The WEC's first foray into the pay-per-view market will take place on Saturday, April 24th from ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California as a main event title showdown between Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo will headline this historic event. Like many of the more recent UFC events, Zuffa is pushing the WEC's brand to the casual UFC fans by providing preliminary action on Spike TV one hour before the pay-per-view event starts.
Here's a brief breakdown of each fight taking place on the six-fight undercard. The top two battles below will be featured on Spike TV at 9:00 PM EST. Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan will relieve the WEC commentary team for this event, and Bruce Buffer will provide the ring announcing.
The headlining battle on the Spike TV portion of preliminary bouts will feature South Korean prospect and Sengoku veteran Chan Sung Jung taking on UFC and WEC veteran Leonard Garcia in a match-up that should bring some f airly exciting action. Garcia enters the contest after drawing with former UFC fighter George Roop at WEC 47 and dropping an unanimous decision to Manvel Gamburyan at WEC 44. Jung submitted Matt Jaggers at Sengoku IX, but dropped a controversial decision to Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix champion Masanori Kanehara in the second round of the Grand Prix.
We'll make these previews short and sweet as there is a lot of bouts to cover. Garcia has some disadvantages on the ground and somewhat deficient takedown defense at times, but he packs a wallop in his hands. Jung is surprisingly well-rounded. Solid submission ability, good ground tactics, and surprising knockout power in a limited capacity. He actually crushed Muay Thai striker Pajonsuk with a spinning back fist at It's Showtime back in February. Although it was deemed an illegal move and he was disqualified, it does show the skill and improvement in his stand-up game.
While I think Garcia presents some problems, Jung is actually a very promising prospect. At only 23 years of age, he could very well be the next great featherweight fighter out of Korea who could eventually vie for the WEC featherweight title and be a force in the division worldwide. He isn't a Jose Aldo or Urijah Faber at this point in his career, but his well-rounded skill-set and improving striking leans me to pick him in this fight.
This should be a pretty straight-forward style match-up. Karalexis has never shown dynamic striking ability or a vast array of submissions on the ground. He's a wrestler, and like all good wrestlers -- he likes to take down opponents, gain top control, and pound the snot out of his opponents. He has some limited power in his hands, but Pettis will more than likely negate any tendencies for Karalexis to try to bang as he did knockout Danny Castillo with a brutal head kick at WEC 47.
Karalexis struggled against Bart Palaszewski and Ed Ratcliff in his losses at WEC 37 and WEC 31 respectively. In fact, he was battered by Ratcliff's striking, and Palaszewski was good enough to out grapple and punish Karalexis. Pettis can do both, in my opinion, and I think he'll provide a solid finish for the casual fans at home tuning in for this match-up. Pettis should have an advantage on the feet, and I think he has the skills to stuff Karalexis and bomb him for most of the fight.
The most noticeable disparity between Cage Rage veteran Brad Pickett and newcomer Demetrious Johnson is the huge gap in their experience levels. Pickett has battled in over 20 fights in his career while Johnson is still working his way up the ladder in the bantamweight ranks. This will easily be Johnson's toughest test to date, and he'll have to do it against the oxymoron of the WEC.
"One Punch" Pickett was considered a real knockout threat in his early days as a fighter. Pickett hasn't really lived up to that nickname, but that hasn't been a bad thing. He's become a very dangerous grappler with five of his last eight wins coming by way of submission.
From many of the reports, Johnson brings a high level high school background in wrestling coupled with some decent striking and jiu-jitsu skills. While I think Johnson could potentially lay on Pickett in this fight and batter him, I'm going to believe that Pickett is the better fighter on the ground as he's very sneaky and can quickly transition. I like Pickett here via submission.
Anthony Morrison was brought in to fight Mike Brown in his debut with the WEC back at WEC 46, and he was subsequently demolished by the powerful American Top Team member. His sophomore appearance in the WEC might not go as well either. He'll be battling NCAA Division I wrestler Chad Mendes, a highly-touted Team Alpha Male fighter, who just recently defeated Erik Koch at WEC 47.
Mendes will likely come out on top in this battle. He'll have much better wrestling than Morrison, and he'll easily be able to overwhelm him with takedowns and strength throughout the course of the fight. The question is whether Mendes can finish. I'll take my chances and pick Mendes via TKO.
Interesting how a battle between arguable top ten bantamweight fighters is buried in the preliminary card, isn't it? Mizugaki is coming off an unanimous decision loss to Scott Jorgensen at WEC 45 while Rani Yahya was battered by Joseph Benavidez at the same event. Yahya will move somewhat laterally in opponents as Mizugaki also presents better striking ability with very good submission defense and wrestling.
Yahya is a submission threat, and his stand-up actually looks to be improving. Mizugaki can be an absolute beast though. He can take a punch, escape submissions, and outlast his opponents in most cases. Yahya has a chance on the ground, but Mizugaki is too knowledgeable to get caught sleeping. I'll take Mizugaki via decision.
This is a very interesting battle as Visher is the undefeated prospect with an impressive thirteen fight run. Toner, however, has a little better strength of record, and his only loss came against Scott Jorgensen at a Ring of Fire event in April of 2007. Toner also pulled off a stunning upset of Kenichi Ogata via knockout in Shootboxing.
Visher is primarily a boxer and Toner can compete in that area of the fight as well, which should make this a potential "Knockout of the Night" candidate. While Visher has a nice round zero in his loss column, I like Toner's height and reach advantage in combination with his slightly better strength of record. Visher has a chance like any boxer would, but I think Toner pulls off the win via TKO.