WEC 53: Ten Things We Learned

photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa

Donald Cerrone is Putting it Together

It might have taken a little longer than we thought it would, but it looks like “Cowboy” is starting to listen to the teachings of Master Yoda, and the talented lightweight is looking more and more like another “Jackson Jedi” for his efforts.

Cerrone has always displayed a good skill set, as evidenced by his 2009 Fight of the Year with Ben Henderson, but he wasn’t putting the pieces together properly. He was too hungry, too quick, and too cocky for his own good, his rushed attack potentially costing him on a couple different occasions. Lately, however, Cerrone has corralled his collection of skills a little more, taking a more measured approach, and it has paid off.

After thoroughly dominating Jamie Varner in their rematch this past September, Cerrone took advantage of a Chris Horodecki mistake (more on that in a second) to submit the Canadian in the second round of their meeting on Thursday.

While securing the win on the ground was far from a surprise, the poise and patience the 27-year-old lightweight exhibit was impressive, at least to me. He switched from an omoplata to a triangle, and while it wasn’t properly secured at first, Cerrone continued to adjust and work the hold, eventually forcing Horodecki to tap.

He’s going to be a star in the UFC because his swagger is highly marketable and polarizing. Now that he appears to be putting it all together, Cerrone may have increased his chances for crossover success in the process.

A Study in Stalled Development

During the glory days of the IFL (if there was such a thing, at least), Chris Horodecki was one of the biggest stars of the organization and one of the brightest prospects in the sport.

Three years after being upset by Ryan Schultz in the IFL World Grand Prix finals, Horodecki is a 23-year-old in need of a comeback.

While injuries played a part in the London, Ontario native being out of the cage for more than a year between April 2008 and June 2009, Horodecki hasn’t continued his development in the cage the way you would have expected when he first burst onto the scene. There is still time for “The Polish Hammer” to put it all together and start to excel again, but right now it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.

For starters, a drop in weight is required. Horodecki simply cannot compete with the elite at 155 and has the look of someone who could make 145 without an issue, and possibly even 135. Even more telling of his stalled development was the decision to bring the fight with Cerrone to the ground, despite being greatly outmatched in the grappling department.

While I appreciate the gunslinger mentality and the “I’ll beat you at your own game” machismo, it only works when you actually beat the other guy at his own game. Getting tapped out by a triangle just shows that you’ve stalled and need a jump-start if you’re going to do anything in the UFC, if you make the trip to begin with.

Kamal Shalorus: The Epitome of Why I Hate Fans Who Boo Grappling

What happens when you take a world-class wrestler, give him heavy hands and put him in front of an audience with little-to-no appreciation of his primary skill?

Answer: you get Kamal Shalorus and his continually frustrating fights.

Instead of using his incredible takedowns and outstanding top control, Shalorus eschewed his bread-and-butter in exchange for exchanging with Bart Palaszewski, and it nearly cost him the bout. After dominating the first round, primarily through his grappling prowess, “The Prince of Persia” spent the next two rounds standing, in part because of the quick cat-calls that came from the Glendale audience. “Bartimus” bounced back to make it a close fight, and almost stole the victory from an exhausted Shalorus in the process.

While I understand the desire to put on a good show for the audience, there should be some reciprocity there too. I wish more fans could show an appreciation and understanding of the ground game, instead of booing the second a fight hits the canvas and wanting every fight to be 15-minutes of technique-free brawling. For those who questioned whether wrestling was taking the martial arts out of mixed martial arts, where is the artistry in winging wild haymakers from the hip until you’re exhausted?

No Merger For Former Champion Varner

Nothing has been officially announced, but you would have to think that a 0-3-1 record in your last four fights isn’t the way to convince the new bosses that you’d be a strong addition to the deepest division in the organization.

Former lightweight champion Jamie Varner was submitted by Shane Roller in the opening round of their undercard contest on Thursday, and the loss will most likely mean that the Arizona Combat Sports product will be plying his trade elsewhere in the New Year. That is a far cry from what would have happened if a merger like this materialized two years go.

At that time, Varner was the WEC lightweight champion and one of the best potential “bad guys” around; a fighter who was disliked by a lot of people for a lot of different reasons who could do well for himself if he followed the Koscheck program.

Instead, the merging of the organizations comes as the former champion is in the midst of a four-fight winless streak. Not a good way to end the year.

Thanks for the Memories

I’m genuinely sad to see the WEC go, despite the fact that the elite of the organization will be making their way to the bigger stage and enjoying everything that goes along with it.

Over the last three years, the WEC has been the home of the best action, best fights, more exciting fighters and everything that I adore about this sport. Not that the UFC or Strikeforce haven’t had their moments, but the blue-canvassed cage routinely delivered compelling action and emerging stars, and they did it all on free television too.

Instead of editorializing the successes and failures of the company or opining about what could have been, I’d just like to say “thanks for the memories” and leave it at that.

Check out our complete coverage guide to WEC 53.

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