ProMMAnow.com WEC 52 staff picks

WEC 52: Faber vs. Mizugaki” takes place Thursday, Nov. 11, at The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nev., and features a main event between former WEC featherweight champion, Urijah Faber, moving down in weight to take on top-10 bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki.

WEC 52 will air live on Versus Thursday evening starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. ProMMAnow.com will provide live results and play-by-play commentary of the event.

The ProMMAnow.com staff has come together once again to share our thoughts and predictions on each fight. We have been keeping score all year on our staff picks, and as 2010 comes to a close, it is a very close race with Furby currently in third, Jack in second and Richard maintaining the lead.

There are still quite a few big fights left before the end of the year and with only a couple of wins separating each of the top three, it is still anyone’s game at this point.

Urijah Faber (23-4) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (13-4-2)

Urijah Faber -400 Takeya Mizugaki +300

BRIAN FURBY: In Faber’s first shot at 35, the biggest question is how the weight cut will affect him. Recent reports say that a test cut went well, although Faber was said to have only cut to 140. He should make the cut fine – he may not dominate the 35 division like he once did at 45, but his inaugural fight there will be a successful one. Urijah Faber wins via unanimous decision.

JOHN BUHL: Mizugaki is very tough and has good stand-up, but I still think Faber’s athleticism and speed will make the difference en route to a decision. It’ll be interesting to see how Faber handles the weight cut, though. Will he lose any of his great cardio and quickness from having to get down to the 135 limit? It’s possible, but I’m taking Faber by unanimous decision.

DENNY HODGE: What will Faber look like at 135? Whatever version of “The California Kid” shows up, it will be a tough fight in his debut at bantamweight. Mizugaki is a very durable fighter who went the distance with the former WEC 135 lb. champ Miguel Torres, and has proven very difficult to stop throughout his career. Mizugaki will win the stand up battle in this fight, forcing Faber to try to make this a ground battle. Mizugaki is more than capable of fighting the ground game with Faber, and that will be the difference in the fight. Mizugaki by decision.

RICHARD MANN: At this new weight, Faber’s wrestling should be more effective. Mizugaki usually uses his size advantage to bully smaller fighters, but that will not be a luxury he will enjoy in this fight. Look for Faber to try some of his flashily unorthodox strikes, but ultimately seal the fight with some successful work from the top position. Faber by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: I think Faber’s speed, athleticism and wrestling combined with his unorthodox striking will be too much for Mizugaki. Faber should also have the size advantage with the weight cut. Apparently he went through a practice cut so I don’t expect there to be much issue with cardio or anything like that. It’s also only three rounds so the day Urijah Faber can’t go three rounds is the day Joe Rogan gives up weed.  I see Faber taking Mizugaki out on the feet with his striking. I could see Mizugaki getting caught with his hands low, getting dropped and Faber finishing him off via TKO in round two.

Joseph Benavidez (12-2) vs. Wagnney Fabiano (14-2)

Joseph Benavidez -300 Wagnney Fabiano +220

BRIAN FURBY: Will Benavidez’s wrestling best Fabiano’s BJJ? The short answer is yes. Without a doubt, Fabiano has excellent submission skills, but Benavidez’s solid base and better power will allow him to outlast Fabiano. Benavidez wins by unanimous decision..

JOHN BUHL: I wish I didn’t have to make a pick in this fight. I’d feel more comfortable picking Benavidez if he wasn’t stepping in on short notice for the injured Brian Bowles. Fabiano has looked better at 135 and has decent striking but, most importantly, dangerous submissions. However, Benavidez probably isn’t in bad shape, given that he was helping Faber get ready for Mizugaki. Could end up being a weird fight to score; Benavidez has unorthodox striking (though his boxing looked improved against Dominick Cruz) and decent wrestling but Fabiano guard game might make it hard for Benavidez to do a lot of damage on the ground. I’m taking Faber Jr….I mean Benavidez by split decision.

DENNY HODGE: Fabiano was actually the can’t miss guy in the division a couple of years ago, but it has been Benavidez that has made the bigger waves, making a name for himself by submitting Torres back at WEC 47. Benavidez does have his Kryptonite, in current kingpin Dominick Cruz who is one of the only guys that can match his relentless speed and pursuit in the cage. Fabiano is a top 10 135’er, but Benavidez is going to take it to him in this one with an unmatched enthusiasm and motivation to keep getting better. Benavidez by unanimous decision.

RICHARD MANN: Fabiano’s length could give Benavidez some problems early in this fight. However, Benavidez’s wrestling game will allow him to keep the fight where he wants it. If he decides to keep it on the feet, he should be able to land some devastating strikes on Fabiano. Benavidez by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: It seems all my cohorts have picked Benavidez and that is my pick as well. Both guys have really similar records. They are both well rounded but tend to finish more fights by submission than strikes. Benavidez is coming off a title fight loss to Dominick Cruz via split decision (both of Benavidez’s losses have come from Cruz). He was very close to becoming the champ and I think he is going to be extra motivated to keep improving until he wins that title. He has that Team Alpha Male work ethic and there are very few guys in the world that can defeat Joseph Benavidez right now. In fact, there may only be one … Dominick Cruz. Benavidez by decision.

Chad Mendes (8-0) vs. Javier Vazquez (15-4)

Chad Mendes -280 Javier Vazquez +210

BRIAN FURBY: Team Alpha Male has three guys on this card. Obviously there is a benefit to the three of them training together while all getting prepped for fights on the same night. The team already seems to have a great bond, and training, weight cutting and getting ready has only made them stronger. All three of them will have tough fights, but I think Mendes has the toughest in Vazquez. Vazquez has great submissions and solid gas tank. However, Mendes will get things started right for Team Alpha Male, leading the way in the trio getting unanimous decision wins. Mendes wins by unanimous decision.

JOHN BUHL: Upset alert? I think so. Vazquez is a legit BJJ black belt but also has a strong wrestling game; maybe not enough to fight off every takedown Mendes throws at him, but enough to give Mendes more trouble than he used to and take him out of his comfort zone. Plus, I like that Vazquez is working with Antonio McKee for this fight. If you can deal with McKee’s smothering top game, you can handle anything. Vazquez by decision.

DENNY HODGE: Mendes is undefeated in his WEC career and overall at 8-0, and has a strong wrestling base. Vazquez is the more experienced guy with most of his wins coming by submission. So that means we will see a kickboxing match….. Actually it won’t go down like that, as Mendes will put Vazquez on his back repeatedly and avoid the submisson game of “Showtime.” Mendes isn’t a big time finisher, but he understands that controlling the fight will still give him a “W” and keep that record unblemished. Mendes by decision.

RICHARD MANN: It might not be pretty, but there is no reason to think that Mendes can’t get takedowns and control this fight en route to a decision. Vazquez might be able to threaten, but Mendes has shown proper positioning skills on top, so he should be able to avoid submissions. Also, for whatever reason, the judges seem to really have something against Vazquez. All of this adds up to a victory for Mendes. Mendes by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: This is a case of the undefeated rising star, Mendes, who has been steam-rolling his way to the top going up against the seasoned BJJ black belt veteran in Vazquez. Unfortunately for Vazquez, Mendes was a 2x D-1 All-American and 2x PAC 10 champion. His strength and wrestling cancel out Vazquez’s submission game. Look for Mendes to eventually put Vazquez on his back, control position with some ground and pound and pick up a decision win.

Damacio Page (15-4) vs. Demetrious Johnson (6-1)

Damacio Page -350 Demetrious Johnson +250

BRIAN FURBY: I’ve been a big fan of Page since seeing him on the TapouT show a while back. He’s working off a couple back-to-back wins and should pick up a third here. Damacio Page wins by TKO in Round 2.

JOHN BUHL: This one’s easy. Page is a beast at 135 and Johnson is stepping up on late notice. Page by second round TKO.

DENNY HODGE: Page is coming off an injury that has kept him out of action for almost a year. Ring rust could be a problem, but Page will be looking to knock that rust off early against the much smaller Johnson, as he will have a decided advantage in the stand up game. Johnson is actually better built to compete at 125, but despite the size advantage that Page will enjoy, it will still be a very tough fight. “The Angel of Death” will be too much for Johnson in this one. Page by TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Page has a huge experience advantage, and he has even fought up as high as lightweight. Johnson really should be fighting at flyweight, so the size difference here is huge. Look for Page that advantage to push Johnson into the cage and score with takedowns. Page by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: I would not want to fight someone nicknamed “The Angel of Death”, but that is what Demetrious Johnson is facing here. Page is part of the Jackson MMA camp and has a pretty significant experience advantage. Johnson is well-conditioned and has shown some KO power but Page should take this one with his superior striking via TKO round two.

Erik Koch (10-1) vs. Francisco Rivera (5-0)

Erik Koch -400 Francisco Rivera +300

BRIAN FURBY: Rivera makes his WEC debut with a perfect 5-0 record. He faces a tough debut in Koch, who has twice the number of fights as Rivera and only one loss, a decision loss to Chad Mendes. Koch will have better striking and show it early. Koch wins by TKO in Round 1.

DENNY HODGE: Rivera is 5-0 and will be making his WEC debut against Koch. Koch has been known to finish fights on the ground with 7 of his 10 wins coming by way of submission. Add Rivera to the list… Koch by submission.

JOHN BUHL: Props to Rivera taking this fight on short notice, but Koch is a strong prospect who’s had a full training camp. I like Koch by submission in round 2.

RICHARD MANN: Koch is perhaps the biggest surprise story in the featherweight division. His grinding style makes him a tough fight for most top fighters. Rivera is coming in on short notice. He might stick around for a bit, but Koch will go home with the win. Koch by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: Koch will definitely have the significant advantage on the ground. This is Rivera’s WEC debut as he moves up from the Called Out MMA organization. Rivera will likely suffer his first loss here as Koch rocks him on the feet, gets him down ands finds a submission to end it.

Zack Micklewright (9-2) vs. Dustin Poirier (7-1)

Zack Micklewright -115 Dustin Poirier -115

BRIAN FURBY: Both guys are coming back from their first loss. The oddsmakers have them about even in this one, and I’d say we’re looking at an entertaining fight. Poirier’s loss to Castillo was a decision, and it was a fight he took just a few weeks out from the event. This one is going to be my split decision pick of the night. Poirier wins by split decision.

JOHN BUHL: Pretty even fight here, but Micklewright has more experience and already has his first WEC win, while Poirier might feel the pressure trying to keep from going 0-2. Micklewright by decision.

DENNY HODGE: Micklewright is coming off a KO loss just 2 months ago, and will be looking to improve his WEC record to 2-1 with a win over Poirier. Poirier can win on the feet or on the ground, and this one will take place in both realms. Micklewright will prove to be too much for Poirier and will win via decision.

RICHARD MANN: Micklewright if probably the more complete fighter. He should be able to use his more diverse game to take advantage of Poirier’s weaknesses. Micklewright by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: These guys  have been called mirror images of each other. For what it’s worth, Micklewright went to Xtreme Couture for the last part of this camp (normally trains with Miletich) and Poirier trains out of Gladiators Academy in Lafayette, La. these guys are so evenly matched, it’s pretty much a toss up. I’m leaning toward Micklewright for seeking out the extra training. Micklewright via decision.

*All odds provided by BetUS.com