WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis, Complete Breakdown and Sexy Analysis
Dear Brittney Palmer,
I realize that you—much like fellow Octagon girl Arianny Celeste—are madly in love with me and fantasize about me and all of my 152 lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal but I regret to inform you that I am currently in a semi-serious relationship with Katie Holmes.
In fact, I am enjoying a fantastic dinner with her at Chilis (which I booked in advance) right now as I write you this letter.
So this Thursday, live at the Jobing.com arena in Glendale, Arizona during the WEC’s final event please do not try to handcuff me to your dressing room door and force me to propose to you before the event.
The sexiest columnist in MMA, Mitch Ciccarelli
All joking aside, this Thursday is a historic night in the world of mixed martial arts. WEC 53 is the final WEC event before the organization officially merges into the UFC.
The very first UFC bantamweight champion will be crowned as WEC champ Dominick Cruz takes on Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen.
Plus, in the main event WEC lightweight champ Ben Henderson fights Anthony Pettis with the winner earning a shot at the UFC title in 2011.
Here is a complete breakdown with some of my vintage sexy analysis of the entire card from top to bottom.
Renan Barao vs. Chris Cariaso
The first fight of the night will take place in the bantamweight division between two touted prospects who each share a 1-0 record in the WEC thus far.
Training out of the Nova Uniao fight camp in Brazil, Barao is a training partner of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. The Brazilian enters this bout with a staggering 23 fight win streak and an armbar submission victory over Anthony Leone in his WEC debut at WEC 49.
Cariaso also made his organizational debut on the same card, defeating Rafael Rebello via unanimous decision.
While he doesn’t quite have the hype that Barao has, the California native absolutely should not be overlooked. Cariaso is a well equipped Muay Thai fighter that possesses some devastating strikes in his arsenal.
However, Barao—much like his teammate Aldo—is extremely dangerous both on his feet and on the ground.
I expect to see a competitive bout standing before Barao brings the fight to the floor and proves why he is truly a fighter to look out for in the coming year.
Prediction: Renan Barao via second RD submission
Yuri Alcantara vs. Ricardo Lamas
Collegiate wrestling powerhouse Ricardo Lamas welcomes Brazilian destroyer Yuri Alcantara into the WEC/UFC.
Alcantara has been on quite a roll in his native Brazil, winning his last 10 fights and finishing all but one of them. This will be his first fight outside of his homeland and against an incredibly tough stylistic opponent, so it is going to be interesting to see how the Brazilian handles the pressure.
Lamas initially burst onto the scene back at WEC 39, accepting a short notice bout with Bart Palaszewski and dominating the seasoned veteran for the full three rounds.
After suffering a temporary setback at the hands of Danny Castillo, Lamas racked up three consecutive wins over James Krause, Bendy Casimir, and Dave Jansen.
Lamas’ power and superior wrestling is his key to victory in this bout. Alcantara does pose threats standing, but I don’t see this bout staying on the feet long enough for the Brazilian to get into his rhythm.
Lamas will use his strikes to set up explosive takedowns and pound on Alcantara from the top to pick up his fourth victory in a row.
Prediction: Ricardo Lamas by first RD TKO
Danny Castillo vs. Will Kerr
At one point, Castillo was considered a potential contender in the WEC. The Team Alpha Male standout was on a 3-fight win streak, including a dominant TKO win over Ricardo Lamas before suffering back-to-back losses to Shane Roller and number one contender Anthony Pettis.
Castillo has since rebounded with a unanimous decision win over Dustin Poirier at WEC 50. To be fair, he has only really lost to three of the best lightweights in the WEC (Donald Cerrone, Roller and Pettis) which Kerr is not.
Kerr was destroyed by Kamal Shalorus in his WEC debut but bounced back with a first round submission victory over Armenian prospect Karen Darabedyan.
Castillo has the edge both in the striking and wrestling departments which leads me to believe that he will be able to dictate where this fight will take place.
Since Kerr’s best bet would be to secure a submission on the ground, Castillo should look to keep the fight standing and put the pressure on Kerr with powerful and accurate striking.
Prediction: Danny Castillo via second RD TKO
Ken Stone vs. Eddie Wineland
Wineland was the first man to ever hold the WEC bantamweight championship, violently knocking out Antonio Banuelos in 2006 to claim the title.
It’s been over three years since he lost the belt to Chase Beebe at WEC 26 and with three straight victories— including a brutal knockout over Will Campuzano—Wineland is on a mission to win back his gold.
For Stone, this is his WEC debut and a huge opportunity to enter the UFC with a tremendous amount of momentum. With a collegiate wrestling background and a well rounded MMA skill set, Stone has all the tools needed to pull off an upset.
Stone is also a product of the world renowned American Top Team so he definitely had the benefit of working with several elite fighters in preparation for this bout.
However, Wineland’s boxing is absolutely vicious and he’s fought and beaten tougher opponents than Stone in the past.
Unfortunately for Stone, he is just another victim on Wineland’s road back into title contention.
Prediction: Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision
Ivan Menjivar vs. Brad Pickett
After a four year hiatus from active competition, one time UFC veteran Ivan Menjivar is back. The Salvadoran-Canadian’s latest win over Aaron Miller at W-1 MMA in June of this year earned him a spot back in the big leagues.
Over the course of his career, Menjivar has competed against various notables such as Urijah Faber (lost by decision), Joe Lauzon (won by knee bar submission), Matt Serra (lost by decision) and current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (lost by TKO).
Now competing in the featherweight division, Menjivar meets heavy handed Englishman Brad Pickett in a bout that has FOTN written all over it.
Pickett is fresh off a memorable battle with number one contender Scott Jorgensen at WEC 50. He lost that fight but looked highly impressive on the feet rocking Jorgensen on several occasions.
On paper, one would have to give Pickett the edge in this fight but MMA is not a paper sport.
Despite an inconsistent record, Menjivar is an extremely talented fighter. Now that he is competing at his natural weight, we may finally see “The Prince of El Salvador” back up some of the hype he received early in his career.
Prediction: Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision
Shane Roller vs. Jamie Varner
Varner’s position in the lightweight division has taken a complete 180 degree turn this past year.
He went from being the WEC lightweight champion in 2009 to going 0-2-1 in 2010. However, if you look at each individual fight, he looked impressive in all but one of those three bouts.
He was outscoring Ben Henderson on the feet before getting caught in a guillotine choke and several pundits, including myself, believe he won his WEC 49 bout with Kamal Shalorus that was ruled a draw.
Donald Cerrone decisively picked Varner apart at WEC 51 but that says more about Cerrone’s improvements than Varner’s decline in the division.
Still, Varner needs a win in a bad way and the same can be said for his opponent Roller. Skill wise, they were both among the best in the WEC but merging into the UFC with two losses in a row would not look good.
Both come from legit college wrestling backgrounds but in pure wrestling you’d have to give Roller the advantage.
With that being said, I see Varner coming out very aggressive and connecting with big punches taking Roller out early in the fight.
Prediction: Jamie Varner by first RD TKO
Danny Downes vs. Tiequan Zhang
In what should be considered a classic striker vs. grappler contest, Duke Roufus—trained fighter Danny Downes meets “The Mongolian Wolf” Tiequan Zhang to kick off the televised card on Versus.
Zhang could prove to be a significant factor in the UFC’s expansion into the Asian market. Essentially, the unbeaten submission specialist could become the Chinese version of Michael Bisping in terms of his star power in Asia.
At WEC 51, Zhang made quick work of Pablo Garza, submitting the previously undefeated lightweight with a guillotine choke in the first round. The win was Zhang’s seventh submission victory and ninth in total.
Unfortunately Downes didn’t have the same success in his debut back at WEC 49. Stepping up on extremely short notice, Downes displayed a ton of heart in his fight against Chris Horodecki but was choked out in the third round.
With a full training camp, I expect Downes to look like a straight up killer on his feet—much like he did in all six of his professional victories.
Zhang, however, will find a way to put Downes on the mat and rack up yet another submission win.
Prediction: Tiequan Zhang by second RD submission
Bart Palaszewski vs. Kamal Shalorus
Anytime Palaszewski and Shalorus step into the Octagon, you can expect to see fireworks from start to finish and this time shouldn’t be any different—considering they are fighting against each other.
Shalorus debuted for the WEC in 2009 and was instantly pegged a title threat after a first round destruction over Will Kerr.
The British-Iranian fighter followed up with another impressive win over Dave Jansen before fighting to a draw against Jamie Varner at WEC 49.
Palaszewski on the other hand has been with the WEC since 2008 compiling a 4-2 record within the organization. Training under Jeff Curran, Palaszewski is a seasoned veteran and is entering this fight on a three fight win streak over stiff competition.
Palaszewski typically has problems when up against powerful wrestlers and Shalorus is a monster in that department.
Nevertheless, Palaszewski should be able to bait Shalorus into a war on the feet which is where “Bartimus” is at his best.
Shalorus loves a good striking battle and he has the tendency of abandoning his wrestling in favor of it, that’s going to hurt him here.
Prediction: Bart Palaszewski by unanimous decision
Donald Cerrone vs. Chris Horodecki
"Cowboy" Cerrone has been involved in some of the most memorable battles in WEC history which is remarkable considering he has only been with the organization since 2007.
Within a three year time period, Cerrone has gone to war with the likes of “Razor” Rob McCullough, Jamie Varner, Ben Henderson, and others. In fact, I recently ranked his first fight with Henderson as the greatest fight in the history of the WEC on Heavy MMA.
Cerrone is an extremely exciting fighter with an aggressive style both standing and on the ground. Against Horodecki, Cerrone will have to use his reach to frustrate the Canadian and avoid his opponent’s powerful right hand in the process.
Horodecki is a handful for any lightweight when it comes to the standup game. Known as “The Polish Hammer”, Horodecki has spent several years refining his striking under world renowned coach Shawn Tompkins.
Despite being at a reach disadvantage, Horodecki should be able to find his range and pepper Cerrone with crisp boxing.
At some point though Cerrone will take the Canadian down and find a way to finish with a beautifully executed submission.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone by first RD submission
UFC Bantamweight Title: Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen
In February of 2001, Jens Pulver defeated Caol Uno to become the UFC’s first ever bantamweight champion. However, that was in the 155 lbs division and was later renamed the UFC lightweight title.
Through 17 years of fight cards, the UFC has never crowned a champion in the 135 lbs weight class but they will this Thursday night in the Grand Canyon State when WEC bantamweight champion Cruz meets top contender Jorgensen.
The Arizona born Cruz has become nearly untouchable at 135 lbs. He receives little damage in his fights using superb footwork and intelligent angles to pick his opponents apart.
Jorgensen, a 3 time Pac-10 champion, will have to find a way to limit Cruz’ trail of movement and utilize his superior wrestling base to his advantage.
Although Cruz has proven to be a brilliant wrestler both offensively and defensively, he isn't on Jorgensen's level in that department.
Still, look for Cruz to dictate the pace of the fight with his lateral movements. Jorgensen might score a few takedowns but Cruz should be able to scramble back to his feet and outbox the challenger.
Jorgensen might come close to solving the Cruz-puzzle, but just like Joseph Benavidez and Brian Bowles, he will come up short in the end.
Prediction: Dominick Cruz by unanimous decision
WEC Lightweight Title: Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis
In terms of athletic ability, Henderson and Pettis are almost mirror images of each other. The only difference is that Henderson comes from a wrestling base and Pettis grew up training in the striking arts.
Other than that, they are both exceptionally well-rounded in all areas of the game and always look for the finish in the Octagon.
Many betting sites have Henderson listed as the clear cut favorite, but this is a much closer fight than they would have you believe.
Henderson, on paper, should have the advantage on the ground and with his explosive takedown arsenal it is understandable why he is the favorite.
On the other hand, while the challenger doesn’t come from a NCAA background, he has rapidly developed a wrestling base of his own.
Let’s not forget, Pettis defended takedowns and also scored some of his own against Shane Roller—a three time All American at Oklahoma State—in his last fight.
Likewise, on the feet you would have to give Pettis the advantage due to his versatile blend of Taekwondo and Muay Thai.
Henderson, however, has shown rapid improvements in his standup game lately so he certainly won’t be a fish out of water trading strikes with Pettis.
Still, I like Pettis in this fight and am gutsy enough to go with the “underdog”.
I expect an absolutely intense final WEC main event with the kid from Milwaukee leaving his opponent’s hometown with the gold.
Prediction: Anthony Pettis by third RD TKO
Follow Mitch Ciccarelli on Twitter
Mitch Ciccarelli is the sexiest columnist in MMA today. A staff writer for Heavy.com and a featured columnist here on B/R, Ciccarelli is also the host of TUF Crap Radio and a future United States Airman, beginning basic training this March.
Ciccarelli will be covering WEC 53 live this Thursday alongside B/R MMA’s Erik Fontanez.
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It Ain't Chemo Featured on TUF Crap Radio
To listen to the latest episode of TUF Crap Radio, hosted by Mitch Ciccarelli and co-hosted by Tuff N’ Uff ring girl Stephanie Ann Cook, click the link below.
We featured the team from It Ain’t Chemo—a nonprofit organization that provides cancer patients with comfort and care supplies, advice, and emotional support.
Guests included: Kevin Hoyt (IAC founder and cancer survivor), Ryan Couture (Strikeforce fighter and son of Randy Couture), Gil Guradado (undefeated amateur MMA fighter), Corey Laplume (16 year old cancer warrior) and more.