Mixed martial arts fans will have a tough choice to make on Saturday night as WEC 45 will air LIVE on Versus at the same time that Strikeforce: Evolution will air LIVE on Showtime at 10:00 PM EST. WEC 45 has some major benefits as it will feature the always exciting lighter weight classes with two solid lightweight battles with a possible "Fight of the Night" candidate in a bantamweight showdown between Takeya Mizugaki and Scott Jorgensen.
These fights will try to overcome the drawing power of Strikeforce's Cung Le, Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez, Scott Smith, and their newest acquisitions in Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal and Ronaldo Souza as well as UFC veteran Matt Lindland. While the Strikeforce card features many more veteran names that casual fans may have heard of in the past, the WEC's bouts normally fall into the category of "exceptional" with the torrid pace of the weight classes and powerful striking wars we've seen in the past.
The main event will feature a lightweight battle between vaunted submission specialist and Muay Thai kickboxer Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (10-2, 3-2-0-1 WEC) taking on a very explosive Karate practitioner in Ed "9mm" Ratcliff (7-1, 3-1 WEC). Cerrone comes into this contest after being defeated by Benson Henderson at WEC 43 via unanimous decision for the WEC Interim Lightweight title while Ratcliff is coming off a victory over Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Phil Cardella at WEC 42. Both men will be looking to gain some footing in the division's upper ranks, but a win for Ed Ratcliff would certainly increase his stock with the WEC's brass as he's relatively unknown to casual viewers. A win for Cerrone easily puts him in line for a shot at champion Jamie Varner, regardless of whether he wins or loses to Benson Henderson in the title unification bout at WEC 46.
Cerrone should have all the advantages in this fight as he'll have superior reach and grappling skills. Ratcliff's explosive spinning karate kicks and aggressive punching should provide some excitement, but his defense to counters has been careless. He tends to drop his hands after flurries, and he doesn't seem to circle out of danger when in trouble. He'll eat a number of blows while backpedaling to the fence, and he'll find more trouble if he gets caught in Cerrone's Muay Thai plum or on the ground. Ratcliff will provide some excitement in this fight, but my inner fan will be overwhelmed by my logical thought processes here. Cerrone should be able to stop Ratcliff in the later rounds.
The second lightweight bout taking place on the main card should provide some fireworks as IFL veteran Chris "The Polish Hammer" Horodecki (13-1) will make his WEC debut against former WCL fighter and Muay Thai striker Anthony Njokuani (10-2, 1-1 WEC). At 6'1", Njokuani might be one of the biggest lightweights in the division, and his reach is an immense advantage for him in this fight against a 5'8" Chris Horodecki who is well-known for his one-two punch/kick combinations that won him decision after decision in the IFL.
If this fight becomes a striking battle in which Horodecki "swings away", Njokuani will crush "The Polish Hammer" easily in what many fans will believe is a surprising upset victory. The fact of the matter is that Horodecki has an uphill battle to overcome in this fight. His wrestling seems to have improved immensely with his training at Xtreme Couture, but Njokuani's size, strength, and very underrated ground game will prove to be Horodecki's undoing. I've never been a huge fan of Horodecki's style, and Njokuani is just way more powerful. Look for Njokuani to finish Horodecki in this fight.
Hopefully with a win, we can change Anthony's nickname from the always unoriginal "The Assassin" to "419 Scam" or "The Nigerian Money Offer" as Jordan Breen mentioned over Twitter after Njokuani's last win. Most fans would say "The Nigerian Nightmare", but come on now... Christian Okoye would be offended. Maybe Anthony "Send A Certified Check" Njokuani could get him some sponsorships from Western Union.
Dropping down to the WEC's Bantamweight division, Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Rani Yahya (15-4, 4-1 WEC) will battle Team Alpha Male's Joseph Benavidez (10-1, 2-1 WEC) in a match-up pitting Yahya's brilliant submission techniques against Benavidez's power punching and wrestling ability. Benavidez is coming off his first loss of his career in a "Fight of the Night" bout against Dominick Cruz at WEC 42 while Yahya defeated John Hosman via north-south choke in 2:08 at the same event.
Both men have faced similar competition before with Yahya basically facing better strikers than him in every single fight he's ever taken. Benavidez's striking is fairly quick, but he continues to loop his punches and lose a lot of accuracy by throwing for big power. His other major asset will be his wrestling ability, but I imagine that he'll want to stay away from any type of ground engagement with the superior grappling ability of Yahya.
With that said, I expect Benavidez to try to fight in a similar fashion he did against Curran. The difference, however, is that Yahya isn't going to stand in front of him and try to outbox him. Yahya will actively try to wade through the strikes and takedown Benavidez, and he's pretty dynamic in the ways he can catch opponents in chokes. I'll take Yahya in this bout by some insane transition to a choke that Benavidez didn't see coming.
The final main card bout will feature what could possibly become a "Fight of the Night" candidate when everything is said and done at WEC 45. Bantamweights Takeya Mizugaki (12-3-2, 1-1 WEC) and Scott Jorgensen (7-3, 3-1 WEC) will meet in what many expect to be a striking war as both men have solid takedown defense and wrestling skills to nullify one another. Most fans would probably point to Mizugaki's epic war against Miguel Torres as a reasonable means to come to the conclusion that he'll win on Saturday, but Jorgensen's striking is powerful enough to give Mizugaki a run for his money if he happens to get clipped.
Wrestling should be a significant part of this fight, but we won't know until these two throw down whether either man is willing to risk being reversed and put on their back. After some initial attempts, both men will probably find that they'll expend way too much energy trying to bull through each other's takedown defense. Look for Mizugaki's technical striking to outpoint Jorgensen in this slugfest.
Quick rundown of the Preliminary Card
Bart Palaszewski (32-13, 1-2 WEC) vs. Anthony Pettis(7-0, 1-0 WEC): Another tough fight for "Bartimus" as Pettis has the skill-set to give Palaszewski big problems from top control. As Ricardo Lamas exposed, Bart has a poor guard on the ground and doesn't control posture or his opponent's arms well at all. Pettis will barrage Bart with strikes without being hindered by Bart's futile attempts to stop him from posturing up and pounding on him.
Muhsin Corbbrey (7-4, 0-1 WEC) vs. Zachary Micklewright (6-0): Micklewright is your standard Miletich Fighting Systems fighter. Brute strength, good takedowns, and devastating ground and pound. Corbrrey has a pro boxer background and some submission ability, but his takedown defense will fail him in this fight. Micklewright will relentlessly search for top control, and once he gains it -- Corbbrey will feel his power.
John Hosman (13-5-1, 0-1 WEC) vs. Chad George(10-4): George is coming in on short notice to battle Hosman, a veteran wrestler who will look to control this fight from the top. Hosman should beat on George for three rounds and win via decision.
Brad Pickett (17-4) vs. Kyle Dietz(5-1, 0-1 WEC): "One Punch" Pickett is definitely an interesting character. He walks out with the trademark look of "Mickey" from the movie Snatch, and his nickname would have you believe he "one punches" guys out like Mickey in the movie. Interestingly enough, Pickett's calling card is his jiu-jitsu knowledge, and Dietz won't be able to contend with it here. It's nice to see a former Cage Rage fighter who isn't a bar brawler.
Jameel Massouh (21-6, 0-2 WEC) vs. Erik Koch (7-0): Massouh got the old PRIDE treatment when he was given both Rafael Assuncao and Leonard Garcia in his first two match-ups. He should be able to cruise to a victory in this match-up as he should have better striking ability than Koch and he isn't bad on the ground either. Massouh is just flat out the better fighter in this fight in all areas.