After some scattered international and regional action this past weekend that likely didn't feed your hunger for exciting mixed martial arts action, the upcoming events may bring on a bit of a spoiled feeling. March is finally here, and seven major mixed martial arts events combined with the start of K-1's MAX series will fill your month with plenty of action to watch, especially within the last week and a half of the month. UFC on Versus, DREAM.13, Strikeforce Challengers VII, UFC 111, UFN 21, K-1 MAX Japan, and the debut of The Ultimate Fighter 11 will all take place in a ten-day period starting on March 21st.
But before we get to the end of March, two major events will take place this weekend as WEC 47 will air live on Versus at 10:00 PM EST on March 6th from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio while Sengoku Raiden Championships 12 will be taking place on March 7th from Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. SRC 12 will air on tape delay on March 12th on HDNet.
In our first preview of this weekend's action, WEC 47 will be our main focus as the event will be headlined by an intriguing bantamweight championship showdown between Dominick Cruz (14-1, 4-1 WEC) and Brian Bowles (8-0, 5-0 WEC). This will be Bowles' first defense of his crown since defeating Miguel Torres back in August of 2009. The long layoff since winning the belt has been attributed to a broken hand that was suffered during the match-up with Torres, but now that he is the champion -- he isn't coming back from injury against anything less than the best the division has to offer.
Both Bowles and Cruz have very similar styles in that both men rely on wrestling and boxing to achieve victory. The major difference between the fighters is that Bowles has proven finishing power while Cruz has only been able to prove that he can positionally dominate and out punch divisional foes. On the floor, Cruz may have a slight edge due to his lengthier frame, but Bowles should have a slight reach advantage on the feet.
The x-factor that leans me one way over the other is the unpredictability factor that Brian Bowles possesses. Nobody expected Bowles to counter Torres with such a vicious right hook, but it happened. His power has come through for him in the past, and his hands always seem to be the cause in his effective submission abilities as well. Cruz has a very good chance to win on Saturday night, and his line shouldn't be left alone in the bettor's market. But I'm sticking with Brian Bowles via TKO in this five-round war.
The other significant battle on the card also takes place in the bantamweight division as Joseph Benavidez (10-1, 2-1 WEC) will have a second chance to win contendership as he takes on former champion Miguel Angel Torres (37-2, 5-1 WEC). Benavidez is coming off a first round TKO victory of Rani Yahya at WEC 45 while Torres hasn't fought since his loss to Brian Bowles at WEC 42.
Benavidez is almost always at a disadvantage in any fight due to his very short reach and height, and he'll be at an especially high disadvantage against Torres, who is a towering 5'9" to Benavidez's 5'4" frame. Fortunately, Benavidez makes up for those deficiencies with his explosiveness. The unfortunate part, however, is that Benavidez just isn't technical enough to turn his explosiveness into jaw-crushing highlight reel knockouts, and Torres' striking and ground game can be absolutely dominating with the right gameplan.
In my mind, Torres should come into this fight and play a role as the counter-puncher. While most fans are on the same page that Torres should roll through Benavidez by using range striking and peppering him with blows, Torres still has a tendency to sit in the pocket. That's something that doesn't bode well for your survival against a guy as explosive as Benavidez. If Torres can stick and move consistently over the course of the fight, he should easily handle Benavidez. Clinching and working a ground game would also work as well, but I'll give Benavidez the benefit of the doubt in his longevity. I'll take Torres via decision.
Rest of the Card
Featherweight: Jens Pulver (22-12-1, 1-4 WEC) vs. Javier Vazquez (13-4, 0-2 WEC): I'm not exactly sure if this is a loser leaves town fight or not since I'm not on the bandwagon of people who think Zuffa would actually get rid of a legend like Jens Pulver. But Pulver absolutely needs a win here, and Vazquez's contract probably relies on a win as well. Pulver has unfortunately seen better days... younger days in his career while Vazquez is quickly approaching the expiration date for the average shelf life of a MMA fighter.
Stylistically, this is tough to call. Pulver has been visibly a slower version of himself over the course of his last four fights. His chin has never been phenomenal, but it's obvious his reflexes and speed have diminished. Pulver will need to have top notch takedown defense as Vazquez is highly regarded for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu ground game. Pulver has had problems fending off chokes in his recent fights, so Vazquez could take advantage.
We've been pulling for a lot of fighters who bring some nostalgia to our sports viewing lives. So, in honor of that... I'll go with Jens Pulver one last time. It's hard not to love the passion the guy brings to the cage.
Featherweight: Deividas Taurosevicius (12-3, 2-0 WEC) vs. L.C. Davis (15-2, 2-0 WEC): On paper, this isn't the most entertaining fight on the card at first glance, but both men have styles that are similar enough to make this an enjoyable slugfest if neither man can use their wrestling effectively. Both Davis and Taurosevicius use wrestling and boxing as their primary means of offense with Taurosevicius having a Brazilian jiu-jitsu background and Davis having a much lengthier background in wrestling.
Davis should have the edge in the wrestling department, but Taurosevicius could offset that advantage with his strength and jiu-jitsu. I'd be more inclined to see this become more of a striking war over the course of three rounds than a technical ground battle. Who's the more proficient striker?
I'm not too keen on Davis' striking, but Taurosevicius' reach disadvantage has to come into play here. Davis has also been using the services of Gil Martinez at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas along with his normal routine to get maximum training in for this fight. I'll go out on a limb and pick Davis, but it certainly could go either way.
Lightweight: Bart Palaszewski (33-13, 2-2 WEC) vs. Karen Darabedyan (9-1, 1-0 WEC): I'm not going to go too in-depth into this fight for the simple fact that I think Palaszewski has a slim chance of winning this fight. While Palaszewski can beat a lot of guys who are missing the defensive techniques to stop his takedowns and jiu-jitsu on the ground, Darabedyan's grappling credentials and Judo black belt should keep this fight in a mode in which he can tee off on Palaszewski.
I'm going with Darabedyan here via TKO. Palaszewski has the steam to make this a war, but his overall skills in the stand-up game are going to be lacking in comparison to the speed and accuracy to which Darabedyan can land blows. McCullough was a heavily credentialed Muay Thai fighter, but Palaszewski really only offers his ground game as the true danger here. Darabedyan should stuff attempts and light up Bart on the counter.
Bantamweight: Scott Jorgensen (8-3, 4-2 WEC) vs. Chad George (11-4, 1-0 WEC): Jorgensen is the pick here as he was quite impressive against the very tough Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 45. In fact, many fans felt that Jorgensen should be propelled into title contention due to the win. His name will likely remain in the mix as he'll take on Hollywood animator turned pro fighter Chad George. George has a wrestling background and some decent hands, but Jorgensen's background is much more quality in comparison. Jorgensen should take this easily.
Featherweight: Chad Mendes (5-0, 0-0 WEC) vs. Erik Koch (8-0, 1-0 WEC): This is a tough fight to call. Mendes is a former #1 ranked NCAA Division I wrestler who fell short of a national championship going 30-1 in his senior year for Cal Poly State University. His lone loss came in the championship final. Now, he's transitioned to mixed martial arts under Team Alpha Male, and he's definitely looking like he'll be a force to reckon with. Unfortunately, his debut in the WEC won't be an easy one.
Koch has solid submission skills along with a lengthy frame. He was able to defeat Jameel Massouh at WEC 45, so he obviously has the chops to give Mendes problems on the feet. I do think that Mendes may have the advantage on the floor as he is very powerful and more experienced in the wrestling department. The question is whether he can get through the range of Koch first. I'll buy the hype having seen some footage of Mendes, and pick Mendes over Koch.
Lightweight: Danny Castillo (8-1, 3-0 WEC) vs. Anthony Pettis (8-1, 1-1 WEC): Castillo has the better wrestling credentials, stronger strength of record, and basically beat Shane Roller down until he was submitted in the late minutes of the fight. Pettis' chance to win will be reliant on his heavy hands, and unfortunately -- I think Castillo has the chops to avoid his power and make this a ground battle in which his wrestling prevails.
Featherweight: Leonard Garcia (13-4, 2-1 WEC) vs. George Roop (10-6, 0-1 WEC): George Roop just doesn't have the skill to beat anyone other than some lower-level TUF alums. He doesn't use his length well, isn't much of a striker, and isn't a formidable submission threat to higher level fighters. I think Garcia trounces him with his power fairly quickly in this fight.
Featherweight: Fredson Paixao (8-3, 0-1 1 NC WEC) vs. Courtney Buck (6-2, 0-1 WEC): Highly-credentialed Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Fredson Paixao will be the heavy favorite here. Look for him to put Buck down and put his ground skills to work as he gains the submission quickly. Buck has some power in his hands, so there is an opportunity, but Paixao is tough to bet against here.
Lightweight: Bendy Casimir (19-5-2, 0-0 WEC) vs. Ricardo Lamas (7-1, 2-1 WEC): I'm taking Lamas in this fight. While Casimir has some solid submission skills, I'm not overly impressed with the strength of his competition or the fact that France still remains deprived of some top notch trainers. Fortunately, Casimir resolved that by training in Las Vegas under Shawn Tompkins for several months in leading up to this fight. Can he step up to the better competition that the WEC offers? I suppose we'll find out, but I can't pick a guy who's record heavily relies on wins over fighters from countries not known for their presence in mixed martial arts.