Saturday night marks the WEC’s first venture into the pay-per-view market, and they’ve certainly assembled an impressive night of fights to mark the occasion. Read on for our full preview and predictions for the event.
Jose Aldo Vs Urijah Faber
WEC 48’s headline bout is a fight that’s undoubtedly worthy of it’s pay-per-view status. At 23 years of age featherweight champion Jose Aldo is one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport, and a win over WEC poster-boy Urijah Faber could propel him to stardom. Faber has other ideas though, and aside from his nemesis Mike Brown, no-one has been able to beat him during his four year run in the promotion.
Aldo has had the Midas touch since signing for the WEC, expect instead of everything he touches turning to gold, everybody he hits ends up slumped in an untidy heap on the canvas. The key for the Brazilian has been his speed which enables him to throw dazzling combinations that his opponents so far simply have not had an answer for.
The interesting dynamic in this fight is that Faber is also known for his hand-speed. Though he’s not as quick as the current champion, he can certainly negate some of the natural advantage that Aldo has enjoyed in the past. In addition Faber also has his wrestling to fall back on, and that could give him the option to attempt to grind out a win here if he loses out in the stand-up battle.
While Aldo has not had much opportunities to show it in his recent fights he is a black belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner however, and that means this should be an interesting battle no matter where the fight ends up.
Despite Aldo’s reign of terror lately I don’t think this is as cut and dried as some people seem to think. If Faber decides to use his wrestling this could be very close, but I’m not convinced he will in front of a passionate home-crowd that will be baying for blood. In the stand-up I think Aldo will gain the advantage by virtue of not only only quicker hands, but kicks and knees into the bargain, and that will be the difference.
I’m going for Jose Aldo to win by TKO in the 3rd round.
Ben Henderson Vs Donald Cerrone
A rematch of 2009’s fight of the year sees Ben Henderson looking to defend his lightweight title for the first time against one of the WEC’s most electrifying performers Donald Cerrone. Since their first fight in October Henderson unified the title by defeating Jamie Varner, while Cerrone racked up his fourth ‘Fight Of The Night’ award in a victory over Ed Ratcliff to earn his title shot.
The first match was extremely close, and gives us plenty of pointers as to the fighters strengths and weaknesses. On the feet Cerrone had the advantage, particularly when he pressed the pace, and that’s something he’ll be attempting to do this time round.
That might be easier said than done though since Henderson had absolutely no trouble taking Cerrone down, and did so repeatedly during their previous fight. Balancing that out however Cerrone was able to lock in submission attempts from his back with alarming regularity, and if it wasn’t for his opponents remarkable flexibility and ability to keep fighting when others would have tapped then this one would have never have made it the full five rounds.
A crucial component of the rematch will be how much both have looked to develop on the weaknesses from the previous fight. While I don’t think Cerrone will be able to stop Henderson’s takedowns, he may well have worked to tweak his submission attempts so that this time round they do end the fight, much as GSP revised his technique in the wake of his fight with Dan Hardy.
At the same time Henderson will surely have been working on avoiding leaving himself open to those submission attempts in the first place. If he’s been able to improve significantly on that then that would bode well for him going into this fight.
It’s almost too close to call. If it was just a stand-up battle I’d easily give the nod to Cerrone as I still have doubts over Henderson’s stand-up and his chin. I don’t expect Cerrone to be given much chance to test this however before being taken down. To my mind the winner will then be decided by who’s made the necessary improvements to their game. Considering it’s only been a matter of months since their last encounter I tend to think that it’s more likely that Cerrone has learned the minor adjustments required to finish Henderson from a sub attempt, than it is that Henderson has revamped his ground game to avoid being caught in those attempts in the first place.
I’ll stick my neck out and say Donald Cerrone will win by submission in round 3.
Mike Brown Vs Manny Gamburyan
Former featherweight champion Mike Brown‘s route back to the title goes through ex-TUF and UFC fighter Manny Gamburyan who’s drop down to 145lbs has so far proven to be successful with a record of 2-0 in the promotion.
Gamburyan is a tough, tenacious competitor who often uses both his wrestling and judo credentials to take his opponents down and grind out his victories. That’s proven a successful strategy so far, but this time round he’s facing an opponent in Mike Brown who is a better wrestler and should cancel out ‘The Anvil’s’ best route to victory.
Meanwhile as far as the striking goes Brown again holds the advantage, with better technique and genuine knockout power while Gamburyan is not the most potent or technical striker, and is more likely to use his punches to set up his takedown attempts.
Gamburyan has done well to get himself to the stage where he’s become a contender at 145lbs, but I think this will prove to be a step to far. Essentially Brown is the better fighter whether this fight plays out on the feet or on the mat, and therefore it’s difficult to envisage how this is going to emerge as a good night for ‘The Anvil’.
I’m picking Mike Brown to win by TKO in the second round.
Anthony Njokuani Vs Shane Roller
Anthony Njokuani has quickly marked himself out as one of the WEC’s most exciting strikers with three ‘Knockout Of The Night’ performances in a row in 2009. If he could add a fourth such victory against wrestler Shane Roller, then he would be well on his way to becoming the next big thing at 155lbs.
There’s no great secret about how both fighters will be approaching this fight. For Njokuani it’s a case of sprawl and brawl. Given that Roller is not the best striker around and has been rocked in the past, coupled with the fact that Njokuani is a lethal finisher, that’s not a bad strategy.
On the other hand Roller is sure to want no part in the stand-up, and with his wrestling credentials he will be aiming to put Njokuani on his back where the Nigerian is likely to resemble a fish out of water. Roller also has some submissions in his bag of tricks which could come in handy.
There’s no doubt that Njokuani has the power to finish Roller if he gets the opportunity, but it’s hard to overlook his vulnerability on the ground. I think Roller’s more well-rounded skills will enable him to dictate where this fight ends up, and present him with the opportunity to finish the bout inside the distance.
I’m going for Shane Roller to win by submission in the first round.
Scott Jorgensen Vs Antonio Banuelos
After an extremely close split-decision loss in June of 2009, Scott Jorgensen looks to gain revenge over Antonio Banuelos in this rematch which opens up WEC 48’s PPV card. Since that bout Jorgensen has went three fights undefeated, while Banuelos earned a further victory, setting the scene nicely for a fight that puts the winner in the mix for a shot at the 135lb title currently held by Dominick Cruz.
Jorgensen has improved since his loss to Banuelos, and after three straight victories his confidence is running high which could make the difference in such a close encounter. He also has the bigger gas-tank of the two fighters and I believe the key to this fight for him will be to press the action and make this a war with the aim of wearing out his opponent.
Banuelos remains the better striker of the two which will be something he’ll look to take advantage of. Jorgensen, while less technical, can land some bombs of his own though, and he has a strong enough chin to absorb a significant amount of punishment while doing so.
I don’t think Jorgensen will be denied this time round. I expect him to get stuck into Banuelos from the opening bell and not give him a moments piece for the full three rounds that follow. Banuelos is a tough nut to crack though and I think this one will head to the score-cards.
I’m taking Scott Jorgensen to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Leonard Garcia Vs Chan Sung Jung
Alex Karalexis Vs Anthony Pettis
Brad Pickett Vs Demetrious Johnson
Takeya Mizugaki Vs Rani Yahya
Chad Mendes Vs Anthony Morrison
Brandon Visher Vs Tyler Toner