Punch Drunk Preview: WEC 51

The Mongolian Wolf
WEC 51
comes hot on the heels of last weekend’s UFC 119 event in Indianapolis.

A rare Friday night fight card for the younger brother of the Zuffa Family, the dynamos of World Extreme Cagefighting hit Broomfield, Colorado with a first-rate lineup.

Headlined by featherweight champion Jose Aldo defending his belt against former Ultimate Fighter finalist Manny Gamburyan and featuring the long-awaited rematch between lightweight contenders Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone, this event is sure to deliver the high-intensity action we’ve come to expect from the WEC.

Demetrious Johnson (5-1-0) vs. Nick Pace (5-0-0)

Here’s how talented Demetrious Johnson is: “Mighty Mouse” went three hard rounds with bantamweight contender Brad Pickett in his WEC debut back in April, despite the fact that at 5’3”, he’s far better suited to be competing in the often discussed flyweight division that has yet to materialize.

The Matt Hume trainee has energy to spare, solid wrestling and earned his way to the biggest stage with a string of submissions and a head kick knockout. Johnson is a serious talent who will be tested fighting above his head, but that just makes his performances all the more impressive.

Pace steps into the WEC cage for the first time on a five-fight winning streak from the Ring of Combat circuit in New Jersey where Frankie Edgar and the Jersey-based Miller Brothers, Jim and Dan, first got their starts.

He trains alongside Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good and had a highlight reel knockout last season with Bjorn Rebney’s organization. Pace has shown a good mix of skills and the stamina to survive a difficult battle, earning two decisions amongst his five career victories.

Antonio Banuelos (17-6-0) vs. Chad George (11-5-0)

Call this the “Victims of Scott Jorgensen” battle, as each man enters off a loss to the bantamweight title contender.

Banuelos has actually split a pair of meetings with Jorgensen, winning their first encounter by split decision before dropping a unanimous verdict at the WEC pay-per-view in April. The John Hackleman trainee has serious power and one of the best moustaches in the business.

While Banuelos has gone the distance in both his meetings with Jorgensen, George wasn’t so lucky. “The Savage” shot in for an early takedown and was stuffed. What followed might end up winning Submission of the Year.

Jorgensen wrenched in a guillotine and proceeded to lift George up off the ground and walk him back into the cage for the submission win. All of that happened in just 31 seconds.

As the division continues to gain depth, wins are critical and both of these tough 135s need a victory. Looking at two losses in a row is something no one on the WEC roster wants to be faced with, Banuelos and George included.

Tyler Toner (10-1-0) vs. Diego Nunes (14-1-0)

Both these guys are legit contenders in the 145-pound division, but they also present one of the most unintentionally funny fight pairs around in my opinion.

Toner looks like an accountant – receding hairline, pasty white skin, nothing overly fearsome or dangerous looking about him – while Nunes has what my wife likes to call “Little Boy Hair,” a heavy part down one side with everything else swept across his forehead. The Nova Unaio product looks 14 from the neck up.

That said, this isn’t an aesthetic battle, but rather a bout that will help sort out the list of contenders in the featherweight division. Nunes has won three-of-four in the WEC, while Toner was very impressive in his debut with the company, finishing Brandon Visher halfway through the opening round.

Chris Horodecki (15-2-0) vs. Ed Ratcliff (7-2-0)

Depending on how you look at your glass, this fight either shows just how deep and talented the WEC roster is or how light a lineup they put forward for their Canadian debut in Edmonton.

Personally, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy and the fact that we’re getting a bout that was originally scheduled for the main card of WEC 49 dead in the middle of the prelims this time around is awesome.

Ratcliff pulled out of this pairing late with an injury in June, leaving Horodecki to essentially have live sparring practice against Danny Downes, a tough kid in his own right from the Duke Roufus camp who simply wasn’t able to compete on 48 hours notice. It was a nice bounce-back victory for the former IFL star after having been iced by Anthony Njokuani in his WEC debut.

The Chicago-born, San Diego-based Ratcliff was last seen being submitted by Donald Cerrone in the third round of their foul-filled battle at WEC 45. An explosive and extremely quick competitor, Ratcliff is best when he’s able to remain standing. With Horodecki’s kickboxing pedigree, that should be the case with this one.

With Ben Henderson having beaten everyone at the top of the division once before, there is room for a new name to quickly rise up the ranks. The winner here should take a big step in that direction.

Mike Brown (23-6-0) vs. Cole Province (6-1-0)

It feels very weird talking about a Mike Brown fight on the undercard of this event considering that (1) the last man he faced is fighting for the featherweight title in the main event on the strength of beating Brown and (2) this time last year, Brown was “The Man” in this division.

Just under eleven months ago, Brown dropped the featherweight title to Jose Aldo, and while he rebounded with a quick win over Anthony Morrison, his knockout loss to Manny Gamburyan knocked him from main card consideration and put him amongst the many needing a quality win to show they still belong.

After a one-fight hiatus from the WEC, Cole Province returns to challenge the former champion. Unbeaten when he first entered the organization almost two years ago, Province dropped a decision to Diego Nunes, then tested positive for a banned substance after his bout with Fredson Paixao. Just like Brown, he too is looking to re-establish himself in a good light with the WEC powers that be.

Tie Quan Zhang (11-0-0) vs. Jason Reinhardt (20-1-0)

After racking up eight straight wins in China’s Art of War organization and three more victories across the Pacific, “The Mongolian Wolf” makes his North American debut against unbeaten Pablo Garza

Zhang – whose name you will also see delivered as Zhang Tie Quan – is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, earning eight of his eleven victories by way of submission, all in the first round, though it should be noted Art of War uses the old Pride structure of one ten-minute and one five-minute round.

Unbeaten in nine pro bouts, Garza was last seen losing to GSP’s top pick Michael Johnson in the elimination round of TUF 12. He’s earned six submission stoppages through nine bouts, but comes in on short notice to face an opponent who holds the key to Zuffa’s aggressive expansion into the Chinese market.

While it’s not quite the squash match it would have been with Jason Reinhardt, Garza is in a tough position opposite the debuting Zhang.