by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
WEC Bantamweight Championship Bout:
Miguel Torres vs. Manny Tapia
WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres defends his title against former King of the Cage champion Manny Tapia. Torres comes off an exciting stoppage victory over Yoshiro Maeda at WEC 34, while Tapia won a decision victory over Antonio Banuelos at WEC 32.
These two were originally scheduled to meet at WEC 34, but a nagging knee injury forced Tapia out of the fight and for the second time he had to pull out of a scheduled title challenge. Expect this fight to be an all-out war between two of the most exciting fighters in the WEC bantamweight division.
The strategy for each fighter is simple. Tapia needs to keep the fight on the feet because that’s where he has the best shot at pulling off the upset by landing a fight ending combination. Torres on the other hand is well versed on the feet, but has a distinct advantage on the ground that he should use.
These two will go toe-to-toe for the first part of the fight, but as soon Torres gauges his chances on the feet against Tapia, he’ll take the fight to the ground and finish him off with a submission sometime in the second round.
Brian Bowles vs. Will Ribeiro
Hardcore Gym bantamweight Brian Bowles faces off with Nova Uniao fighter Will Ribeiro for a shot at the WEC bantamweight title. Bowles comes off a submission victory over Damacio Page at WEC 35, while Ribeiro won a decision over former champion Chase Beebe at WEC 34.
Bowles has been on an absolute tear since he made his WEC debut, finishing all three of his opponents within the distance. Ribeiro looked impressive on the feet in his debut against Beebe. That has vaulted him to the top of the bantamweight division.
Both fighters are fairly strong on the feet, but Ribeiro has the pedigree and technique, having trained with the Brazilian Olympic boxing team. Bowles’ safest bet will be to get the fight to the ground and work for a submission as Ribeiro’s biggest weakness is his ground game.
This is going to be a back-and-forth battle between two of the premier fighters in the bantamweight division with the winner likely getting a title shot. Expect them to go toe-to-toe for most of the fight, but as the bout wears on, Bowles will take the fight to the ground and lock on a submission late in the fight.
Wagnney Fabiano vs. Akitoshi Tamura
IFL featherweight champion Wagnney Fabiano faces off with former Shooto lightweight champion Akitoshi Tamura. Fabiano comes off a knockout victory over Shad Lierley at an IFL show in April, while Tamura comes off a submission victory over Rumina Sato at Shooto Tradition 1.
Both fighters will be making their anticipated WEC debuts, as they are seen as two of the premier featherweights in the world. Whoever comes out the winner will put himself in a good position for a possible shot at the WEC featherweight title in the near future.
Fabiano is obviously one of the better ground fighters in mixed martial arts today, having finished most of his fights by submission. Tamura has shown that he can adapt a successful game plan and fight to his opponent’s strengths, but he might want to keep this fight on the feet.
Tamura’s best chance at winning will be to sprawl and brawl, preventing Fabiano from taking the fight to the ground and locking on a submission. Although Fabiano showed that he has knockout power, Tamura is elusive enough that he can successfully pot shot his way to a decision.
Look for Fabiano to stay persistent in his takedowns and eventually get the fight to the ground after a struggle and lock on a submission midway through the fight.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Danny Martinez
Dream veteran Joseph Benavidez faces off with Rage in the Cage bantamweight champion Danny Martinez. Benavidez comes off a submission victory over Junya “Kodo” Kudo at Dream 5, while Martinez submitted Joey Marimberga at Evolution MMA.
Both fighters will be making their WEC debuts and will be looking to make an instant impact on the division with a statement in this fight. Don’t expect the fight to go the distance, as neither fighter will be holding back anything in their arsenal.
Benavidez trains with former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber and in doing so has vastly improved his overall game, especially in the submission department. Martinez seems to also be an all around fighter, but has faltered against tough competition and Benavidez will be just that.
These two will trade takedowns with a furious ground scramble ensuing, which will give Benavidez the opening he needs to lock on a submission on the overwhelmed Martinez.
Johny Hendricks vs. Justin Haskins
Team Takedown wrestler Johny Hendricks makes his WEC debut against fellow debutant Justin Haskins. Hendricks was originally scheduled to meet Alex Serdyukov, which would have been a tough task for the young fighter. Haskins will give Hendricks some early trouble, but eventually Hendricks will go back to his strong wrestling background and use that against Haskins. As the fight wears on, Hendricks will be able to get an advantageous position and finish off Haskins with strikes midway through the fight.
Light Heavyweight Bout:
Mark Munoz vs. Ricardo Barros
NCAA wrestling champion Mark Munoz faces off with Central California fighter Ricardo Barros in the last light heavyweight bout in the WEC. Munoz was forced out of an earlier scheduled fight back in September due to a knee injury, but he is 100 percent healthy going into this fight. There is a lot riding on this fight, as the winner is all but guaranteed a spot in UFC. Both fighters are inexperienced, but the difference will be Munoz’s wrestling experience, which will help him stop Barros with strikes on the ground early in the fight.
Blas Avena vs. Kevin Knabjian
Local fighting sensation Blas Avena faces off with Midwest wrestler Kevin Knabjian. Avena has improved vastly since he made his WEC debut in January of 2007, whereas Knabjian has racked up several key victories since his disastrous WEC debut against Brock Larson. The key in the fight will be which fighter can set the pace and keep the other fighter on the defensive. Once the fight hits the ground, expect Avena to lock on a submission for the win.
Diego Nunes vs. Cole Province
Brazilian submission fighter Diego Nunes makes his WEC debut against fellow debutant and Midwest fighter Cole Province. Not much is known about either fighter. That makes the fight all the more interesting because both fighters will be going with the flow of the fight, which could turn out to be exciting. The edge has to go Nunes, who has an experience advantage and a ground advantage over Province. Look for Nunes to quickly get the fight to the ground and submit Province in the opening round.
Bart Palaszewski vs. Alex Karalexis
IFL lightweight contender Bart Palaszewski makes his WEC debut against Ultimate Fighter alumnus Alex Karalexis. This fight has the potential to be an exciting stand-up battle, as both fighters have shown in the past that they prefer to fight on their feet. With that being the case, Palaszewski will have the edge as Karalexis was torn apart in his last fight on the feet against a better striker. Look for Palaszewski to gauge the distance and end the fight with a brutal combination in the second round.
Cub Swanson vs. Hiroyuki Takaya
Southern Californian standout Cub Swanson faces off with heavy-handed Shooto veteran Hiroyuki Takaya. Both fighters are coming off losses in their last WEC appearances and will be looking to get back on track in the crowded featherweight division. Swanson has the tools to win this fight as he can simply take the fight to the ground and ride out a decision, but there will be a time when both fighters are on the feet. That’s when Takaya will strike, ending the fight with a devastating combination.
Shane Roller vs. Mike Budnik
NCAA wrestling champion Shane Roller faces off with former pro inline skater Mike Budnik. Roller overcame some early trouble in his WEC debut and eventually submitted Todd Moore. Budnik looked to be on the path to defeat, but locked on a late submission for the win against Greg McIntyre. Roller will take Budnik down at will, but needs to be careful not to get caught either on the feet or the ground because Budnik will pounce on a mistake. Roller will control the action with takedowns and positioning for the decision victory.