by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
World Extreme Cagefighting returns to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas tonight where featherweight champion Urijah Faber attempts to defend his belt against top ten-ranked Jeff Curran. Paulo Filho and Doug Marshall will also attempt to fend off challengers to their respective belts, and Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Jens Pulver makes his WEC debut in the 145-pound division against top contender Cub Swanson
WEC FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
URIJAH FABER VS. JEFF CURRAN
WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber defends his title against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jeff Curran. Faber has a 19-1 record and trains out of Ultimate Fitness with Dave Espinosa. Curran has a 28-8-1 record and trains out of Team Curran with Nate Mohr.
Faber comes off a submission victory over Chance Farrar at WEC 28, while Curran won a decision over WEC newcomer Stephan Ledbetter at WEC 29.
This will be Faber’s toughest test to date, as Curran is one of the better featherweights in the world. Faber has shown his immense talent in past fights, dispatching his opponents within the distance and looking somewhat unstoppable in the process. Many critics have expressed that Faber has lacked quality opposition in the WEC, but that will all change when he faces Curran.
Curran has been one the better featherweights in the world for some time, but a lack of money fights in the featherweight division has forced him to fight as a lightweight, where he is at a size disadvantage. He now has a shot to prove that he is the best featherweight in North America by becoming the WEC champion.
Faber is an excellent wrestler so expect him to get the fight to the ground early and often. Curran has the advantage on the feet and Faber would be smart not to stay too long on the feet with him because the longer the fight stays on the feet, the more chance Curran has to land the big knockout punch.
Curran has excellent ground skills, most notably his defensive skills on his back and avoiding damage from strikes. He will be looking to lock on a submission if put on his back, but Faber has shown to be stubborn in getting submitted. It’s going to be an evenly matched fight, but Faber’s superior wrestling ability is ultimately going to make the difference in the fight en route to grinding out a decision.
Prediction: Urijah Faber by decision.
WEC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
PAULO FILHO VS. CHAEL SONNEN
WEC Middleweight Champion Paulo Filho defends his title against Team Quest middleweight Chael Sonnen. Filho has a 15-0 record and trains out of Team Link with Gabriel Gonzaga. Chael Sonnen has a 19-8-1 record and trains out of Team Quest with Matt Lindland.
Filho became the middleweight champion at WEC 29, stopping Joe Doerksen with strikes to claim the vacant belt. Sonnen comes off a stoppage victory over Kyacey Uscola at Sportfight 20.
Filho is considered to be one of the best middleweights in the world and matchmaking for him has become difficult with the lack of quality middleweights. Sonnen has been on a tear this year going undefeated and beating Filho would be a perfect ending to his year.
Filho is an excellent ground fighter with great submission skills and ground control. In his WEC debut, he demonstrated improved striking as he finished Joe Doerksen in impressive fashion. One of Sonnen’s biggest weaknesses is his submission defense, as it has failed him against top-notch grapplers in the past.
Sonnen’s strategy will be to put Filho on his back early and often, controlling the fight from top position. It could be a rather difficult task though as Filho has some good takedown defense and will be looking to do the same to Sonnen. The bigger difference between the two fighters is that Filho will look to finish the fight with a submission, while Sonnen will look to grind out a decision.
The biggest factor in the fight is which fighter will be able to control the stand-up aspects in order to get a takedown and achieve his goal of victory. Although Sonnen is a good wrestler, expect Filho to use his judo skills to take Sonnen down and control him, eventually locking on a submission.
Prediction: Paulo Filho by submission in the second round.
JENS PULVER VS. CUB SWANSON
Former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver makes his WEC debut against popular Californian featherweight Cub Swanson. Pulver has a 21-8-1 record and trains out of Miletich Fighting Systems with Spencer Fisher. Swanson has an 11-1 record and has recently been training out of Big Bear, Calif. with Joe Stevenson.
Pulver comes off a submission loss to BJ Penn at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale, while Swanson won an exciting decision over Micah Miller at WEC 28.
Always a small lightweight, Pulver now makes the move down to his natural weight class, where he is currently undefeated. Swanson is one of the brighter talents in the WEC and a win over Pulver would make him a legitimate contender for a title shot.
Pulver is one of the better strikers in the sport and will have more power now that he fights at a smaller weight class. He has solid wrestling skills, but hasn’t displayed it in his more recent fights because of his willingness to stand and trade.
On the feet, Pulver has the advantage, but Swanson is a young brawler with tons of power in his punches. On the ground, he has a slight advantage having a better-rounded ground game with a solid wrestling base and excellent submission skills.
Both fighters have already expressed their extreme dislike for one another and that just adds fuel to a fight that is guaranteed to be a barnburner. Swanson will be willing to trade with Pulver, but as soon as he feels Pulver’s power expect him to take the fight to the ground. Once on the ground, he will look to submit Pulver or pound on him depending which opportunity presents itself.
This should be an exciting fight, but Swanson should pull off the upset by imploring a smart strategy of putting Pulver on his back and controlling the fight on the ground en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Cub Swanson by decision.
WEC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
DOUG MARSHALL VS. ARIEL GANDULLA
WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Doug Marshall defends his title against Cuban judoka Ariel Gandulla. Marshall has a 6-2 record and trains out of Visalia Fight Club in California. Gandulla has a 4-0 record and trains out of American Top Team with Wilson Gouveia.
Marshall successfully defended his title at WEC 27, knocking out Justin McElfresh. Gandulla won his WEC debut at the same show, winning a close decision over Gary Padilla.
A brawler since he began his MMA career, Marshall has now polished his striking skills, giving him more precise powerful punches making him that much more dangerous. Gandulla has shown a willingness to brawl, but has a good ground game being a black belt in Judo.
Marshall has a distinct advantage on the feet, being a more polished striker and having that killer instinct, which Gandulla has yet to show. In his WEC debut, Gandulla had Padilla hurt on several occasions, but he never went in for the kill. That could be the deciding factor in the fight.
This fight won’t hit the ground. It is going to be an all out brawl between these two and that’s the kind of fight that will favor Marshall. Gandulla will land his shots, but Marshall will withstand his barrage and return fire, overwhelming Gandulla with strikes.
Prediction: Doug Marshall by TKO in the first round.
BRIAN BOWLES VS. MARCOS GALVAO
Up-and-comer Brian Bowles takes on Shooto standout Marcos Galvao. Bowles has a 4-0 record and trains out of the Hardcore Gym with Micah Miller. Galvao has a 6-1 record and trains out of Nova Uniao with Thales Leites.
Bowles submitted Charlie Valencia in his promotional debut at WEC 28, while Galvao comes off a decision victory over Kenji Osawa at Shooto “Back to Our Roots 3.”
Bowles made an impressive WEC debut, dominating Valencia both on the feet and on the ground before finishing the fight. Galvao made his name in Shooto, taking on the best bantamweights in the world. He becomes the first Shooto standout to make his WEC debut.
Bowles is a well-rounded fighter, but he has an advantage over Galvao on the feet, while Galvao’s biggest strength is his ground game. Galvao will look to implore the same efficient strategy that has made him one of the best bantamweights in the world by taking Bowles down and controlling him on the ground.
Bowles will tag Galvao with a shot or two, but Kenji Osawa was unable to hurt Galvao and Osawa is one of the better bantamweight strikers. Look for Galvao to take the fight to the ground and control Bowles with his technical jiu-jitsu en route to a decision.
Prediction: Marcos Galvao by decision.
JOHN ALESSIO VS. TODD MOORE
WEC welterweight contender John Alessio takes on the debuting Texan Todd Moore. Alessio has a 20-10 record and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Jay Hieron. Moore has a 9-0 record and trains out of Texas.
Alessio comes off a lackluster decision victory over Marcelo Brito at WEC 30, while Moore stopped Jay Coleman at Ring of Combat 14.
Alessio is working his way back up to a rematch against Carlos Condit for the welterweight tile and a win here definitely puts him in that spot. Moore is a young fighter with a lot of upside, but he faces an uphill battle against the much more experienced Alessio.
Alessio is the better-rounded fighter of the two and he has a huge experience factor over Moore. Moore is a young scrappy fighter, but the lack of experience will affect him against Alessio, as he never has fought in a big show.
Look for Alessio to get this fight on the ground early and lock on a submission en route to a rematch against Condit.
Prediction: John Alessio by submission in the first round.
ALEX KARALEXIS VS. ED RATCLIFF
Ultimate Fighter veteran Alex Karalexis faces off with the wily Ed Ratcliff. Karalexis has a 9-2 record and trains out of Cobra Kai with Marc Laimon. Ratcliff has a 5-0 record and trains out of North County Fight Club with Jason Lambert.
Karalexis comes off a decision victory over Josh Smith at WEC 28, while Ratcliff won a doctor’s stoppage over Johnny Sampaio at WEC 27.
This is one of the more intriguing fights on the card as both fighters are excellent strikers and that makes for an interesting fight. Karalexis has more experience then Ratcliff and that could play a factor, as he might better know what to do in a tough situation.
Karalexis has the advantage on the ground and that could be the deciding factor in the fight, being that both fighters are primarily strikers. Ratcliff is a wild striker with tons of power, while Karalexis is a more precise and technical striker.
Its an even match-up, but Karalexis will pull it out in the end as he will put Ratcliff on his back when he feels like the fight is getting out of his control and grind out a decision.
Prediction: Alex Karalexis by decision.
CHARLIE VALENCIA VS. IAN MCCALL
Former King of the Cage Bantamweight Champion Charlie Valencia takes on brawler Ian McCall. Valencia has an 8-3 record and trains out of Valencia Freestyle Fighting in California. McCall has a 6-0 record and trains out of No Limits with Tim Persey.
Valencia comes off a disappointing loss to Brian Bowles at WEC 28, while McCall comes off an impressive stoppage victory over Coty Wheeler at WEC 30.
Valencia was one of the better smaller fighters several years ago, but the next generation of fighters has caught up to him. McCall is one of those younger fighters that have a big upside and a win over Valencia would assure him a spot as one of the better fighters in the WEC bantamweight division.
Valencia needs to control the fight from the onset because if he lets McCall fight at his pace, he will be backpedaling for the entire fight. McCall is relentless both on the feet and on the ground.
McCall is going to push the pace of the fight and blitz Valencia from the onset until he is able to finish the fight. Look for him to dominate the fight both on the feet and on the ground en route to stopping Valencia with strikes.
Prediction: Ian McCall by TKO in the second round.
ERIC SCHAMBARI VS. BRYAN BAKER
Cobra Kai middleweight Eric Schambari takes on brute brawler Bryan Baker. Schambari has a 7-0 record and trains out of Cobra Kai with Marc Laimon. Baker has a 5-0 record and trains out of Team Wildman Vale Tudo with Thomas Denny.
Schambari comes off a decision victory over Logan Clark at WEC 29, while Baker comes off a stoppage victory over Jesse Forbes at WEC 30.
Schambari has been impressive in his WEC bouts, being able to control his opponents with his excellent ground skills. Baker is a young brawler and showed his tenacity in escaping submissions in his WEC debut.
Schambari has faced the tougher opposition and is the bigger fighter of the two. If Baker is going to win the fight, he needs to be able to catch Schambari on the feet before he is able to get the fight on the ground and in his control.
Look for Schambari to get the fight to the ground early and outwork Baker before eventually catching him in a submission as Baker tires out.
Prediction: Eric Schambari by submission in the third round.