D’you know what’s really crazy about how awesome UFC 117 was? It came on the heels of UFC 116, an event that was being called the best card of the year. Four weeks later and we have a new leader for that year-end award, with three more major events this month alone, each of which could keep upping the ante.
I know it gets said before every WEC event, but it still bears repeating: if you’re looking for non-stop action and an outstanding collection of bouts, you need to watch the WEC. While the UFC may have the market cornered on front-runners for Event of the Year, the unquestioned Fight of the Year (so far) came from the WEC, courtesy of Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung.
Not once have I been disappointed by a WEC card and I don’t expect that to start here, not with the stacked line-up set to lay it on the line in Las Vegas. Ignore this event at your own risk...
Danny Castillo (8-3-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (7-0-0)
In just fourteen months as a pro, Poirier has put up seven wins, all of which have come by way of stoppage, with five ending in the first round. But making the jump from Louisiana to Las Vegas is a big step and he’s in with a tough customer in Castillo.
Castillo, one of three Team Alpha Male members fighting on this card, comes in with his back to the wall. Those his back-to-back losses came to the two men competing in the evening’s co-main event, two fight losing streaks are not something to be taken lightly. A strong wrestler with solid hands, Castillo needs to get back in the win column or risk being handed his walking papers.
Fredson Paixao vs. Bryan Caraway (14-4-0)
In his WEC debut, Caraway was submitted by Mark Hominick after looking good in the early going. Now he steps in with another submission specialist in Paixao. He’s always rebounded well from his previous defeats and will need to do the same here.
Paixao has earned a win, a loss and a no contest in three fights under the WEC banner, with the victory coming in his last appearance back in March. A skilled grappler, the Brazilian is best on the ground, but may not have an easy time of things with a strong wrestler like Caraway.
A true coin-flip fight, it’s this kind of pairings that have often resulted in unexpected highly-entertaining fights.
Ricardo Lamas (8-1-0) vs. Dave Jansen (11-1-0)
Lamas was considered a rising star before getting caught with a thunderous right from Danny Castillo back at WEC 42. The loss slowed his ascent, but he’s since put together back-to-back strong outings, defeating James Krause by decision and knocking out Bendy Casimir with a nasty knee last time out.
Jansen is exactly what you’d come to expect of a member of Team Quest; a strong wrestler with solid, but unspectacular hands who is hard to put away. He took a ton of punishment against Kamal Shalorus in his last outing, but stayed standing and fought through to the final bell. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the first loss of his career.
Javier Vazquez (14-3-0) vs. Mackens Semerzier (7-1-0)
A loser of consecutive split decisions heading into his bout at WEC 47, Vazquez dominated Jens Pulver on that night, submitting the first UFC lightweight champion and sending him packing from the WEC. Now he looks to build on that win against the hard-to-predict protégé of Miguel Torres, Mackens Semerzier.
“Mack da Menace” scored a serious upset in his WEC debut, submitting Wagnney Fabiano at WEC 43. In his encore, the former Marine failed to mount much offense against the suffocating top game of Deividas Taurosevicius, and needs to show which of the two performances is more representative of what he can do in the cage.
Anthony Njokuani (14-3-0) vs. Maciej Jewtsuzko
An announcer’s nightmare in this one – and a fight my colleague Jeremy Botter is not looking forward to covering during the Heavy.com Live Chat. Those are just two tough names to type repeatedly...
Njokuani showed the importance of wrestling in his last fight, but not in a good way. The dynamic kickboxer was rendered helpless by Shane Roller, who took him down, patiently transitioned to his back and tapped him out. Now the former contender needs a win to remain relevant.
Undefeated Polish newcomer Maciej “Irokez” Jewtsuzko makes his North American debut after earning seven straight wins in Europe, all by some form of stoppage.
The transition to the cage and the tougher competition of the WEC always makes it difficult to gauge how imports will perform the first time around. Njokuani certainly has the experience advantage, but regardless of where you’re fighting, seven consecutive stoppages is an impressive accomplishment.
Bart Palaszewski (33-13-0) vs. Zack Micklewright (9-1-0)
After back-to-back losses left Bart Palaszewski able to step outside of his WEC contract and compete at friend and trainer Jeff Curran’s XFO event in October of last year, the former IFL competitor has returned to put up a pair of quality wins.
A split decision victory over Anthony Pettis preceded a submission of Karen Darabedyan at WEC 47 in March, and a third consecutive win could put Palaszewski right back into the thick of things.
Fighting out of Davenport, Iowa, Micklewright is another former Marine making an appearance on this card. He won his debut over Muhsin Corbrrey back in December, but takes a serious step up in competition in this one. A win over the experienced Palaszewski would be a big boost to the 23-year-old’s career.
Scott Jorgensen (10-3-0) vs. Brad Pickett (20-4-0)
Jorgensen has won four-in-a-row to climb into title contention in the 135-pound division. Last time out, he avenged a previous loss to Antonio Banuelos, one fight after having picked Chad George up off his feet with a guillotine. A strong wrestler with improving hands and tremendous cardio, some believe Jorgensen is due for a title shot with a win here.
He’ll have his hands full with Pickett, however, an American Top Team product who has looked very impressive in two WEC appearances. After submitting Kyle Dietz via Peruvian necktie in his debut, “One Punch” earned a three-round shutout of Demetrious Johnson last time out, despite having busted his collarbone early in the encounter.
The winner moves to the head of the title contender line, while the loser takes out their frustrations on some poor, unfortunate soul the next time around.
Cub Swanson (14-3-0) vs. Chad Mendes (7-0-0)
A budding star, Mendes will be given the toughest test of his career by the dynamic and talented Swanson.
While most people remember the Greg Jackson trainee as the man on the receiving end of Jose Aldo’s double flying knee finish, Swanson is a gifted athlete who has faced and beaten better competition than Mendes and will give the Team Alpha Male member all he can handle in this one.
One of WEC poster boy Urijah Faber’s teammates, Mendes has climbed the ladder quickly on the strength of two straight quality wins. Last time out, he made short work of Anthony “Cheesesteak” Morrison, but Mendes will need to show more than his standout wrestling in this one.