by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com

WEC Bantamweight Title

Miguel Torres vs.
Takeya Mizugaki


In the main event of the evening, WEC bantamweight champion
Miguel Torres defends his title against Cage Force bantamweight champion Takeya
Mizugaki. Torres was originally scheduled to face off with number one contender
Brian Bowles, but a back injury forced Bowles out of the fight. Torres will be
fighting in front of his hometown of Chicago, so expect a very vocal crowd for
this fight.


Torres is considered to be one of the best pound for pound
fighters in the world and that is because he is one of the more well rounded
fighters in mixed martial arts today. He has the advantage both on the ground
and on feet with superior technique. Mizugaki’s best asset as a fighter has
been his emerging striking and knockout ability, but that could be a mute point
because of Torres significant reach advantage.


Torres would have had a much tougher go if he were still
facing Bowles, who is a better rounded fighter than Mizugaki. He still should
have a challenge in front of him. Expect Torres to test the waters on the feet
for a bit, but once he tastes some of Mizugaki’s power, he’ll look to play it
smart and get the fight to the ground where he is leagues better than Mizugaki.
Mizugaki’s best chance will be to lure Torres into a brawl much like Yoshiro
Maeda did a few fights ago and hope to catch him with a power shot. Overall,
Torres has more tools in his arsenal to finish the fight and that makes him
more likely successfully to defend his title.


Bantamweight Bout:

Jeff Curran vs.
Joseph Benavidez


Local crowd favorite Jeff Curran makes his debut at
bantamweight against Team Alpha Male wunderkind Joseph Benavidez. The winner of
this fight will be in line for a shot at the WEC bantamweight championship
sometime later this year. There is a revenge factor in this fight as Curran was
defeated by Benavidez’s teammate Urijah Faber in an earlier WEC bout.


Curran’s bread and butter is his ground game, being a
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. He isn’t too shabby on the feet either with
some crisp boxing technique. His own issue in the past has been a lack of power
in his strikes and a rather passive ground game at times. Benavidez is
decorated wrestler out of New Mexico, who has evolved to being a well rounded
fighter. He is aggressive on the feet, incorporating kicks and knees, not just
relying on punches.


Plain and simple, if Benavidez is able to dictate the pace
of the fight and impose his will on Curran, he’ll come out the victor of the
fight. Curran can be very passive at times and it has cost him some fights. He’ll
need to be aggressive and match Benavidez’s pace. He can’t simply be defensive
off his back as he needs to go for submissions to keep Benavidez on his toes.
Whoever can get into the groove right off the bat and control the pace of the
fight will win the fight.


Lightweight Bout:

Shane Roller vs.
Benson Henderson


Former NCAA wrestling champion Shane Roller faces off with
submission grappler Benson Henderson in an intriguing ground battle. Both
fighters are coming off submission victories and a win for either fighter will
propel them to front of the line for a title shot.


Neither fighter has shown to be very fond of the stand-up
game in any of their WEC fights, so expect this one to be a ground affair.
Roller has the edge is wrestling and has shown that he has a promising
submission game. Henderson will have a slight edge when it comes to submissions
and overall ground game as he showed an array of sweeps in his WEC debut.


The fight could very well come down to positioning as both
fighters might just nullify each other’s submission attack, if that’s the case
then Roller will have the advantage because of his wrestling ability. It will
be interesting to see if either fighter decides to keep the fight on the feet
as that could also make the difference in hotly contested fight.


Featherweight Bout:

Raphael Assuncao vs.
Jameel Massouh


In battle of WEC newcomers, highly touted featherweight
Raphael Assuncao faces off with Midwest prospect Jameel Massouh. This will open
the night’s televised card, so expect both fighters to go at it tooth and nail
in order to impress the millions that will be watching.


Assuncao has been considered to be one of the better
featherweights that hasn’t fought in a big show and he’ll finally get a chance
to showcase his skills. He should have the advantage on the ground, but he is
no slouch on the feet either. Massouh will be looking to keep the fight on the
feet, where he holds the edge over Assuncao with powerful and crisp striking.


Massouh needs to keep the distance and avoid getting taken
down, if he can do that then he’ll eventually be able to capitalize on a
mistake by a frustrated Assuncao. On the other hand, Assuncao needs to stay
calm and set-up the takedown with combinations. Once he gets the fight on the
ground it will be only a matter of time before he overwhelms Massouh with his
ground assault. Either way, expect these two to put on show to start off the


Lightweight Bout:

Bart Palaszewski vs.
Anthony Njokuani


Stepping in on late notice, local favorite Bart Palaszewski
takes on kickboxer Anthony Njokuani. Both fighters are coming off losses in
their last fights and need a win to stay alive in the WEC. Neither fighter is
gun shy on the feet, so expect them to trade on the feet. Njokuani is the more
technical striker, while Palaszewski is the more powerful striker of the two.
The difference in the fight will be Njokuani’s ground game, which will give him
the edge in an otherwise close fight.


Bantamweight Bout:

Dominick Cruz vs.
Ivan Lopez


San Diego based fighter Dominick Cruz faces off with Mexican
slugger Ivan Lopez. Both fighters are known for their striking ability, so
expect a total slugfest. Cruz is the more technical striker but lacks power,
while Lopez packs quite a punch on the feet. Cruz needs to keep the distance
and use his reach, while Lopez needs to turn the fight into a brawl and catch
Cruz with a shot. If Cruz gets hurt, don’t be surprised to see him take the
fight to the ground where he holds the advantage.


Featherweight Bout:

Wagnney Fabiano vs.
Fredson Paixao


In a battle of decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts,
Nova Uniao’s Wagnney Fabiano takes on Gracie trained Fredson Paixao. Don’t
expect too much work on the feet from either of these two fighters as the
ground game is their bread and butter. Paixao is coming off a nearly two-year
layoff from competition and that surely have an effect on this fight. Fabiano
is simply the better fighter in every aspect of the fight and his experience
with tough competition will give him the edge over Paixao.


Bantamweight Bout:

Eddie Wineland vs.
Rani Yahya


Former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland faces off
with submission expert Rani Yahya. Wineland has been out of the WEC for two
years and finally gets another shot on the big stage. Yahya will look to build
to another shot with a win over Wineland. Wineland has the big advantage on the
feet, while Yahya has the big advantage on the ground. Whoever is ever able to
impose their will first on the other will come out on top as both guys have a
decent chance to win.


Bantamweight Bout:

Manny Tapia vs.
Akitoshi Tamura


Former WEC bantamweight title challenger Manny Tapia takes
on former Shooto lightweight champion Akitoshi Tamura. Both fighters are coming
off losses at WEC 37 in December and need to get back on the winning track.
Tamura will have a big reach and size advantage as he will be making the drop
from featherweight to bantamweight for this fight. Tapia will need to get on
the inside on the feet, while Tamura needs to keep the distance and use his
reach advantage. If the fight hits the ground, Tamura should have the advantage
because of his submission ability.


Featherweight Bout:

Rafael Dias vs. Mike


American Top Team fighter Rafael Dias faces off with former
inline skater Mike Budnik. Budnik takes the fight on short notice and he needs
a victory as he comes off two straight losses. Dias will have the distinct
advantage on the ground, while both fighters are fairly even on the feet. The
key in the fight will be whether or not Budnik can stay out of trouble on the
ground to survive a decision, if not expect Dias to lock on a submission and
end Budnik’s run in the WEC.