WEC 53 recap: Pettis bests Henderson for WEC lightweight title, Cruz takes home UFC gold

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Anthony Pettis must have been a kung fu master in a past life.

After nearly 5 rounds of back-and-forth action between defending WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and challenger Anthony Pettis, it was the challenger that pulled off a flying action-movie kick, leaping into the cage, bouncing off, then connecting with a head kick that dropped Henderson with just seconds left in the bout.

The kick didn’t end the fight, but it was a perfect ending to an unbelievable last hoorah for the WEC. Just as impressive as the kick, was the way that both fighters fought off submission attempts that could have ended the night early for either guy.

Henderson started in championship form, with multiple take downs in the first, but in the second round, Pettis began to find his range, dropping Henderson with a right hand in the second stanza.

Going into the third, the fight was dead even, and Pettis took control by locking up a body triangle and looking for a rear naked choke for over 3 minutes of the round. Henderson never seemed to be in much trouble, but expended a lot of energy holding the weight of the challenger for much of the round.

Henderson came back strong in the fourth, and nearly ended the fight with a rear naked choke, but Pettis fought through adversity, reversed positions, and ended up on top. A late flurry by Pettis put the champion on the ground again, and once there, Pettis went for a guillotine that he held for the rest of the round, but Henderson would survive to see the final round.

The final round saw both guys take control, and lose it, as momentum swung in both directions almost continuously. Pettis landed the cleaner strikes, dropping Henderson again with a left hand midway through the round. After the fight went back to the feet, Pettis timed a take down attempt perfectly, landing a flush flying knee as Henderson ducked in.

With less than 20 seconds to go, Pettis went for broke, and landed the ninja-like kick off the fence that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

“We practice that all the time, just having fun in the cage,” said Pettis. “I got 10 more of them kicks coming.”

The win catapults Pettis (13-1 MMA, 5-1 WEC) to a date with the winner of UFC 125’s main event between UFC champ Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard.

Cruz dominates Jorgensen over 5 rounds, takes home UFC gold

They say that speed kills.

Take killer speed, mix in unorthodox punching angles, and a dash of unstoppable take downs, and you have the WEC and now UFC bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz.

Cruz absolutely outclassed Scott Jorgensen round-after-round over the 25 minutes of their championship bout.

The champion came out of the gate fast, landing lethal combinations of kicks, punches, and knees. Jorgensen had no answer for the onslaught, but remained patient throughout.

After carbon copy rounds of the first put Jorgensen way behind on the score cards, the challenger desperately tried to solve the enigma that is Dominick Cruz going into the championship rounds.

Unfortunately for Jorgensen, it was not to be.

As the fight wore on, Cruz never slowed. Instead, he rounded out his game with multiple take downs and savage ground and pound, in addition to getting the best of Jorgensen on the feet en route to a dominating, lopsided unanimous decision victory (50-45, 50-45, 50-45.)

Cruz admitted after the fight, that he came into this fight with a little additional attitude.

“I felt I had a chip on my shoulder becasue a lof of people didn’t believe in me,” said Cruz. “But, I think after this fight; this is my 4th title fight altogether, and I’ve won 3 in a row for a title now, I think people believe it.”

Cruz (17-1 MMA, 6-1 WEC) will hold the distinction of being the last WEC bantamweight champion, and will transition the weight division over to the UFC as the organization’s first ever 135 lb. champion.

Cerrone submits Horodecki

Donald Cerrone has said in the past that the triangle is his go-to move, and tonight he showed why.

After an entertaining opening round that saw both guys landing nice combinations and counters, the corner of Chris Horodecki called for their fighter to take Cerrone down.

In the second Horodecki did just that.

After a quick take down however, Horodecki quickly found himself in the dangerous guard of Cerrone. Cerrone transitioned from an omoplata, to a triangle, and as Horodecki defended well, Cerrone switched sides and locked up a very tight triangle.

Horodecki survived much longer than most guys would have in such a tight submission attempt, but after a readjustment by Cerrone, the tap came quickly.

After the submission victory, Cerrone approached Horodecki and lauded him for his toughness for surviving as long as he did.

Cerrone (13-3 MMA, 6-3 WEC with 1 NC) has shown that he can win a fight no matter where the fight goes, and with his improved wrestling, will surely be a threat to anybody in the UFC’s lightweight division.

Shalorus outlasts Palaszewski

After a quick start and a dominating first round, Kamal Shalorus faded quickly midway through the bout, but had enough left in the tank to edge out Bart Palaszewski with a split decision victory 30-27, 28-29, 29-28.

Despite his wrestling credentials, Shalorus has proven in the past that he likes to stand and bang, but he stayed true to his base early in this bout. Once the fight hit the ground, Shalorus punished Palaszewski with big right hands from the top, before landing blistering kicks once the fight got back to the feet.

Palaszewski managed finally get his stand up going in the second round, using his reach and straighter punches to score against Shalorus, while mixing up his kicks and knees as the slowing Shalorus started to fade and lean into his take down attempts. A late take down by Shalorus definitely helped his cause on the judges score cards.

Shalorus faded even more in the third, and Palaszewski landed some big knees as Shalorus attempted to get the fight back to the ground. Palaszewski landed some nice combinations, but conceded a late take down, before making his way back to his feet and scoring with a late flurry, but fell short in the eyes of the judges.

With the victory, Shalorus improves to 7-0-2 overall and 3-0-1 in the WEC.

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