Joseph Benavidez file photo: Sherdog.com
The favorite sport of Norman Mailer’s ghost brought serious game in the form of WEC 50 on Wednesday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. As usual, the post-fight afterglow calls for some beard-tastic matchmaking, and I’m the one to keep it extra grizzled.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m sick and tired of the WEC not employing a flyweight division, especially when a match between Benavidez and Johnson would be the perfect debut for this weight class. There are plenty of great flyweights out there for the taking, but using a couple of homegrown fighters to get the division off the ground seems like an easy sell.
In Benavidez’s two bouts with Dominick Cruz and in Johnson’s match with Brad Pickett, their talent was every bit as obvious as the massive size disparity with which they deal as bantamweights. Giving them the opportunity to cut an extra 10 pounds and show what they can do against someone their own size would serve up a guaranteed “Fight of the Night” candidate.
As long as Johnson beats Clint Godfrey -- and he should -- this looks like the right move for the WEC at a time when its lightweight division is clearly running out of steam. More importantly, a long-ignored weight class would finally overcome the biggest obstacle in its long, winding road to mainstream MMA fans: acceptance by a Zuffa promotion.
Chad Mendes vs. Javier Vazquez
Just about anyone who comes out of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male camp will have a ton of hype attached to his name, and Mendes is certainly no different. An elite NCAA wrestler who has translated those skills to MMA in short order, all he needs to show now is that he can create offense from the top control he so easily gains.
Vazquez is just the guy to put him in there against. If Mendes cannot get any real offense going, “Showtime” will outclass him on the ground. Long known for his brilliant grappling skills, Vazquez has developed solid striking chops to match and, in all honesty, should be rocking a 4-0 record in the WEC, rather than the mediocre 2-2 mark incompetent judges handed him.
Vazquez deserves a high-profile main card slot as much as anyone and, unlike Cub Swanson, has the technical Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills to keep Mendes from pulling off a Mark Coleman special. Mendes can no longer be coddled, and he needs to prove that wrestling is not the only skill he brings to the table.
Brad Pickett vs. Damacio Page
Contrived as Pickett’s “One Punch” gimmick may be, it’s impossible not to appreciate the way he fights. All three of his WEC bouts have been a pleasure to watch, and a tilt with Page would make “The Expendables” look like a “Care Bears” spinoff.
Manliness would be on the agenda for every second of this duel, as both fighters’ willingness to unload haymakers and get into scrambles worthy of The Flash makes for a tantalizing style clash. Considering Page and Pickett’s only WEC losses have come to bantamweight elites Brian Bowles and Scott Jorgensen, respectively, investing in building a contender out of one of them seems like a fine idea.
Simply put, when Page can get through a training camp without sustaining some sort of injury, he’s one of the only bantamweights around who’s willing to fight at the sadomasochistic pace for which Pickett has become known. Besides, anytime one can match up a guy nicknamed “The Angel of Death” against someone with the genes of a bare-knuckle boxer, one has to do it.
Cheap Shots & Quick Thoughts
Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen: An absolute no-brainer for the WEC, regardless of Urijah Faber’s popularity. Imagine an even more competitive version of Cruz’s rematch with Benavidez, and that’s the kind of awesome potential this fight holds.
Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis: The WEC needs to break up the lightweight title trinity of Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner before the division turns into a redundant wreck. The prodigiously gifted Pettis possesses charisma, style and skill to spare and would bring something new to a division desperate for new faces.
Bart Palaszewski vs. Maciej Jewtuszko: Rocking Anthony Njokuani’s universe with a spinning back elbow should be plenty to get Jewtuszko a main card return bout in the WEC. Palaszewski will stand in the pocket with him, which means violence, sweet, sweet violence.
Follow Tomas Rios and his elaborate MMA nickname rating system at www.twitter.com/Tomas_Rios.