Zuffa’s little blue cage makes big splashes every time it hits airwaves on Versus. As a dessert to UFC 101, WEC 42 rolls out the best lower weight fighters in the world at The Rogue Joint at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, Nevada Sunday night. Here are five things to watch for on fight night:
The Once and Probably Future King
Brian Bowles has come to fight ever since he arrived in the WEC in 2007. He’s stopped four top-10 bantamweights in four fights with his combination of wrestling, submission savvy and natural knockout power. But for all of Bowles’ virtues, he is 7-0 to Torres’ 37-1 official record. The experience gap is vast, but Bowles has handled that before when disposing of his WEC competition.
Should Torres handle Bowles’ wrestling well, it patches up the last suspected hole in his game. If Bowles can employ it successfully, it may be enough to snatch the title from one of the pound-for-pound best in the sport.
Bantamweights Joseph Benavidez and Dominick Cruz are on deck. WEC general manager Reed Harris has gone on record saying the winner of this bout is the number one contender.
Benavidez last competed against former WEC featherweight title challenger Jeff Curran, dominating the more experienced fighter for 15 minutes. While Benavidez has been built, Cruz had a rough entry into the WEC; his first bout was against then-featherweight champion Urijah Faber—Benavidez’s training partner and coach—who submitted him in less than two minutes. After dropping down to his proper weight of 135-pounds, Cruz has won four in a row and wants to make a name for himself.
Cruz must be able to handle Benavidez’s stifling wrestling while sticking to combinations and movement standing to shut down Benavidez’s unorthodox stand-up.
Javier Vasquez was a victim of his time—a small fighter with no place to fight for a living if at all. Just as North American MMA started to open up lighter weight classes, the head of Millennia Jiu-Jistu retired due to injuries. Healthy again, he signed to fight L.C. Davis at Affliction: Trilogy. The promotion’s demise bumped the two over to the WEC.
Davis, an IFL veteran, was an early favorite in Sengoku’s featherweight tournament but was dropped out by eventual runner-up Michihiro Omigawa. He brings wrestling and athleticism against Vasquez’s aggressive jiu-jitsu game. However, the Vasquez’s real challenge is ring rust: cardio, gamesmanship and recent experience.
Best of the Rest?
Jeff Curran is on a three-fight losing streak but two of those losses have come to champions Urijah Faber and Mike Thomas Brown. Against Takeya Mizugaki, he battles an incredible warrior that pushed bantamweight champion Miguel Torres to five rounds for the first time in his WEC reign. The stand-up battle didn’t say anything about Mizugaki on the mat, though, and that’s where Curran excels.
Curran desperately needs to avoid drowning in the WEC’s shark tank. Mizugaki wants to capitalize on his breakout performance by taking out the respected veteran. If he wants to do that, he must have his wrestling sharp to keep the bout standing against the professional boxer and controlling jiu-jitsu player.
Leonard Garcia was victimized in his last bout against champion Mike Brown. It was an emphatic performance for Brown, forcing Garcia to tap to an arm-triangle after knocking him down with a pulverizing punch in under two minutes.
With some UFC name value and Greg Jackson pedigree, Garcia still has title luster left. He must maintain it by refusing to drop a second consecutive bout when he takes on Jameel Massouh. If he does it fast and vicious the way he stormed into the WEC, he can send Massouh home with two straight defeats while getting his fight shown on TV.
Catch up with the rest of our WEC 42 coverage:
FIGHT! Fans: Who is your underdog pick for WEC 42?