FIGHT! Picks: WEC 50 Cruz vs. Benavidez *UPDATED*

The WEC brings the little people back to Vegas for an exciting night of fights. Here are FIGHT!’s picks for Wednesday night’s bouts with odds courtesy of bodog. We will update this post as odds are published for each bout. We are currently 78-41 with our picks in 2010.

Dominic Cruz (-250) vs. Joseph Benavidez (+190)

These guys threw down a year ago and it’s easy to predict Cruz vs. Benavidez II playing out the same way it did the first time; Cruz out-striking and out-wrestling the shorter Benavidez en route to a decision win. But a year is an extremely long time in MMA, especially when both fighters are still works in progress.

Cruz is tall for a bantamweight, has good, fast footwork, and is hard to hit or takedown because he’s constantly switching stances, changing levels, and cutting angles. But Cruz’ constant movement obscures two gaps in his striking game that Benavidez could exploit.

The champ loves to cut the angle to the left, sometimes stepping past his opponents completely. When doing so, he almost always leans over with his hands down, leaving his chin exposed. I can’t help but think that Benavidez’ striking coach, Master Thong, has seen this tendency and worked rear uppercuts and knees to counter it.

Cruz also wastes the advantage his footwork gives him by launching slappy one and two-punch attacks when he sees an opening. I also can’t help but think that Benavidez will be quicker to shoot or clinch when Cruz advances, knowing that he’s more-than-likely going to fire off one or two punches or kicks before stepping out.

One year ago Benavidez was a bulldog of a wrestler whose ambitious striking often left him off balance. But twelve months of pad work and sparring can fix a lot of problems. The one thing that definitively tips this fight in Cruz’ favor is the fact that he out-wrestled Benavidez when wrestling was the primary weapon in Benavidez’ arsenal. Of course Cruz couldn’t maintain top control or work any effective submissions, but no one outside of Cruz’ gym expected him to take Benavidez down so easily at WEC 42.

I expect Cruz to win but I think Benavidez’ chances are much better than the odds indicate.

FIGHT! Pick: Cruz

Shane Roller (-170) vs. Anthony Pettis (+140)

With four submissions in five WEC wins, Shane Roller holds a distinct advantage when the fight hits the mat. I saw when because the three-time All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State will take Anthony Pettis down before he tests Pettis’ Roufusport muay Thai. Roller’s only WEC loss is to current Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson, and a win here could earn Roller a shot at avenging it.

FIGHT! Pick: Roller

Scott Jorgensen (-215) vs. Brad Pickett (+175)

Brad Pickett has shown good striking ability, good timing in terms of catching and countering kicks, and better takedowns than your average Englishman. Unfortunately Pickett is an absolutely average Englishman when it comes to his top game and takedown defense. Even more unfortunate for him is that is precisely what he’ll need when he steps into the cage with Scott Jorgensen.

The Utah native has been training with Urijah Faber and Joe Warren, so his wrestling for MMA is on point. He’s an aggressive striker, going toe-to-toe with Takeya Mizugaki, and has tight boxing defense. Jorgensen has a good chance if this turns into a firefight, but his chances are even better if he can get Pickett to the ground.

FIGHT! Pick: Jorgensen

Chad Mendes (-275) vs. Cub Swanson (+215)

Cub Swanson has heart and smarts, pulling out a gutsy submission win over John Franchi after breaking his hand early in their fight last Nov. But no amount of heart or smarts will overcome the challenge posed by Chad Mendes.

The wrestler is a relative newcomer to the WEC but is a member of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male and is cast from the same mold as his teammates, a 145-pound fireplug who will power through opponents and smother them once on the ground.

Swanson’s stand up game us undoubtedly more sophisticated, but as we’ve seen time and time again, when it comes down to striking vs. wrestling, advantage wrestling.

FIGHT! Pick: Mendes

RECAP

Dominic Cruz (-250) vs. Joseph Benavidez (+190)
FIGHT! Pick: Cruz Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Shane Roller (-170) vs. Anthony Pettis (+140)
FIGHT! Pick: Roller Resulting Outcome:  INCORRECT

Scott Jorgensen (-215) vs. Brad Pickett (+175)
FIGHT! Pick: Jorgensen Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

Chad Mendes (-275) vs. Cub Swanson (+215)
FIGHT! Pick: Mendes Resulting Outcome:  CORRECT

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