The WEC has perhaps the best fight card of the month Sunday, headlined by Jamie Varner and Ben Henderson battling for the 155 pound crown. The card also features two former featherweight champions, Urijah Faber and Mike Brown, and a potential fight of the year type matchup with Team Quest standout Dave Jansen squaring off against Iranian Kamal Shalorus. Heavy.com’s motley crew of experts is here to tell you, the public, what to expect Sunday night on VERSUS.
Lightweight Championship bout: Jamie Varner (c) vs. Ben Henderson (ic)
Brett Jones: Varner’s boxing should give him the advantage while the fight stays standing. Henderson will surely score with his kicks, though I feel that Varner will ultimately use those kicks to his advantage, turning them into a means by which to take Henderson down. As we saw against Donald Cerrone, Henderson is incredibly tough on the ground, but Cerrone and Varner present very different styles on the ground. Varner will look to grind Henderson out as opposed to trying to submit him. We know that Henderson can fight back against an onslaught, but we have yet to see him deal with a stifling offense. I think that strategy will be quite effective. Varner via unanimous decision
Spencer Kyte: In the span that Varner was on the shelf recovering from his various injuries, Henderson has rattled off wins over Anthony Njokuani, Shane Roller and Varner’s nemesis Donald Cerrone. Each of those wins came in a different fashion – submission, TKO and hard-fought decision respectively. Between Varner’s ring rust and Henderson non-stop motor and constantly improving all-around game, “Smooth” earns the nod with a third round TKO.
Jonathan Snowden: If their respective fights with Donald Cerrone are any indication, this should be a tremendous battle. Both won fight of the night in close decisions over Cerrone and seem incredibly evenly matched here. till, there was something about Henderson’s fight with “the Cowboy” that gave me pause. He seemed perpetualy on the verge of disaster and over twenty five minutes in the cage with Varner, that lack of discipline will cost him. Varner, TKO, Round 4
Heavy.com pick: Jamie Varner
Featherweight bout: Urijah Faber vs. Raphael Assuncao
Brett Jones: Assuncao was one of a handful of Featherweights I was still waiting to see enter WEC, but now that’s he’s arrived I can’t help but feel a small amount of disappointment. To be fair, a lot of that is because I had lofty expectations for Assuncao. Though his wins haven’t been the dominant jiu jitsu clinics I had expected, it’s not as if he’s lost since coming to WEC. Still, I look back on victories over Joe Lauzon and Jorge Masvidal and I can’t help but scratch my head when Assuncao goes to a decision with Jameel Massouh and Yves Jabouin. Faber is not only a step up from those fighters, but he’ll be the toughest opponent for Assuncao to date. Further, Faber has never been forced to submit in his career, beating the likes of Bibiano Fernandes and Jeff Curran. As good as Assuncao is on the ground, I don’t think he’ll be the first to make Faber tap out. Faber will probably look to keep the fight standing, though a slam or two wouldn’t be out of the question. Faber via unanimous decision.
Spencer Kyte: Faber is the poster boy for the WEC and this fight will take place in his backyard, making Raphael Assuncao a huge villian in the eyes of the crowd. For all the adjectives we can heap upon “The California Kid,” he’s 2-2 in the last two years and both wins came over Jens Pulver. I love me some Jens Pulver, but Assuncao is more Mike Brown than Jens Pulver. Sometimes, you just get a feeling, and this is one of those times for me. Assuncao by TKO, Round 2.
Jonathan Snowden: Faber is one of the most dynamic fighters to come into the sport in the last decade, a throwback to fighters like Rumina Sato and Frank Shamrock who did everything they could to wow the crowd. Assuncao is a great fighter, a ground specialist who could potentially give Urijah a lot of problems. It’s a bold move for the California Kid to take this fight. He assumes he can dictate where the fight takes place and stay out of bad positions. I have to trust he’s right. Faber, Decision.
Heavy.com pick: Urijah Faber
Lightweight bout: Dave Jansen vs. Kamal Shalorus
Brett Jones: This is a very compelling match up of undefeated wrestlers. Both men will be taking a marked step up in competition when they face each other. Shalorus holds the wrestling advantage, having represented Great Britain in freestyle wrestling in the 2004 Olympics. On the other hand, Jansen’s jiu jitsu is probably a bit better than Shalorus’. The deciding factor for me is Shalorus’ stopping power; four of his five victories have come via TKO. Jansen probably hasn’t faced anyone with Shalorus’ ground and pound, and he’s certainly not faced anyone with Shalorus’ wrestling credentials. Shalorus via TKO, round two.
Spencer Kyte: I was really impressed with Jansen in his win over “Cleat” Crunkilton, while Shalorus showed powerful, but sloppy striking in his debut domination of Will Kerr. Both are high-level wrestlers, but with the experience edge and a Team Quest pedigree, Jansen has the edge in my books to ride out a decision.
Jonathan Snowden: Botter and I had the chance to interview these guys for the Houston Chronicle and I was impressed with both. The difference here is experience and technique. I think Jansen has more of both and will be able to make Kamal pay for his undisciplined striking. Jansen, TKO, Round 2.
Heavy.com pick: Dave Jansen
Featherweight bout: Mike Brown vs. Anthony Morrison
Brett Jones: This is Mike Brown’s fight to lose, and I don’t think that will happen unless he makes a tremendous mental error. As Bloody Elbow’s Luke Thomas pointed out, Morrison is extremely powerful with a very good wrestling base, but his jiu jitsu game is deficient. Considering that of Brown’s five career losses, four have come via submission, Morrison is likely to find himself at a loss against the former WEC Featherweight Champion. Brown via Submission (rear naked choke), round one.
Spencer Kyte: Mike Brown eats “Cheesesteak” for dinner. I had to. TKO, Round 1. Jonathan
Snowden: This is a fight designed to get the former champion back on track. He should have no problem with Johnson and the trick will be what to do with him while Faber is busy challenging Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title later this year. Brown, Submission, Round 1.
Heavy.com pick: Mike Brown
Featherweight bout: Mackens Semerzier vs. Deividas Taurosevicius
Brett Jones: Despite Semerzier’s stunning upset, not only beating Wagney Fabiano but forcing him to submit, it’s difficult for me to say how he stacks up. I have to pick Taurosevicius in this one, with the caveat that Semerzier may prove that he is the real deal. Right now, however, Taurosevicius has too much experience against too high a caliber of fighters for me to pick against him. Though, if Semerzier dispatches of Taurosevicius, it will be difficult to pick against him in the future. Taurosevicius via unanimous decision.
Spencer Kyte: The encore is often more challenging than the out-of-nowhere debut surprise, and that is what Mackens Semerzier is facing here. He’s also facing a lesser opponent than the man he beat the first time around, as Taurosevicius isn’t as dynamic a fighter as Wagnney Fabiano. Miguel Torres raves about the former Marine, and I tend to agree. Semerzier by TKO, Round 2.
Jonathan Snowden: While everyone talks about Semerzier’s upset win over Fabiano, I was more impressed with Tauroseviciusbeating Javier Vasquez. Vasquez is super tough, a veteran of the pre-TUF MMA era who is as good as anyone on the mat. I think Semerzier will be hard pressed to make lighting strike twice. Taurosevicius via unanimous decision.
Heavy.com pick: Deividas Taurosevicius