This bout is for the WEC lightweight title, aka the UFC’s number one contender slot. Henderson has been a force in the WEC since his 2009 debut. The two-time NAIA All-American is a true mixed martial artist with his marriage of folk-style wrestling, BJJ, and Tae Kwon Do. His motor never stops and he likes to be unpredictable in the cage. Pettis has become a fan favorite since his MTV appearance on “The World of Jenks,” but his skills in the cage more than back-up his popularity. The Duke Roufus (a trainer having a very unsung and impressive year) product is well rounded in all aspects of the game. He blends his striking with tough groundwork and is not afraid to surprise an opponent with a takedown. That said, his one loss was to Palaszewski and while it was a close bout, Pettis can struggle when facing a complete fighter. Well, Ben Henderson is a complete fighter and extremely aggressive. I think that aggression and complete game is what spells the downfall of Pettis. Henderson has more ways to win this bout, and he should win this bout, but you can never count Pettis out.
Champion Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen (UFC Bantamweight Championship)
I am excited for this bout. I think Cruz’s last fight was as dominant as a split decision can be with out being unanimous. Cruz pushes a furious pace and tends to duck in and out, only going for the takedown when he has established an angle that is awkward to defend. In Jorgenson, you have a more traditional MMA/NCAA wrestler. Jorgenson will look to catch Cruz when he fires a kick or he will time when Cruz closes to strike then shoot. The x-factor here is Cruz’ gas tank and his feet, as he starts out furious and uses superior movement to cause issues for opponents but if that foot lands wrong on a kick or his cardio is not at top shape he could have problems. Cruz tends to slow down and will make an easier target for the better traditional wrestler in Jorgenson. Expect this bout to go the distance and could be a late addition for Fight of the Year consideration.
Donald Cerrone vs. Chris Horodecki
Horodecki has only lost twice in his career and yet still, I believe he is the underdog. He struggles with full on assaults and that is exactly what Cerrone will do. Cerrone showed a new weapon in his last fight with the takedown assault he launched on Varner. While it is not the most technically sound wrestling attack, it is exciting and he often sets it up with violent strikes. Unless Cerrone is caught, I think his onslaught will prove too much for the Canadian.
Bart Palaszewski vs. Kamal Shalorus
Very happy this bout made the main card. This guarantees to be a war, with the Team Curran fighter meeting the “ageless” Kamal Shalorus. Shalorus brings Olympic wrestling and solid boxing to the table in this fight (his thigh kicks tend to travel too far north though). While, Palaszewski brings toughness and a well-rounded attack to cage to go with a four fight win-streak (including a win over Pettis). Expect Palaszewski to have the edge in the all-round striking game and in the submission realm, expect him to push the pace and spend much of the fight working back to his feet. Shalorus will most likely feel Palaszewski out early until Palaszewski throws an errant kick or out strikes him. Shalorus loves to go to war and so does Palaszewski, so expect a vicious fight with both fighters having their moments as this fight likely goes the distance. That said, it should be a very close decision either way.
Other Things to Watch:
- This card represents the “last stand” of Jamie Varner. With the absorbing of the WEC by the UFC, roster spots are at a premium (especially in a division the UFC already has). Varner has to defeat the very tough Shane Roller tonight to even have a chance to be offered a roster spot. A loss, or poor performance, will almost certainly end his tenure with Zuffa.
- The truth is, all roster spots are up for grabs tonight. Expect many of the fighters to fight like their careers depend on it and, other than the championship bout fighters, it does.
- Thursday will mark the return of Tiequan Zhang to the cage. The Chinese prospect will look to build on his strong start back at WEC 51, a submission over TUF 12 contestant and recent KO of the night winner Pablo Garza. “The Mongolian Wolf” will face Danny Downes in what should be an exciting bout.
- Thursday marks the end of the WEC. The WEC was founded in 2001 and was purchased by Zuffa in 2006. It has produced some legendary fights, interesting personalities, and turned attention to the often forgotten “little guys” of MMA. So after the conclusion of Thursday’s card it will be time to, as the late “Dandy” Don Meredith liked to say, “turn out the lights, the party’s over.”