WEC 46 Preview: Jamie Varner, Ben Henderson Meet to Unify Lightweight Title

Jamie_varner_vs_ben_henderson_mediumYour weekend of MMA action starts a little late this week as WEC 46 fills your living room with violence on Sunday, January 10th from ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California. It'll air live on Versus at 9:00 PM EST. The main event will feature a WEC lightweight title unification bout between Benson Henderson and Jamie Varner. Sacramento's hometown hero Urijah Faber will also be in action as well as former champion Mike Brown. Be sure to check out all the exciting action that you know the lighter weight classes will provide. On to the fights....

In the main event, current WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner (16-2, 4-0 WEC) will make his long-awaited return to the cage against the interim WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (10-1, 3-0 WEC) in an unification bout to determine the undisputed WEC lightweight champion. Varner has been sidelined with multiple injuries following his clash with Donald Cerrone at WEC 38, and the lengthy amount of time in which Varner was unable to perform in the cage led to the implementation of an interim lightweight title. Henderson won the title in an exciting five-round decision victory over Donald Cerrone back in October.

On paper, Varner should edge out Henderson in both the wrestling and striking department as he was a D-1 wrestler at one point in his collegiate career as well as being a NCBA Boxing champion. He has shown solid technical striking ability combined with good takedowns and submission techniques. Most fans would say that Varner has a truly well-rounded skill-set, but Henderson will pose some problems for Varner in this match-up.

Henderson has some explosive takedown and ground tactics, but he's also fairly dangerous in the striking department as well. While Varner might be a bit more technical, Henderson has shown that he can throw with bad intentions and land accurately. His gas tank is nearly inexhaustible as well, a huge key to his success against a Jamie Varner who might not have the level of conditioning to compete at a high level in the fourth or fifth round. 

It's tough to say how Varner will perform here, but he is the favorite. A lot of the hype is on Henderson defeating Varner, and I'm more confident in Henderson actually pulling off the slight upset here. He's been training with UFC lightweights such as Kenny Florian and B.J. Penn in preparation for this fight, and he won't have the ring rust that Varner may have due to the long layoff. I'll bank on Henderson in an upset.

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Urijah_faber_vs_raphael_assuncao_mediumIn featherweight action, the "California Kid" Urijah Faber (22-3, 7-2 WEC) will begin his ascension back into contention as he takes on Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Raphael Assuncao (14-1, 2-0 WEC) in a bout that could see the winner taking on Jose Aldo in the near future. Faber is coming off his recent featherweight championship bout loss to Mike Brown at WEC 41 while Assuncao is riding a six-fight win streak with wins over Yves Jabouin and Jameel Massouh in the WEC.

Unlike Mike Brown, Assuncao doesn't have the massive power to stop Faber in his tracks if he happens to make a mistake, and I anticipate Faber using his quickness and unpredictability in the striking game to hurt Assuncao in this match-up. Faber's pace and conditioning should also become significant factors in this fight if it happens to go into the third round. In any case, I don't see much hope for Assuncao pulling off the upset. Faber should gain victory and a shot at Aldo with the win.

Mike_brown_vs_anthony_morrison_mediumFormer WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown (22-5, 4-1 WEC) will also be making an appearance at WEC 46 as he takes on newcomer Anthony Morrison (15-7, 0-0 WEC).  While there is a little hype surrounding Morrison as a potential spoiler to Brown's return to the top, Brown should easily take this fight. Brown has the strength, explosive power in the striking game, and knowledge on the ground to be a danger in every facet of the fight. 

Morrison's huge weakness is his submission defense, and while Brown normally doesn't go for the choke -- I wouldn't be surprised if we see it in this contest. Of course, Brown is always good for a chin-exploding power punch as well. In any case, I think Brown wins in both the stand-up and on the ground. Look for a TKO victory here.

Quick Picks

LightweightDave Jansen (14-0, 1-0 WEC) vs. Kamal Shalorus (5-0-1, 1-0 WEC): There is definitely some hype surrounding Shalorus as he did represent Great Britain in the 2004 Summer Olympics. While most people wouldn't believe British wrestling has its place among American freestyle wrestlers, Shalorus was considered a top ten wrestler worldwide at one time. Jansen's wrestling will be his key to success, but his experience against better competition should also be a huge plus. I like Shalorus due to his wrestling ability, but this is a pretty tough fight to call. I'll take Shalorus via the slight upset.

FeatherweightMackens Semerzier (5-0, 1-0 WEC) vs. Deividas Taurosevicius (11-3, 1-0 WEC): Interesting match-up for the up-and-comer Semerzier as he'll have to prove his win over Wagnney Fabiano was no fluke against a very game opponent in Taurosevicius. While Mackens was impressive in his surprise choke out of Fabiano, I can't pick him here. Taurosevicius has the experience and BJJ knowledge to grind out a decision here.

BantamweightCharlie Valencia (11-5, 4-3 WEC) vs. Akitoski Tamura (14-7-2, 1-1 WEC): Valencia is a fairly well-rounded competitor, but Tamura's BJJ and strength on the ground is really tough for anyone to deal with. Very good guard game as well as some great abilities to tie up opponents and make them work heavily. I'll take Tamura here, but Valencia has just as good of a chance to win. He'll need to stay away from Tamura if he wants to win though.

BantamweightWagnney Fabiano (12-2, 2-1 WEC) vs. Clint Godfrey (11-1, 0-0 WEC): I can't pick against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz like Fabiano. While Fabiano did get caught by Semerzier, I'm going to chalk that up as a fluke victory until Mackens proves he's that good. Meanwhile, Fabiano will get the opportunity to prove himself as a contender with a few victories. Hopefully, he can finish a few of his next opponents in impressive fashion. 

FeatherweightMark Hominick (16-8, 0-2 WEC) vs. Bryan Caraway (14-3, 0-0 WEC): Big step up for Caraway as he'll take on a veteran in Hominick. Hominick has decent striking skills, and his submission game isn't half bad either. I'd give him the edge here, but Caraway has potential to be an upset pick here.

BantamweightEddie Wineland (15-6-1, 1-0 WEC) vs. George Roop (10-5, 0-0 WEC): Wineland should have the better stand-up game in this fight, and Roop hasn't proven to be a real threat to finishing opponents. I like Wineland here as he can take a punch and dish out a lot of damage. 

BantamweightCoty Wheeler (10-2, 0-2 WEC) vs. Will Campuzano (6-1, 0-1 WEC): Wheeler has some surprising submission ability, and Campuzano has both a good submission and striking base. I'll take Campuzano in this fight due to his striking, but this is a pretty close fight to pick. 

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