WEC 52 Questions That Will Be Answered: Can Faber Regain Dominance?

Mitchell Ciccarelli@@mitchciccarelliAnalyst INovember 11, 2010

The month of November isn’t quite as jam-packed with major MMA events as we have been accustomed to seeing in recent months.

Nevertheless, there are four intriguing fight cards on the horizon, and three out of the four will be presented on free television in the United States.

World Extreme Cage Fighting will kick off the month with their second-to-last show before they merge into the UFC at the beginning of 2011.

The event will feature the bantamweight debut of the WEC’s biggest star in Urijah Faber as he battles one-time title contender Takeya Mizugaki in the main event.

With every fight card, there are always inquiries that pundits and fans contemplate before the event. WEC 52 is no different, so let’s take a look at some of the key questions that will be answered after what should be another exciting night of free fights.

Can Damacio Page Live Up to the Hype?

Prior to joining the WEC’s bantamweight roster, Page was prominently featured on the inaugural episode of the short-lived TapouT reality series in mid-2007.

The Greg Jackson-trained fighter was hyped as the next big thing at 135 pounds, and he certainly backed it up with a first-round destruction of his opponent, Rod Montoya.

Page’s run in the WEC has been quite impressive so far. The only blemish he sustained in the WEC cage was a submission loss to eventual champion Brian Bowles.

Other than that, Page has been solid and even holds a win over current No. 1 contender Scott Jorgensen.

Page will open the televised broadcast against rising prospect Demetrius Johnson.

A win is very crucial for Page, as it could potentially put him in the mix for a title shot. A loss, however, would definitely set him back.

Is Demetrius Johnson a Future Champion or Undersized for 135 Pounds?

“Mighty Mouse” is a nickname that suits Johnson perfectly because he is just that.

He’s a very small fighter, even for a bantamweight, but yet possesses freakish athletic ability and a well-rounded skill set that has pundits viewing him as a potential champion in the making.

The problem is that his size does hold him back at times from being as successful as he could be. He struggled and lost his WEC debut against the larger Brad Pickett.

But he was able to rebound in his second fight against Nick Pace.

If the UFC added a flyweight (125 pounds) division, Johnson would be one of the front runners to hold the championship. Until then, he’s always going to be a talented athlete with a significant size disadvantage.

But being small for your division doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be a champion. Just ask Frankie Edgar.

Can Joseph Benavidez Work Wis Way Back into Title Contention?

Benavidez is currently stuck between a rock and a hard place at 135 pounds.

Despite clearly being one of the best in the division, Benavidez is coming off a loss to Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title.

Losing a championship bout is one thing. But when it’s to a fighter you’ve lost to previously, it’s difficult to sell a third fight unless the first two bouts were absolutely amazing.

Which they weren’t.

Not only that, but Benavidez’ longtime mentor Urijah Faber could be next in line to challenge for the belt if he beats Takeya Mizugaki. If Benavidez did earn a second title shot, it is highly unlikely that he would be willing to fight Faber for it.

Despite the circumstances, Benavidez has a tough challenge ahead of him against Wagnney Fabiano.

Fabiano is a world-class BJJ black belt. But if Benavidez can neutralize his opponent’s ground game, he could pick up the victory and move one step closer to another title shot.

Is Erik Koch Truly “The New Breed?”

Koch was originally set to meet Josh Grispi on the card.

But Grispi has been bumped into a UFC 125 title fight with Jose Aldo.

Instead, the Milwaukee native will take on undefeated WEC newcomer Francisco Rivera. With Rivera taking this fight on extremely short notice, this is a perfect opportunity for Koch to make a dominant impression on television.

A win over an unknown fighter in Rivera wouldn’t nearly have as much merit as a win over Grispi. But it is still going to be featured on the main card of an event that will have several people tuning in.

Is Chad Mendes the Biggest Threat to Jose Aldo?

A product of Team Alpha Male, Mendes is arguably the most dominant wrestler in the featherweight division.

Undefeated in his MMA career, Mendes is currently riding a three-fight win streak in the WEC and could possibly be a victory away from a title shot.

With only eight professional fights to his name, some already view Mendes as a huge threat to current 145-pounds champion Jose Aldo.

If Mendes is victorious in his co-main event bout with Javier Vasquez, then perhaps it isn’t out of the question that Mendes would give Aldo a run for his money.

Vasquez is a highly-decorated BJJ specialist. So if Mendes can neutralize his Jiu-Jitsu, then he shouldn’t have much of a problem doing the same to Aldo.

But that’s only if he would be able to keep Aldo on his back long enough to implement that gameplan. 

Is Takeya Mizugaki a Title Contender or a Stepping Stone?

Unlike many fighters who debut with the organization, Mizugaki’s first fight for the WEC was a title bout with then-champion Miguel Torres in 2009.

Mizugaki lost that fight, but earned a ton of respect and fanfare for the gritty performance he put on against a man who, at the time, many considered to be unbeatable.

Since then, Mizugaki has gone 2-1 with wins over Jeff Curran and Rani Yahya and a loss to current title contender Scott Jorgensen. A win over Faber would prove that Mizugaki is every bit the title contender he was when he first emerged onto the WEC scene.

A loss, however, would put the Japanese bantamweight into gatekeeper status for the time being.

Can Urijah Faber Regain Dominance in a New Weight Class?

When the WEC was first purchased by Zuffa in December 2006, Faber was the poster boy of the organization.

He was the reigning featherweight champion and was running through every opponent that the WEC put in front of him. Everyone was talking about this young kid from California and how dominant and exciting he was to watch.

Just when experts started comparing Faber to fighters like GSP and Anderson Silva, Mike Brown came along and knocked “The California Kid” off his throne. Faber attempted to win back his title on two occasions, but was defeated by Brown in the rematch and to current champion Jose Aldo.

Now Faber will attempt to regain his dominance in the bantamweight division, and it is going to be very interesting to see if he can do it.

Analysts are already claiming that Faber will hold the 135-pounds title by the end of 2011. While that is certainly a possibility, it is still too early to tell.

It all depends on how he adjusts to the weight cut.

His performance against Mizugaki will begin to answer the question if Faber can regain his dominance as a bantamweight.

Mitch Ciccarelli is the sexiest MMA columnist on the planet. A featured columnist for B/R and staff writer for Heavy.com, Ciccarelli is also a future United States Airman.

His sexiness has been featured on SI.com and Fox Sports in the past.

Follow him on Twitter if you're looking to read some interesting tweets about MMA, hot chicks, hot plates, hot dogs, hot wings, hot tamales and hot potatoes. @MitchCiccarelli


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