With a good portion of the Mixed Martial Arts community focusing on this weekend’s ”Strikeforce: Evolution” card fans may have forgotten about the other event also scheduled for Saturday night. Though the line-up for WEC 45 may not carry as many major names as its rival offering, the company’s talent has shown time and time again that 135-155 pound fighters can still come up big regardless of how their popularity or proportions compare to those of their peers.
Headlined by a clash between lightweight contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Ed Ratcliff, the show also features the WEC debut of Chris Horodecki, as well as a terrific bantamweight clash between Rani Yahya and Joseph Benavidez plus other notable talent including Bart Palaszewski and Muhsin Corbbrey.
Jameel Massouh vs. Erik Koch
This is a make-or-break fight for Massouh who is currently 0-2 in the WEC after compiling an impressive 21-4 record before signing with the promotion. Koch is new to the organization but appears to be a very capable fighter given he has seven wins in seven professional fights. With five of those coming by way of tap-out and a residence in Iowa it seems the 21-year old will likely rely on a wrestling base to control Massouh and work towards either a submission attempt or ground-and-pound friendly mount. Both men are tall featherweights so I don’t see either with a size advantage over the other. However, I feel “The Sergeant” is probably a little more polished than Koch in all areas, and I like what his experience brings to the table.
Winner – Massouh via decision
Brad Pickett vs. Kyle Dietz
Dietz tasted defeat for the first time in his career six months ago after being submitted approximately two minutes into his WEC debut. “One Punch” Pickett, on the other hand, hasn’t felt the sting of a loss since June 2007 and is currently riding a seven fight win streak. Neither of those facts will necessarily affect the outcome of their bout, but they do indicate where the mindset of each man may be at, and the importance of one’s mental state in a fight can’t be stressed enough when it comes to finding success in the ring. Pickett is a bit smaller than Dietz, and for some reason I feel the Brit will use his lesser proportions as a means of baiting the 22-year old grappler into ill-advised takedown attempts. He’s finished four of his last five fights using a guillotine choke and won three in a row via armbar at one point in his career. Those things tell me Pickett will be looking to latch on to Dietz’s neck if the chance arises (ahem, takedowns) and can effectively work off his back (ahem, takedowns).
Winner – Brad Pickett via submission
Courtney Buck vs. Brandon Visher
These two relatively unknown featherweights may be new to the WEC, but after looking a little more closely at the pairing it seems like the winner of this fight will be on fans’ radar sooner than later. Buck is 6-1 with the lone loss coming via decision in his professional debut. Clearly he got the message as far as leaving things to the judges and has finished all six of his foes since then (five of them in the first round). Normally those kinds of statistics would seem to make Buck a lock for the victory at WEC 45, but Visher is certainly no slouch in the cage as indicated by going 12-for-12 in his career. “The Viper” has also shown the ability to consistently submit his opponents and render them unconscious with strikes. The 26-year old Hawaiian will certainly be ready to weather any adversity he might find himself in on Saturday night, as he’s overcome a number of obstacles in his life including the death of his father at age eleven and childhood poverty. He also headlined the last local card he was on so the pressure of fighting in the WEC shouldn’t affect him.
The circumstances surrounding this bout make it one of the more difficult match-ups for me to pick. I see it boiling down to Buck’s ability to knock people out versus Visher’s spirit and well-rounded technique. In the end, possessing a deeper arsenal of effective techniques typically beats power, so I’m leaning towards Visher in this one though Buck can easily end things with one punch. Of course, if the Maui product comes out to “E Ala E” (i.e. BJ Penn’s theme) clearly becomes a lock to win.
Winner – Visher via submission
John Hosman vs. Chad George
Hosman will be attempting to hold onto his spot to the debuting George after fellow WEC 45 competitor Rani Yahya choked him out in the first round this past August. George has won his last five fights and appears to have solid jiujitsu based on past performances. However, he’s a late replacement and hasn’t fought in seven months, so it’s hard to know how prepared he’ll be, and ultimately I expect Hosman to use his more-rounded set of skills to take home the victory come Saturday night.
Winner – Hosman via decision
Muhsin Corbbrey vs. Zack Micklewright
Micklewright clearly has talent or else he wouldn’t be 6-0 but Corbbrey is clearly the favorite in this fight and for good reason. He was considered to be one of MMA’s rising lightweight prospects before ill-fated EliteXC event in 2008 when forced to compete Nick Diaz who weighed in nine pounds heavy. The Lloyd Irvin trained fighter then spent more than a year on the sidelines before stepping into the ring at WEC 43 en route to a TKO loss. I suspect his experience and technical proficiency will carry him to victory against Micklewright, who is not only making his “big show” debut at the event but has been out of action for eight months. However, if the Miletich product utilizes the size advantage he’ll be taking into the cage he may be able to land enough strikes or out-muscle Corbbrey to the point he can procure a win.
Winner – Corbbrey via decision
Anthony Pettis vs. Bart Palaszewski
This fight marks the WEC return of “Bartimus” who lost two of the three times he competed during his first run in the organization. Palaszewski is fresh off a TKO win in his lone match-up since splitting from the WEC in mid-2009 and will no doubt be looking to impress anyone who doubted him being granted a second chance. He certainly has a wealth of experience in comparison to Pettis – approximately 6X as many total professional fights – and appears to be more diverse in his approach to victory. Pettis comes out of Duke Roufus’ camp which isn’t necessarily known for it’s grappling while the IFL veteran has double-digit submissions and TKOs notched on his record. Still, while he seems to be an obvious pick, a hunch tells me “Showtime” is actually going to turn some heads with a knockout of the favored fighter. He’s got excellent power and should be well-versed in various striking techniques given his training partners. Yes, Palaszewski has only been rendered unconscious once in his eight-year career, but it wasn’t very long ago and it wasn’t to someone who is necessarily known as being devastating on his feet.
Winner – Pettis via TKO
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Scott Jorgensen
It’s hard to forget Mizugaki’s impressive performance against Miguel Torres last April when picking his fights or his ability to out-point Jeff Curran at WEC 42. While Jorgensen has a gas-tank comparable to his Japanese opponent’s, I don’t think the wrestling or submission skills he relies on are of enough quality to put the Shooto veteran away or keep him neutralized long enough to win three rounds. He’ll also need to be extremely wary of Mizugaki’s striking if he wants to have even an average chance of pulling off the upset.
Winner – Mizugaki via decision
Joseph Benavidez vs. Rani Yahya
Yahya was about as tough of an opponent as Urijah Faber’s protégé could’ve drawn on the heels of losing for the first time in his career this past August. Benavidez relies on his wrestling and frenetic pace to wear opponents down and make them vulnerable for submission attempts. However, Yahya is an experienced grappler with top level BJJ and makes for a dangerous trap waiting to be sprung if things hit the mat. I think there’s a very real possibility Benavidez might be a bit over-aggressive coming off the loss and find himself caught in it.
Winner – Yahya by submission
Anthony Njokuani vs. Chris Horodecki
Horodecki may have only squared off once since the collapse of the IFL in 2008 but it’s hard to fault him after a number of the bouts he was scheduled to be in fell apart due to promotional mismanagement. He’s got nice power for a lightweight and isn’t afraid to engage opponents. The young Canadian’s approach should help make for an exciting fight given his opponent’s Muay Thai background and success as of late. TKO wins over Palaszewski and Corbbrey in his last two matches have certainly raised Njokuani’s stock, so scoring the hat-trick by finishing off Horodecki would not only further his ascension, but might even land him the chance to compete for top contendership in the WEC’s 155-pound division. Truly, I will be somewhat surprised if the judges end up rendering a decision given the primary mode of attack each fighter uses, and only because think Horodecki is a slightly better striker am I picking him to win what should be a battle full of highlight reel potential.
Winner – Horodecki via TKO
Donald Cerrone vs. Ed Ratcliff
I don’t think Cerrone will have much trouble finishing Ratcliff off early as long as he’s able to avoid eating too many power shots. “Cowboy” has a good jaw and the kind of heart that won’t let him quit until his lights are completely turned out. He’s far more accomplished on the ground than Ratcliff, so while I think the warrior in Cerrone will want to test his stand-up early in the fight, he’ll ultimately approach things strategically because winning gets him one step closer to a rematch with Jamie Varner.
Winner – Cerrone via submission