougher competition and he still hasn’t gone to a decision. Zhang by third round submission.
JACK BRATCHER: I like Denny’s balls. I mean not literally, but I like that he had the cojones to pick Downes in this one. This is a huge fight for both guys. Mr. Roufus has confidence in his boy Downes and I have a feeling we’re going to see a completely different looking fighter than his WEC debut. His height and reach can give opponent’s problems. Downes is a funny kid too. Like this guy. Downes will out-strike the Mongolian Wolf for a decision win.
Brad Pickett (20-5) vs. Ivan Menjivar (21-7)
Odds: Brad Pickett -145, Ivan Menjivar +115
DENNY HODGE: Brad “One Punch” Pickett, despite his nickname, has won 5 of his last 9 wins by submission, and will be facing off against Ivan Menjivar who used to be an absolute beast at 145. Prior to an almost 4 year layoff, Menjivar fought a who’s who list of tough guys including Faber, Serra, Lauzon, and Uno. He will be dropping to 135 for this fight and after so much inactivity over the past 4 years, it’s hard to tell how he will look in this fight. I have to go with Menjivar in this one, by submission.
RICHARD MANN: Have you ever looked at the winning percentage for fighters coming off a huge layoff? Trust me, it is not a pretty number. Ivan Menjivar is coming off a really long layoff. On top of that, Brad Pickett has been putting on the best fights of his life at bantamweight. Pickett by decision,
BRIAN FURBY: Brad Pickett.
JOHN BUHL: What will Menjivar look like after such a long layoff? His only win since 2006 is a first round submission over journeyman Aaron Miller last June. Meanwhile, Pickett has gone 2-1 in the WEC and honed his game with American Top Team. I like Pickett with his striking and counter-wrestling.
JACK BRATCHER: You ever find it odd Brad “One Punch” Pickett has never won a fight by one punch? Just an observation. Anyway, he still has the best hats in all of MMA. This is an interesting match up for a couple reasons. First of all, both guys are very well-rounded. Secondly, Menjivar has fought the bigger names (guys like Georges St-Pierre, Matt Serra, Joe Lauzon, etc.) but, he’s only had one fight in four years. This could be fight of the night actually. Although his nickname is “The Pride of El Salvador” Menjivar actually lives in Canada and trains at TriStar. I think this could be Menjivar’s comeback. Menjivar by decision.
Eddie Wineland (17-6-1) vs. Ken Stone (9-1)
Odds: Eddie Wineland -215, Ken Stone +175
DENNY HODGE: It seems like forever since Wineland was a WEC champ, and he will have his hands full with the up-and-coming Stone. In the end, the cage exprience of Wineland will be the difference. Wineland by decision.
RICHARD MANN: A lot of people are sleeping on Ken Stone, and I am one of them. Eddie Wineland is an underrated threat in the bantamweight division. He has decent, but not great, wrestling and striking. That should be enough to bring home a win in this one. Wineland by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Eddie Wineland.
JOHN BUHL: So is this a coming out party for Ken Stone or a chance for former title challenger Eddie Wineland? Wineland has good range and striking. Stone, well he’s getting a fair amount of hype and all of his nine wins have come by stoppage. But until I see him get by a more establish opponent, I’m going with the known quantity. Wineland by decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Ken Stone reminds me of “Keith Stone” on the Keystone commercials and for that fact alone he should win. But he won’t. Wineland will add to his three fight win streak over Manny Tapia, George Roop, and Will Campuzano. This is Stone’s big show debut but Wineland is sending Keith Stone back to the trailer park in this one with probably a first or second round TKO.
Danny Castillo (9-3) vs. Will Kerr (9-2)
Odds: Danny Castillo -260, Will Kerr +210
DENNY HODGE: This will be a pretty evenly matched fight, but Castillo will prove too much for Kerr, but it will go the distance. Castillo by decision.
RICHARD MANN: Danny Castillo should be able to strike from the outside and get takedowns. That sounds like the makings of a decision victory to me. Castillo by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Danny Castillo.
JOHN BUHL: Close fight, but Castillo’s wrestling makes the difference. Castillo by decision.
JACK BRATCHER: How can you pick against Team Alpha Male? Come on. Castillo has said he likes his wrestling advantage in this fight, calling Kerr’s wrestling “sub par”. That’s good enough for me. Castillo be decision.
Ricardo Lamas (9-1) vs. Yuri Alcantara (23-3)
Odds: Ricardo Lamas -180, Yuri Alcantara +150
DENNY HODGE: Lamas has won three straight in the WEC, and will be facing the more experienced Alcantara who is making his debut in the WEC/UFC. The win streak of Lamas ends here, as Alcantara will win the war on the feet. Alcantara by TKO.
RICHARD MANN: Normally, I do not pick Brazilian fighters who come into the UFC with huge records. However, Alcantara scored an impressive win over Francisco “Massaranduba” Drinaldo and therefore must be legit. Ricardo Lamas will get takedowns, but he will struggle to implement offense, but that will be enough. Lamas by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Yuri Alcantara.
JOHN BUHL: Alcantara has had a ton of success on the Brazilian MMA circuit. Let’s look at the last two successful Brazilian prospects that made their US debut. Alexandre Ferreira was bludgeoned by Vladdy Matyushenko at UFC 122, but Maiquel Falcao completely outclassed Gerald Harris at UFC 123. So he’s either going to kick ass or suck. Lamas by decision or Alcantara by submission…..I’m going Lamas by decision. Fingers crossed.
JACK BRATCHER: If Ricardo Estaban and Lorenzo Lamas had a son he would be called Ricardo Lamas. Or not. This will be Alcantara’s EIGHTH fight this year – holy smokes! And he’s won them all. Alcanatara is a Muay Thai champ and a BJJ black belt, He also trained with Lyoto Machida for this fight. He sounds legit. I’m going with Alcantara via submission.
Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado (21-1, 1 NC) vs. Chris Cariaso (10-1)
Odds: Renan Barao -290, Chris Cariaso +230
DENNY HODGE: Pegado has lost only once in his 24-fight career, and will overpower Cariaso on the ground. Pegado by submission.
RICHARD MANN: I got an email the other day about Renan Barao. (Yes, I am bragging that I get emails from readers. Join the fun at firstname.lastname@example.org) The emailer asked if Barao was ready for the UFC. The answer is not really. However, he is in line for a win here. Barao is really ahead of Chris Cariaso on the ground. Barao by submission.
BRIAN FURBY: Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado.
JOHN BUHL: I don’t claim to know much about Pegado besides his WEC debut, other than that he has the longest name I’ve ever seen. But he trains with Nova Uniao (I’ve heard they produce good fighters). Plus, he beat a guy named Erinaldo Pitbull, according to Sherdog fightfinder, and that’s just awesome. Barao by third round submission.
JACK BRATCHER: Say “Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado” three times really fast… That’s how long it’s going to take him to submit Chris Cariaso. Barao is a training partner of Jose Aldo – need to know more? Not me. Pegado via submission.
*All odds provided by BetonFighting.com.