WEC 53 Henderson vs. Pettis: Main Card Breakdown and Predictions

Joshua CareySenior Analyst IDecember 13, 2010

On December 16, ten of the most electrifying fighters will compete in main card action at WEC 53, which takes place live from the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

This will be the organization’s final event, as they are set to merge with the UFC and once again produce an excellent event.

In the co-main event, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is set to defend his title against Scott Jorgensen. This fight has huge implications as the man who claims victory will move into the UFC as the organizations first ever bantamweight champion.

In addition, the main event will feature lightweight champion Benson Henderson, as he will face off against explosive striker Anthony Pettis. The winner of this fight will get the opportunity to unify the WEC and UFC belts against the winner of Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard in 2011.

The remaining fights on the main card will lead up to the aforementioned championship fights and are equally impressive with talent.

Kicking off the night’s action will be Danny Downes (6-1), facing off against submission artist Tiequan Zhang (12-0).

Downes trains at Roufusport alongside the aforementioned Pettis and has only seen one of his seven fights go the distance. His last fight was at WEC 49, which was his organizational debut and he took the fight against Chris Horodecki on the short notice. Downes ended up losing by submission (Rear Naked Choke) in the third stanza, but showed a lot of heart. With adequate time to prepare for this fight, fans should expect a much better version from the Duke Roufus trained fighter.

Zhang made waves in his organizational debut by submitting the previously unbeaten Pablo Garza at WEC 51 in September. None of his twelve fights have seen the second round and nine of those victories have come by submission. Zhang has been fighting professionally since 2005 and will have the edge in experience against his foe come fight night.

With a combined sixteen fights ending in the first round between these two talented fighters, one should not be surprised if this contest comes to a halt the same way. Downes will have the edge on the feet and Zhang on the mat.

However, Downes was unable to prevent Horodecki, who is primarily a striker himself, from submitting him. Zhang is much better grappler than Horodecki and the best submission fighter Downes has faced. Look for the Chinese-based fighter to take Downes to the canvas where he will earn his tenth submission victory.

WEC veteran Bart Palaszewski (35-13), will look to build upon a four-fight win streak when he meets Kamal Shalorus (6-0-2) in lightweight action.

Palaszewski will step into the WEC cage for the seventh time. For a fighter that has been competing professionally since 2002, he continues to improve each time out. The Team Curran lightweight is well-rounded with sixteen KO’s and eleven submission wins to his credit. Shalorus will be Palaszewski’s third opponent of year and he will be looking to make it a perfect 3-0 in 2010.

Shalorus comes into this fight off a disappointing draw against Jamie Varner in the main event of WEC 49 this past June. Prior to the fight with Varner, he had won both of his previous fights with the organization and should be the more powerful fighter when he steps in against Palaszewski.

It is hard to believe that Shalorus will bring anything to the table that Palaszewski has yet to see in his previous forty-eight professional fights. However, Shalorus possesses solid striking and is very powerful, which may cause his opponent problems. Expect Palaszewski to endure whatever his opponent throws his way and do enough in this fight to earn the victory and head into the UFC on an impressive five-fight winning streak.

One of the organizations biggest stars, Donald Cerrone (12-3), will be in action against Chris Horodecki (16-2) in what should prove to be an outstanding fight.

Cerrone is never in a boring fight and he most recently avenged a technical decision loss to Jamie Varner (WEC 38), by dominating his arch rival with crisp striking and takedowns to earn an impressive unanimous decision victory. Cerrone trains out of the famed Jackson-Winkeljohn camp in Albuquerque, N.M. and looked phenomenal in his last outing.

Horodecki prefers to keep the fight standing where he has finished forty-three percent of his opponents and trains with famed striking coach Shawn Tompkins. He comes into the bout with Cerrone after defeating Ed Ratcliff by split decision in September and will need to use his crisp striking to his advantage in this fight.

Cerrone will have the edge on the ground as he has better takedowns and Jiu-Jitsu than his opponent. Horodecki should have the edge in the striking department, but his opponent is no slouch and will not back away from testing the waters on the feet. The Jackson-Winkeljohn trained fighter, will most likely test the waters on the feet and if Horodecki begins to light him up then expect Cerrone to take the fight to mat will he has the decisive edge.

WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (16-1), will make his second title defense against number contender Scott Jorgensen (11-3). The winner of this fight will walk away as the last man to hold the 135 lb. belt and the first ever UFC bantamweight champion.

Cruz is on a red-hot seven-fight win streak and will make his second title defense of the year. Training out of Alliance MMA in Chula Vista, C.A., the champion possesses phenomenal footwork, speed and striking that has simply been too much for his opponents to overcome. In addition to his aforementioned skills, Cruz has very underrated wrestling which he mixes in very well to keep his foes off balance and guessing.

Jorgensen who trains under famed Muay-Thai fighter Kit Cope, will step into the WEC cage for the fourth time this year and has defeated the likes of Chad George, Antonio Banuelos and Brad Pickett in 2010. He has a strong wrestling background as a three-time Pacific 10 conference champion, is well-conditioned and very aggressive. Jorgensen will need to cut off the cage and bring the champion into close quarters where he is most likely to see his success.

Expect this fight to be a battle and for both men to take the fight all over the cage utilizing their striking, wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Cruz is very quick and gets in-and-out when throwing his strikes, which Jorgensen will need to make the champion pay for each time he attempts to do so. Expect Jorgensen to use footwork of his own and superior wrestling to turn this fight into a war in which he dethrones Cruz and becomes the first UFC bantamweight champion.

The main event and final WEC fight, pits explosive lightweight Anthony Pettis (12-1), against lightweight champion Benson Henderson (12-1).

Anthony Pettis is a devastating striker with exceptional submission skills. He has virtually split his wins and losses between the two areas. Training out of Milwaukee, W.I., the challenger has been on an absolute nightmare for opponents in 2010 by winning all three of his fights by either knockout or submission. Combine one strike knockout power in both feet and hands with a wicked triangle choke and you get a fighter that has been unstoppable this year.

Henderson is undefeated in the WEC and has not tasted defeat since March of 2007. The champion always shows up in tremendous shape and has a vicious guillotine choke that has ended the nights of both Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone. Henderson’s striking improves each time out, and he uses it well to set up his biggest asset: his excellent takedowns.

In what will certainly be an amazing final fight in WEC history, Pettis and Henderson will both want to show the world that they can hang with the lightweight of the UFC. Pettis loves to utilize his devastating kicks and flying knees, but he will have to stay disciplined when he throws them in this fight as Henderson will be looking to snatch them up in hopes of taking them fight to the mat.

Pettis is a bright young fighter with a huge upside, but he will fall just short as Henderson will lock on a fight-ending guillotine as the two scramble while on the mat. Ben Henderson will successfully defend his WEC title and make the transition to the Ultimate Fighting Championship where he will attempt to unify the two belts in 2011.


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