With the recent removal of the Josh Grispi – Eric Koch contest from this event, you can pretty much call this WEC 52: Team Alpha Male. The top three fights on the card feature members of the Sacramento, California-based outfit, including the debut of team leader Urijah Faber in the 135-pound bantamweight division.
The penultimate offering from the WEC will help shake out the standings of the bantamweight and featherweight divisions before the two weight classes officially become a part of the UFC. While who will stand as the final champions of those two divisions will be determined in December, this event will give a number of fighters a chance to earn their place in the UFC.
Some will make it, some will not, but the prospect of competing on the biggest stage in the sport could push the ten pairs of fighters competing here tonight to give a little extra. Considering the WEC always delivers top-notch events, the merger could make this show an under-the-radar offering on a Thursday night.
Yves Jabouin (14-6-0) vs. Brandon Visher (13-1-0)
The opening fight of the night is either an introduction to a new talent or a pair of fighters battling for one more opportunity. Since we’ve seen both Jabouin and Visher before, you know where this one falls.
Jabouin has looked pretty damn good over two fights with the WEC. The problem is that his meetings with Mark Hominick and Raphael Assuncao both ended in losses, and so the talented Canadian featherweight is fighting for his future here tonight.
Though he’s split a pair of bouts under the WEC banner, Visher too is in a win-or-else predicament here. His debut victory over Courtney Buck was impressive enough, but Tyler Toner dominated the Hawaiian last time out.
Now that WEC alums will be getting a pay raise in the UFC, you can be sure the company is only going to be keeping the very best their new ranks have to offer. One of these guys will not be making the move to the Octagon.
Cub Swanson (14-4-0) vs. Mackens Semerzier (7-2-0)
What was said above could potentially apply here as well, though both Swanson and Semerzier are young, talented and a little higher up on the depth chart than Jabouin and Visher. That said, you gotta win and neither of these two talents has done enough of that as of late.
Semerzier shocked everyone in his debut, catching Wagnney Fabiano in a triangle choke to immediately make him a fighter to keep an eye on in the organization. Since then, the Miguel Torres trainee has dropped back-to-back bouts to veterans Javier Vazquez and Deividas Taurosevicius. Three-straight losses is almost always followed by a pink slip, no matter who you choked out in your debut.
When you’re best remembered for being on the receiving end of a Jose Aldo double flying knee, you know you haven’t had enough positives in the cage. That is the story for Swanson heading into this contest. The Greg Jackson student has the talent; he just hasn’t been able to put it together often enough to have an impact.
With both fighters having solid ground games, we could see this one turn into a standing chess match, and that kind of contest favors Swanson, the sharper striker of the two.
Clint Godfrey (11-2-0) vs. Michael McDonald (10-1-0)
This is Godfrey’s “thanks for helping us out” bout after stepping in as an injury replacement in a losing effort in his debut. Since then, the South Dakota native has had injury issues of his own, pulling out of bouts with both Renan Barao and Demetrious Johnson. He’s now healthy and ready to welcome Michael McDonald to the WEC.
Just in case clarification was needed, this is not the 58-year-old former Doobie Brother we’re talking about. This Michael McDonald is a talented, young fighter coming into the organization on a three-fight winning streak, including wins over Cole Escovedo and Manny Tapia.
I will say this, however: if I’m McDonald, I come to the cage with “Yah Mo B There” blaring on the sound system.
Zach Micklewright (7-1-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (7-1-0)
Two 7-1 fighters coming in after suffering the first loss of their career; you think this isn’t going to be a barnburner?
Micklewright was stopped by Bart Palaszewski last time out. While a loss to “Bartimus” is nothing to be ashamed of, no one likes losing and that first loss certainly stings more than others. The 24-year-old MFS fighter looked strong in his debut against Muhsin Corbbrey last December, and should come out guns blazing this time around.
The same goes for Poirier, who went the distance with Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo in his debut. Prior to that contest, Poirier hadn’t gone to the scorecards in his career, and to force Castillo to go the full 15 should not be overlooked.
Perhaps these two are both a little over their heads in the tough lightweight division, meaning a little time in the minors might serve them better than a trip to the shark tank that will be the new UFC lightweight division of the future.
Anthony Njokuani (12-4-0) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-0-0)
Scott Shelby must hate the WEC announce team. It’s hard enough to drop Njokuani on a regular basis, but last time he was in the cage, the kickboxer was paired with Maciej Jewtuszko, and now he’s set to square off with another newcomer with a hefty name, Edward Faaloloto.
Before his meeting with Shane Roller in April, Njokuani had only lost to WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and Donald Cerrone, with many people believing he had the striking skills to be a contender. He’s 0-2 since then, with both losses being quick exits against Roller and Jewtuszko. Now Njokuani is fighting for his future with the company.
Faaloloto is a student of Chris Leben who has gone 2-0 in the X-1 organization, earning a submission victory in under a minute the last time out. There isn’t a lot of information available on him, which isn’t as big a problem for me as it might be for Njokuani; I’m not the one who has to figure out how to beat him and get my ticket to the UFC.
Raphael Assuncao (15-3-0) vs. L.C. Davis (16-3-0)
This is another meeting of fighters who were recently considered contenders, as Assuncao was the first to welcome Faber back from his hand injuries after the second Mike Brown fight, while Davis was last in the cage with featherweight title challenger Josh Grispi. But both men lost those bouts, with Assuncao losing another since, which put them here, together, battling it out for a spot at the table in the 145-pound division.
Some pundits (read: this guy) thought the Brazilian was capable of upsetting “The California Kid” back at WEC 46, but man were we wrong. Faber had his way with Assuncao, submitting the BJJ stylist in the final frame. A second-straight loss at WEC 49 in Edmonton has the former Top 10 competitor in desperate need for a win.
Davis has fought some of the top 145-pound fighters in the sport, save for the most recent trio of champions under the WEC banner. He’s earned wins over Bao Quach, Javier Vazquez and Deividas Taurosevicius, as well as facing off with the aforementioned Grispi and potential UFC acquisition Michihiro Omigawa.
A strong wrestler with solid hands, Davis has the ability to grind out a win, though if he enters a takedown with his head up like he did against Grispi, Assuncao will snatch that neck too.