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The Walk Out – WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis

World Extreme Cagefighting closes down their cage this Thursday night with their final event ever. For years now WEC has delivered some of the best events and on a very consistent basis. We’ve seen great action packed fights like Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung, great knockouts like Brian Bowles KO’ing Miguel Torres, great submissions like Seth Dikun’s flying triangle on Rolando Perez. We’ve seen the rise of superstars like Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo and the fall of legends like Jens Pulver. We’ve seen former WEC stand outs like Chael Sonnen and Carlos Condit move to the UFC and have succes. It all comes to an end with WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis and in typical WEC fashion, they’re looking to go out with a bang, supplying fans with two title fights and one of the most exciting fighters in company history. If that isn’t reason enough to tune in, this will be the last time you’ll be able to see Brittney Palmer in blue. And who in the hell doesn’t love blue?

WEC Lightweight Title Fight: Anthony Pettis vs. Ben Henderson

With the WEC and UFC merging and the winner of this fight scheduled to face the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard for the UFC Lightweight Title, Anthony Pettis vs. Ben Henderson is more like a 25 minute #1 contenders fight than a WEC Lightweight Title fight. No matter how you slice it, this is a huge fight for both men and the lightweight division.

Pettis has earned a lot of fanfare over this past year thanks to some exciting performances and documentary on him for Andrew Jenks MTV Reality Show, “The World of Jenks.” He’s a very exciting striker with a lot of flare in his stand up. He trains with Duke Roufus, who is one of the best striking coaches in all of MMA. He has a pretty underrated jab, which we should see a lot of in the fight as it will set up his other strikes. He loves his flashy kicks, which might not be such a good idea against a good wrestler like Henderson. He likes to throw spinning hook kicks, ground tap head kicks, switch head kicks, and any other type of flashy kick you can think of. One thing about him is that he has very strong hips. Shane Roller, an outstanding wrestler, had a lot of trouble taking down Pettis and even ended up on his back a couple of times thanks to the hips of Pettis. He’s a decent wrestler in his own right but I doubt he’ll be able to put Henderson on his back and even if he does, his top control isn’t great and he’s not all that active on top. On his back, he’s very active and loves to go for the triangle. It could actually get him in trouble in this fight because it’s so predictable that if Henderson can avoid it, he can push the legs aside, and move into a more dominant position. Pettis needs to continue to be unpredictable in this fight. Throw his flashy kicks, throw straight punches, counter when Henderson throws a kick, mix in some takedown attempts to keep Henderson off balance, and just keep Henderson guessing all fight. Henderson isn’t the easiest guy in the world to finish but Pettis has the power to put anyone to sleep and a proven triangle choke. If he’s going to win though, it’s most likely that he’ll win a decision by being the better striker and stuffing the takedowns of Henderson.

Henderson came out of nowhere to become one of the best lightweights in MMA over the past few years. He’s a relatively well-rounded fighter with the appropriate nickname of “Smooth” because everything he does is rather smooth. He’s a solid striker who controls the distance well with body kicks. He stands southpaw so he’s vulnerable to the overhand right, which I expect Pettis to look for more than once in this fight. He’s a good wrestler who never gives up on his takedowns. When he fails to put opponents on their back, he’ll push them up against the cage and work knees to the body. When he does get takedowns, he’s very active on top. One thing he likes to do is posture to his feet in his opponents guard and use his long arms to rain down punches. He has a tendency to get caught in submissions but he’s very calm under pressure and in great shape so he’s able to survive. If Pettis does try for a takedown or when he scrambles to get to his feet, he has to protect his neck. Henderson has an outstanding guillotine and if Pettis isn’t careful, he could get caught. Something that Pettis has never dealt with is going 5 rounds. Henderson has been training for 5 round fights for over a year now, he’s gone 5 extremely tough rounds once, he didn’t gas out then, and he pushes a tremendous pace. Pettis showed strong cardio against Roller, which is why he was able to finish Roller late, but he’s never gone 25 minutes and the only time he’s dealt with a pace like Henderson was when he faced Bart Paleszewski, a fight he ended losing by split decision. Henderson can’t get caught up in Pettis’ flashiness. When Pettis throws one of his kicks, Henderson needs to counter with a flurry or a takedown. Henderson needs to put the pressure on Pettis, see how he deals with it, and test his cardio. Like Henderson, Pettis is tough to finish but Henderson does have power and good submissions. If neither of those work out though, Henderson could win a decision by staying active in all positions, controlling the clinch, and getting some timely takedowns.

I don’t know how many of you know this but Henderson is a Carolina Panthers fan. So right now he doesn’t have much to cheer about and he’s probably a little pissed off that he has to watch Jimmy Clausen throw to the wrong team every weekend. As a fellow Panthers fan, I understand Henderson’s pain and expect him to take out his aggression on Pettis this Thursday. He’s going to be in Pettis’ face and he’s going to press the action for 25 minutes. Pettis has the power and technique to catch Henderson if he gets overaggressive but Henderson is a smart fighter and will likely control his aggression. This fight should be a war but in the end, Henderson will do enough to come out on top.

Prediction: Ben Henderson to defeat Anthony Pettis by Decision

WEC Bantamweight Title Fight: Scott Jorgensen vs. Domnick Cruz

Winner of five straight and only been finished once in his career, Scott Jorgensen finally gets a shot at the bantamweight title against Domnick Cruz, a man who has never lost at bantamweight in his career. Not only will the winner of this fight become the first ever UFC Bantamweight Champion but they’ll also be known as the best lightest weight fighter in the world.

Jorgensen has flown a bit under the bantamweight radar over the past couple of years but now he’s getting his chance to shine. He’s a lot like Cruz’ last opponent, Joseph Benavidez, excepthe’s maybe an inch taller. He’s a scrappy guy with very good wrestling and an unquestionable heart. He throws heavy hooks but also takes a lot of damage on the feet. He drops his hands when he throws leg kicks, which is going to get him into a lot of trouble against Cruz. Although he prefers to stand and trade with his opponents, look for Jorgensen to go back to his wrestling in this fight. He’s a better credentialed wrestler than Cruz and given Cruz’ willingness to throw leg kicks, there will be plenty of takedown opportunities for Jorgensen. We haven’t seen much of Cruz on the ground and Jorgensen is a good grappler with an active top game. He’s good in scrambles and he has a slick guillotine choke. Jorgensen has to use his wrestling to win this fight. If he tries to strike with Cruz, chances are that he’ll be picked apart. But if he makes Cruz pay for throwing some many kicks, he could catch Cruz with his power or he could land some takedowns, where he can do damage on the ground. I’m not sure that Jorgensen can finish Cruz on the feet because Cruz has an excellent chin but he could catch him in a submission or do enough to win a decision.

Since moving up to bantamweight, Cruz is undefeated and has displayed some of the best striking in MMA. His footwork is outstanding as he’s always bouncing on his feet and rarely gets caught flat-footed. He uses his reach well to keep the distance and throws a lot of kicks, which he gets away with thanks to his speed and set up. Jorgensen is a great match up for him because Jorgensen loves to throw looping hooks while Cruz usually throws straight punches. If a round happens to be close on the feet, you can almost guarantee that Cruz will look for a late takedown. It’s a bit predictable and if Jorgensen can stuff them or even lock on a guillotine, he could steal the round for himself or win the fight. Cruz doesn’t really do much with his takedowns but they do score points for him and they give his opponents something else to think about on the feet. Jorgensen is a relatively slow starter, so look for Cruz to start fast, a lot like he did against Brian Bowles. Cruz isn’t really a powerful striker but he’s very overwhelming with his striking and could finish Jorgensen with an abundance of strikes after dropping him on the feet or he could win the striking battle, land some timely takedowns, and win a decision.

Stylistically, this is a tough fight for Jorgensen. His stand up isn’t on the level of Cruz and while he is a better wrestler, Cruz has good takedown defense. If Jorgensen is going to win, he’ll have to take away the kicks of Cruz with counters and takedowns. Even if he’s able to do that, Cruz should be able to pick him apart on the feet with straight punches and outstanding movement. This is another fight that will likely be a war because Jorgensen doesn’t know how to have boring fights.

Prediction: Dominick Cruz to defeat Scott Jorgensen by Decision

Lightweight Fight: Chris Horodecki vs. Donald Cerrone

Following a rough WEC start, Chris Horodecki has won his last two fights in the organization. Now he faces former multiple time WEC lightweight contender, Donald Cerrone, who is coming off the biggest win of his career against Jamie Varner.

Horodecki might look like someone who should be falling asleep in middle school classes but he’s not someone you want to pick a fight with should he accidently step on your shoes in the hallway. You don’t want to catch an ass kicking because he smudged your Puma. Let it slide. Horodecki is a very good technical striker who mixes things up well and throws good leg kicks. He puts together good combos but has a tendency to overextend for some of his strikes, which leads him to eat counter right hands. He’s an underrated grappler who has improved drastically since his days in the IFL but he’s not on the level of Cerrone. You’re not going to see Horodecki go for many takedowns and if he does, he won’t be doing much other than tiring himself out. He’s not much of a threat off his back so if Cerrone is able to get him down, he needs to immediately use an underhook to get up. A knock on Horodecki is that he’s a bit short and slow of lightweight. You obviously can’t teach size but his slowness comes from the fact that he’s a bit pudgy for the weight class and could probably benefit from dropping to 145. Even though Cerrone has an excellent chin, Horodecki has the power to drop him and who knows, maybe he can pound him out on the ground. If Horodecki is going to win though, it’s going to be because he outstrikes Cerrone and stuffs the takedowns en route to a decision.

Cerrone has quickly become a fan favorite in MMA thanks to his brash attitude and fighting style. In his last fighting against Varner, we saw the best “Cowboy” ever in the cage. He’s a good technical striker although he gets hit too much, especially with right hooks. Luckily for him, he has a very durable chin so he’s able to eat most of the punches but sooner or later all those shots are going to catch up to him. Cerrone mixes things up well with his striking and throws a heavy dose of leg kicks. He loves to throw a left hook-leg kick combo. Against Varner, he added a new element to his game, the being the takedowns. Even though Varner is a better wrestler than Cerrone, Cerrone was able to keep him off balance with well-timed and strong takedowns. Even though he likes to be exciting, Cerrone is also a very smart fighter and I’m sure that he knows that his best chance to win this fight is on the ground. He has a very active top game highlighted by some slick submissions. Even though Cerrone can probably go toe to toe with Horodecki and fair well because he’s just as good of a striker as Horodecki and he has a big size advantage, the ground is where he has a big advantage. Horodecki has a decent ground game but he doesn’t scramble very well and he’s not much of a threat off his back. Cerrone can win this fight in all positions. He has the power to knockout Horodecki, he has the ground game to submit him, and he’s well-rounded and active enough to win the decision.

This is should be a war but it’s really Cerrone’s fight to lose. He’s going to have the size advantage, he can hold his own striking with Horodecki, and he’s the better grappler. Cerrone will keep it standing for as long as he needs to but if he feels he’s in danger on the feet or if he wants to try and end this fight, he’ll put Horodecki on his back, punish him, and lock in a submission, likely a rear naked choke.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone to defeat Chris Horodecki by Submission in Round 2

Lightweight Fight: Kamal Shalorus vs. Bart Palaszewski

Flying under the radar pretty much his entire career, Bart Paleszewski gets a chance to really showcase himself against the always tough and undefeated Kamal Shalorus.

Shalorus isn’t the most technical fighter in the world but if you like watching guys getting punched in the face, smiling, and then throwing haymakers back at his opponent then you’ll love Shalorus. He throws wild hooks, a lot of leg kicks, and knows how to take a punch. Despite his willingness to bang with his opponents, his strength is his wrestling. He claims to have the best wrestling in all of the lightweight division so when he wants to put guys on their back, he’s confident that he can do so. Palaszewski doesn’t have great takedown defense but he is solid off his back. Shalorus postures well though and even though he’s not a heavy ground and pounder, he does have good control on top. If Shalorus trusts his submission defense, then he’ll put Palaszewski on his back but if he doesn’t want to constantly be avoiding the submission attempts of Palaszewski, then he’ll keep the fight standing and look for the big KO blow. Shalorus has the power to end anyone’s night but if he can’t score the big KO, he could cruise to a decision with his wrestling.

Palaszewski is someone who can look like a world beater or just another middle of the pack lightweight. He’s a good striker with a nice counter left hook. He throws a lot of inside leg kicks, which is a strike I love because it allows fighters to find the distance and throw off the timing of their opponents. He takes a lot of punches and he has a solid chin but taking clean shots from Shalorus won’t win him this fight. Palaszewski has to throw straight punches to counter the long hooks of Shalorus. He needs to use his reach to keep Shalorus at bay and make him pay every time he throws a leg kick with a counter right hand. He’d be wise to work the body of Shalorus as well to try and tire him out. It’s unlikely that Palaszewski will be able to get Shalorus on his back unless he’s able to execute a sweep or win out on a scramble but even then, I doubt Shalorus will be on his back very long. If Palaszewski ends up on his back he either needs to stay active with submission attempts in order to get Shalorus thinking twice about going to the ground with him or look to immediately get to his feet. I don’t know if Palaszewski can finish Shalorus on the feet because we know that Shalorus can take a punch. His submission defense is untested though so it’s possible for Palaszewski to catch him on the ground but the most likely scenario is that Palaszewski picks apart Shalorus on the feet, avoids much time on his back, and wins a decision.

It’s always tough to get a read on Palaszewski because you never know which version of him will show up. If he fights a smart fight, it’s possible that he could beat Shalorus because he is a better technical striker. If he starts slow, tries to brawl with Shalorus, and is just off his game then he’s going to end up looking up at the lights. At this point in their careers, Shalorus is the safer pick because you know he’s going to bring it. He can take a punch, he has power, and his wrestling his outstanding. Look for Shalorus to start quickly and score the big KO early.

Prediction: Kamal Shalorus to defeat Bart Palaszewski by TKO in Round 1

Preliminary Fight Predictions:

*Zhang Tie Quan to defeat Danny Downes by Submission in Round 1
*Jamie Varner to defeat Shane Roller by TKO in Round 2
*Ivan Menjivar to defeat Brad Pickett by Decision
*Eddie Wineland to defeat Ken Stone by TKO in Round 1
*Danny Castillo to defeat Will Kerr by Decision
*Ricardo Lama to defeat Yuri Alcantara by Decision
*Renan Barao to defeat Chris Cariaso by Submission in Round 1

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