And so we come to the end of an era with WEC 53 marking the promotions last ever event before officially folding into the UFC in 2011.
Check out our predictions for this historic event below.
Ben Henderson vs Anthony Pettis
The first of two title fight’s sees lightweight champion Henderson looking to defend his title one last time against Pettis, with the winner becoming the next No.1 contender at 155lbs in the UFC.
Henderson is a fairly well rounded fighter, but his main strength is his grappling and endless gas-tank, and I see him planning to neutralize Pettis offense by taking him to the mat and controlling him.
There’s a buzz about Pettis right now thanks to his eye-catching striking style, and it’s clear in his recent performances that he’s working hard to bring the rest of his game up to speed. Significantly he’s also got good takedown defense which will certainly be put to the test on the night, but his wrestling is still a weakness.
Prediction: Pettis has a bright future but I think this fight may have come a little too early for him. I think he’s definitely got the edge over Henderson in the striking, but the champion will be persistent in his attempts to take him down, and I think over the course of five rounds he’ll have his fair share of success in that regard and can wear down the challenger to claim a victory on the scorecards.
Ben Henderson to win by decision.
Dominick Cruz vs Scott Jorgensen
The second title fight of the night sees Dominic Cruz attempting to successfully defend his title against Scott Jorgensen in order to become the UFC’s first bantamweight champion.
Cruz has shown himself to be a very slick and hard to deal with on his feet, displaying excellent movement and fast hands, almost like a 135lb version of Frankie Edgar. He’s not a particularly heavy hitter but he’s accurate and has the gas tank to go the full 25 minutes without missing a beat.
Jorgensen is less technical and far more direct, looking to get inside and scrap, or shoot for a takedown where he can use his solid wrestling base to his advantage. He’s also got a good chin, is strong for the weight class and possesses a deadly guillotine choke.
Cruz has just defeated a similar opponent to Jorgensen in Joseph Benavidez and I think he’ll have similar success here. His footwork is perfect to counter-act Jorgensen’s straight-ahead approach, and his two inch advantage in both height and reach will allow him to keep on the outside and fend off his opponent’s advances and steer clear of his takedown attempts. I don’t think Cruz will be able to stop him, but I do think he’ll comfortably outpoint him.
Dominic Cruz to win by decision.
Donald Cerrone vs Chris Horodecki
Cerrone and Horodecki are both exciting fighters who are happy to stand and trade so this seems like a good match-up for them as they look to seal their place in the forthcoming merger in the UFC.
Against Varner in his last fight Cerrone’s stand-up looked sharper than ever, finding considerable success with punching combinations followed up by leg kicks. He’s not a devastating one-punch striker but he does have some power, and he’s got one of the best chins in the divisions. In addition to that he’s also showing improved takedown skills recently, and that’s a useful addition to his tool-belt, helping him to transition onto the mat where his submission skills are a major threat.
Horodecki comes from a kickboxing background and is a good technical striker, putting together a fluid offensive threat with both his punches and particularly his kicks. He may well favor the latter in this match-up given that he’s facing a significant reach advantage. Given that he’s primarily a striker he’s not completely out of his depth on the floor, but ideally it’s not where he’d looking to go in this fight.
Cerrone’s striking has looked good recently and his height and reach is only going to give him the confidence to test Horodecki on the feet. I believe he can give the former IFL favorite problems in that regard, but the ace up his sleeve is his ground game. If he can’t put Horodecki in trouble with strikes I think he’ll take him down and grab the submission victory.
Donald Cerrone to win by submission in Rd2
Bart Palaszewski vs Kamal Shalorus
Palaszewski has been overlooked by many but has discovered a knack for emerging with victories in the past year, while Shalorus has quickly risen up the ranks and has been hovering close to title contention of late.
Palaszewski is not an especially technical striker, but what he does possess is big power which has afforded him a number of KO wins throughout his career. He’s definitely going to be looking to keep this fight standing and exploit the holes in his opponent’s striking.
Shalorus is a genuine world class wrestler, blending both speed and strength and being capable of transitioning into takedowns in the blink of an eye. The problem with Shalorus is that he loves to stand and trade instead, yet in stark contrast to his wrestling base his striking is somewhat wild and reckless. His saving grace is that he’s got a hell of a chin which often gets him out of jail sometimes in toe-to-toe battles.
It’ll be interesting to see if Palaszewski can pull off another upset, but I do still favor Shalorus. If he uses his wrestling this is a very winnable fight, but I think he’ll want to slug it out for considerable periods which is far riskier. Given his ability to take punishment and keep driving forward I think he’ll eventually break down his opponent though and emerge with his hand raised.
Kamal Shalorus to win by decision.
Tie Quan Zhang vs Danny Downes
A bit of a curious choice for the main card given some of the other bouts on the undercard, but nonetheless Zhang and Downes will be looking to make the most of it.
Zhang is the WEC’s new Chinese import and racked up the 9th submission win of his career in his debut. We’ve still to get a real feel for how he’s going to cope against tougher opposition though, and get a better idea of his stand-up game.
Downes is not the opponent to really test him though. The youngster looked nervous in his WEC debut back in June and was dismantled by Horodecki on the feet before being submitted. Hopefully he’ll be better prepared this time around, but I haven’t seen anything from him yet that suggests he’ll be a real threat to ‘The Mongolian Wolf.’
Zhang likes to get straight down to business, finishing his last 10 fights inside the first round, and I expect him to add another to that record tomorrow night.
Tie Quan Zhang to win by submission in Rd1
Prelims: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Jamie Varner vs Shane Roller
Brad Pickett vs Ivan Menjivar
Eddie Wineland vs Ken Stone
Danny Castillo vs Will Kerr
Ricardo Lamas vs Yuri Alcantara
Chris Cariaso vs Renan Barao