Javier Vazquez file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Anthony Njokuani vs. Maciej Jewtuszko
Undefeated Polish lightweight prospect Jewtuszko is getting just about the worst matchup possible for his WEC debut. Despite rocking a record loaded with submission wins, Jewtuszko tends to mess around a bit too much on the feet and lacks solid wrestling fundamentals -- a proverbial death knell going into his match with Njokuani.
Warts and all, Njokuani is a slick, rangy striker with just enough takedown defense to light up the likes of Jewtuszko. Unless “Irokez” shows up with significantly improved wrestling and a clear-cut grappling-only game plan, he’s going to walk right into Njokuani’s wheelhouse. “The Nigerian Nightmare” will likely never challenge for a major title, but he’ll keep racking up KO of the Night bonuses as long as fighters like Jewtuszko over-estimate their striking skills.
Javier Vazquez vs. Mackens Semerzier
The featherweight division is a dogfight nowadays, and the fact that this fight is on an undercard is proof of that. While not getting to see Vazquez take on Semerzier live borders on tragedy, it’s still a critical contenders bout and one that will decide whether the veteran or the prospect get to make a run at the gold.
There aren’t many featherweights more grizzled than Vazquez. His top-control centric style is a tough match for Semerzier. For all of Semerzier’s talent, his defensive wrestling has major issues and Vazquez has the style to expose those gaps in knowledge. Expect a more cut-and-dry version of Semerzier’s bout with Deividas Taurosevicus, as Vazquez rides out a wrestling-fueled decision win.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Dave Jansen
The fight between Lamas and Jansen will likely be a good illustration of what happens when a wrestler with minimal offense meets a wrestler with something extra to offer. Jansen is a straightforward ground-and-pound type while Lamas can match him in that department and change gears with his striking while using his wrestling to stuff takedowns.
Pace is the other problem Lamas presents for Jansen. He fights at a speed that Jansen usually looks to avoid by sticking to his methodical top-control game. That’s not a viable three-round strategy against Lamas, and it’s definitely not the approach that judges tend to reward. Look for Lamas’ superior offense to win him a nip/tuck decision.
Fredson Paixao vs. Bryan Caraway
Grappling fans of the world unite for this quality featherweight Brazilian jiu-jitsu display in the making. Both Paixao and Caraway love to get their submissions on and have no qualms about ditching the striking game altogether. Unfortunately for Caraway, he’s facing someone a fair deal better than him at his own specialty.
Whether it be from top control or the guard, Paixao has the more technical style, which allows him to hold and advance position far better than Caraway. With that said, Caraway can work a strong pace on the floor and will undoubtedly make life hard on Paixao -- it just won’t be enough to keep him from dropping a decision.
Danny Castillo vs. Dustin Poirier
The WEC lightweight division may not be on par with what the UFC offers at 155, but fights like this one between Castillo and Poirier are a good example of the quality WEC still brings to the table. Both Castillo and Poirier are solid wrestlers who have some extra fistic flavor to their game -- a recipe for grown violence.
While Castillo loves to chase exchanges on the feet, Poirier has shown a penchant for pulling off nifty submissions from the guard. The difference is that Poirier is much better in his second dimension than Castillo is in his. As long as Poirier has resolved the iffy conditioning he showed in early fights, he should be able to ensnare Castillo in something nasty come crunch time.
Follow Tomas Rios’ ongoing quest against Sinestro on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tomas_Rios