Preview- WEC 36- Televised bouts
The Fighters: WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber vs. Mike Brown
The Records: Faber (21-1 MMA 6-0 WEC) Brown (19-4 MMA 1-0 WEC)
How Faber got here: Simply put, Faber is the best mixed martial arts fighter at 145lbs in the world. Some pundits may argue this point by mentioning Kid Yamamoto, but he neither has the consistent fights nor the resume at 145lbs to rival Faber. Faber has not only shown his dominance over the last two years in the WEC, but has shown marked improvement over the time period as well. Faber’s only loss is early in his career to a very good Tyson Griffin. Faber is coming off the two biggest wins of his Career in Jeff Curran and Jens Pulver. Brown is facing the best fighter in the world at the height of his abilities.
How Brown got here: Mike Thomas Brown has quietly established himself as an elite fighter at this or any weight class. Brown is a veteran of over 20 fights in his 7+ year career, with stops in the UFC, DEEP, Bodog, and WEC just to name a few. Brown combines toughness and experience to give his opponents fits in the cage. He is an excellent grappler with a full array of submissions and very underrated ground and pound game. Brown’s only losses in his career were to Hermes Franca, Genki Sudo, Joe Lauzon, and Masakazu Imanari. He rides a seven fight win streak into this title fight and is coming off a huge win over Jeff Curran at WEC 34.
How they match up: This is a pretty straight-forward matchup. Brown is an extremely well-rounded fighter with above average striking, excellent wrestling, and very good BJJ. Unfortunately for him, Faber is measurably better in every one of those areas. There is not one facet of MMA where Faber is not superior to Brown.
My Crystal Marble says: There is no way a man educated in MMA could logically choose Brown to beat Faber. The only words of support I can muster for the always-tough Brown is anyone can win on any given day in combat sports. But short of catching Faber sticking his chin where it doesn’t belong, I can’t envision any possible scenario that Brown wins this fight. Accounting for Brown’s toughness and sheer power of will, I see Faber winning via TKO in round 3.
The Fighters: WEC Middleweight Champion Paulo Filho vs Chael Sonnen
The Records: Filho (16-0 MMA 2-0 WEC) vs Sonnen (20-9-1 MMA 3-0 WEC)
How Filho got here: Sometimes analysts and “experts” throw the adjective “talented” around too loosely in this sport. Filho is an exception to that statement. Filho is one of the most physically and technically gifted fighters in MMA. Filho is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelt who combines freakish strength with technical ability that some Gracies might be jealous of when the lights go dim. Although he does not have a ton of experience he has proven his mettle against some of the best in the world and has never tasted defeat. Filho comes into this fight fresh off a trip to rehab and almost a whole year off from competition. His last fight was a second round submission victory over the very same Sonnen last December.
How Sonnen got here: Sonnen is one of the excellent wrestlers-turned-MMA fighters out of Team Quest. Sonnen has fought in both 185lbs and 205lbs, but his only loss at 185lbs is against Filho. Sonnen has had stints in the UFC and Bodog as well as assorted other promotions over his career. Sonnen has one six out of his last seven fights and is coming into the title fight off a win over previously undefeated Bryan Baker.
How they match up: Sonnen did a good job of getting the jump on Filho in the striking department in their last fight, and had even hurt him a few times. Once Filho got warmed up and his head in the fight, he made quick work of Sonnen on the ground. As good as Sonnen’s wrestling and ground and pound can be, he is truly no match for Filho on the ground. Sonnen needs to win this fight in the feet. Filho has expressed on several occasions that he has great difficulty in making 185lbs and has outgrown the weight class. Filho has gone so far as to blame his last two sluggish performances on the weight cut. If this behavior continues Sonnen may be able to get to Filho early again.
My Crystal Marble says: Filho is coming from the darkest depths back to the title. Assuming his demons are behind him and the weight cut is done properly, Sonnen has nothing for him in this fight. But those are big assumptions and hard to look past. With all things considered Filho’s talent is exceptional enough to overcome most of his issues. I see Filho winning with another submission win over Chael Sonnen late in the first round.
The Fighters: “Razor” Rob McCullough vs. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone
The Records: McCullough (16-4 MMA 7-2 WEC) vs. Cerrone (8-0 MMA 1-0 WEC 1 NC)
How McCullough got here: McCullough is the former lightweight champion of the WEC trying to fight his way back into title contention. McCullough is a well-liked veteran of the sport who has fought for the WEC since the beginning of the promotion. He is an expert in Muay Thai but is somewhat limited in the grappling department. McCullough lost his WEC lightweight title to Jamie Varner at WEC 32 but rebounded with a win over Kenneth Alexander at WEC 34.
How Cerrone got here: Cerrone is a member of Greg Jackson’s MMA team in New Mexico and sports an undefeated record. Cerrone is a talented Muay Thai fighter with suprisingly excellent submissions. Seven of his eight wins are via submission. In his first WEC fight against Kenneth Alexander Cerrone won via submission in the first round but tested positive for a diuretic and was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commision. Since coming back from his suspension he has a win over Danny Castillo via first round submission at WEC 34.
How they match up: This is going to be a battle of position. Can McCullough keep the fight on the feet where he stands the best chance of winning, or will Cerrone take McCullough down and exploit his weak ground game? McCullough has not shown the best takedown defense in past defeats, and even though he has most likely trained his sprawl and brawl style for the last few months, Cerrone is too good at imposing his will in fights. Cerrone does have a tendancy of sticking his chin out when he throws combinations and will have to watch that McCullough does not make him pay for his lack of technical prowess.
My Crystal Marble says: McCullough definitely has a chance of catching Cerrone here as the striking favors him, but as soon as this fight hits the floor Cerrone has a significant edge over McCullough. Look for Cerrone to be cautious but win via submission in the second round.
The Fighters: Jens ” Little Evil” Pulver vs. Leonard Garcia
The Records: Pulver (22-9-1 MMA 1-1 WEC) vs. Garcia (15-3 MMA 2-0 WEC)
How Pulver got here: Pulver is the former lightweight champion of the UFC and is coming off a featherweight title loss to Urijiah Faber. Pulver is an extremely experienced fighter who has fought in both the UFC and Pride in his nine year career. Pulver is mostly known for his knockout power in his left hand and has fought the best lightweights in the world in BJ Penn and Takanori Gomi. This is his first fight back since the title loss to Faber.
How Garcia got here: Garcia had a breakout performance in the UFC against Roger Huerta at lightweight in which he lost the fight but won fight of the night honors. Garcia went 1-2 in his 3 fight UFC career, but showed tremendous heart and won over the fans. Garcia is coming off a huge win over previously top ten ranked Hiroyuki Takaya at WEC 32.
How they match up: This is going to be a brawl. Both of these guys are straight-up sluggers. Neither like to back down and both have tremendous chins. Pulver is the more experienced and quite frankly has more tools in the tool belt. Garcia has very good ground and pound but I would have to give the grappling edge to Pulver. Pulver possesses one-punch knockout power that not many at 145lbs truly possess.
My Crystal Marble says: This will be a barn-burner and should have the crowd at the edge of its seat. That being said, Pulver is just a little bit better than Garcia at every facet of fight except conditioning. But in a three round fight I cannot see Pulver losing a decision to Garcia. Look for Pulver to win a hard fought unanimous decision.
The Fighters: Rani Yahya vs. Yoshiro Maeda
The Records: Yahya (12-4 MMA 1-1 WEC) vs. Maeda (23-5-2 MMA 1-1 WEC)
How Yahya got here: Yahya is unquestionably the best submission grappler in the world at 135lbs. Yahya is a prize pupil of the legendary Rickson Gracie. Yahya has fought some of the best in the world but is coming off two straight losses. Yahya lost to former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beede in a gutsy unanimous decision loss, and then to arguably the most talented fighter in the world at 135lbs in Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto in a TKO loss last New Years eve.
How Maeda got here: Maeda is a former King of Pancrase and DEEP champion who has recently made the trek over to the USA. Maeda is a talented striker who also possesses an extremely slick submission attack. Maeda is coming off a title loss to current Bantamweight stud Miguel Torres. In that fight Maeda gave Torres everything he could handle in a fight of the year candidate before finally losing via doctor stoppage after the third round.
How they match up: This is going to be two Tasmanian devils going at it. This will be a traditional striker versus grappler matchup, although I am sure Maeda is not scared to go to the ground with Yahya. But is Maeda tests the waters one to many times on the floor with Yahya, it will be his downfall. Maeda stands a much better chance of catching Yahya on his feet with strikes as Yahya’s striking is sloppy and somewhat rudimentary.
My Crystal Marble says: Yahya is an absolute wizard on the ground, and although Maeda is a very good grappler, Yahya is in another universe. Assuming Yahya doesn’t volunteer his chin to Maeda, this will be over shortly after it hits the floor. My dark-horse pick for fight of the night. Look for Yahya to win via submission in round two.
The Fighters: Jake Rosholt vs. Nissen Osterneck
The Records: Rosholt (4-0 MMA) vs. Osterneck (5-0 MMA)
How Rosholt got here: Rosholt is a newcomer to the WEC and a three time NCAA division 1 wrestling champion. Rosholt is a member of Team Takedown and studies BJJ under Marc Laimon at Cobra Kai. Rosholt is an extremely strong wrestler and grappler with improving striking.
How Osterneck got here: Osterneck is a excellent BJJ fighter out of South Carolina. Osterneck is a world-class grappler and has trained BJJ under Relson Gracie. Osterneck’s striking coach is Maurice Travis and this is his first appearance in the WEC.
How they match up: This is a very intriguing matchup on a few different levels. On paper Rosholt should be the favorite in this fight as traditionally national level wrestlers have done well in MMA. But at 4-0, Osterneck might be too much too soon for Rosholt. Osterneck is no joke on the ground and has excellent striking as well. Rosholt may actually favor keeping this fight on the feet as he may stand a better chance out-striking Osterneck.
My Crystal Marble says: Rosholt is the prized prospect here and all the pressure is on him to perform up to expectations. But Rosholt is a three time national champion and can obviously handle pressure on a high level. I think he will have an extremely difficult time with Osterneck but will prevail in the end. Look for a unanimous decision victory for Jake Rosholt.