File Photo: Sherdog.com
WEC 48, the first Zuffa pay-per-view event exclusively using fighters from the lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight classes, very much made up for the subpar efforts of their larger and heavier colleagues as of late.
The main card featured a mix of quick finishes, back-and-forth wars and a clinic from one of the great new superstars of the sport, Jose Aldo.
A top-five pound-for-pound fighter, Aldo systematically destroyed former champion and hugely popular “California Kid” Urijah Faber in front of his home crowd. The only criticism Aldo has to put up with is that he could not finish the fight. The fact that Faber lasted five rounds can be explained by Aldo’s cerebral approach to slowly but steadily wearing down his opponent and Faber’s incredible fortitude.
But what’s next for Aldo, Faber and the other main card participants? Our look at WEC 48 breaks down the action of the two title fights as well as the potential No. 1 contender bout between former champion Mike Thomas Brown and Manny Gamburyan and more.
Scott Jorgensen def. Antonio Banuelos -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: In a rematch of Banuelos’ narrow decision win last June, Jorgensen avenged one of his two losses inside the WEC. Banuelos came out of the gates quicker, catching Jorgensen with a leg sweep and then dropping him with a left hook. Jorgensen got the better of his opponent in the next two rounds, though, returning the favor with two knockdowns of his own and possibly breaking Banuelos’ nose in the process. In the dying minutes, Jorgensen came close to ending the fight from back mount.
Forecast for Jorgensen: The Twisted Genetiks fighter is probably one more big win away from challenging for the title. His next bout could come against Damacio Page, the only other fighter besides Banuelos who holds a win over him inside the promotion, or against former champion Brian Bowles. Jorgensen against Brad Pickett would also guarantee fireworks in the cage.
Forecast for Banuelos: One of the most experienced fighters on the WEC’s bantamweight roster, Banuelos remains the gatekeeper for the 135-pound division. Fighters who want to move up and who could possibly face him include Chad George, Takeya Mizugaki and Brad Pickett.
Shane Roller def. Anthony Njokuani -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:07 R1
What happened: Roller rolled over the highly dangerous knockout artist Njokuani in what was arguably the most one-sided performance of the night outside of the main event. The three-time NCAA All-American wrestler showed some impressive close-quarter grappling and stuck to Njokuani like glue. After taking him down, he transitioned to half guard and mount before Njokuani gave up his back. Roller had to work a while for the rear-naked choke, but eventually he got the tap.
Forecast for Roller: Outside of Kamal Shalorus, there is nobody in the WEC lightweight division with the pure wrestling credentials of Roller. Perhaps Roller-Shalorus would be a fun matchup? Beyond that, a rematch with Benson Henderson would be intriguing, as would a showdown with former champion Jamie Varner.
Forecast for Njokuani: The heavy-handed Las Vegan is best when pitted against fellow strikers like Anthony Pettis, Ed Ratcliff or Zachary Micklewright.
Manny Gamburyan def. Mike Thomas Brown -- KO (Punches) 2:22 R1
What happened: In a fight between two powerful fighters with limited reach, “Ultimate Fighter” season five finalist Manny Gamburyan dropped Mike Thomas Brown with a short right hook counter and finished him with strikes on the ground for the unexpected win.
Forecast for Gamburyan: Manny is the best option for the WEC if they need an immediate challenger for Jose Aldo.
Forecast for Brown: Thus ends Brown’s run as a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter. Brown looked dominant in his 18th-month run in the WEC before he bumped into Aldo, but he has not looked very good since, the glorified squash match against Anthony Morrison aside. In hindsight it’s easy to point out his mistakes: Why did he not just take Gamburyan down and play it safe, attacking in Gamburyan’s guard? Has he fallen too much in love with his boxing thanks to extensive work with ATT striking coach Howard Davis Jr.? The long journey back to the top could start against the likes of L.C. Davis, Josh Grispi or Fredson Paixao.
Benson Henderson def. Donald Cerrone -- Submission (Guillotine Choke) 1:57 R1
What happened: Unlike their previous meeting that resulted in a decision, and Sherdog.com’s 2009 Fight of the Year, champion Benson Henderson took matters into his own hands from the opening bell. After a takedown attempt, he proceeded to press Cerrone against the fence and pepper him with knee strikes to the thigh and to the head. Eventually he did take the “Cowboy” down, and from the resulting scramble pulled a guillotine choke that made Cerrone tap. The fight was almost a blueprint from the undercard bout between Chad Mendes and Anthony Morrison.
Forecast for Henderson: Henderson is now 12-1 overall and 5-0 in the WEC. He has nobody left to fight in the promotion: draft him to the UFC.
Forecast for Cerrone: The “Cowboy” came up significantly shorter in his second loss to Henderson. Still only 27 years old, he has several good years left in the sport. In the short term there could be another rematch for him, this time with former champion Jamie Varner. Fights with Anthony Njokuani and George Roop could also make sense.
Jose Aldo def. Urijah Faber -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: Aldo used the first two rounds to take away the hometown favorite’s ability to move and wrestle explosively by constantly attacking Faber’s kneecap and thigh with hard leg kicks. Faber could never get within striking distance, as the elusive Aldo nailed him with crisp counter strikes. By the end of the second round, Faber was limping. The third stanza was merely practice against a stationary target for the champion, and in the fourth he tried to finish a challenger who was struggling to stand with some vicious punches and elbows from the crucifix position. Unable to get the stoppage, Aldo rode out the fifth round for the unanimous decision.
Forecast for Aldo: Three options come to mind for Aldo: defend his title against Manny Gamburyan, avenge his lone career loss against compatriot Luciano Azevedo (who would have to be brought into the WEC and likely given a couple of warm-up fights by the promotion) or move up to lightweight and challenge someone like UFC champion Frankie Edgar, a fighter with a similar walk-around weight as himself.
Forecast for Faber: Faber has a similar problem as Randy Couture, Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva. They are all too good and too beloved by the fans to hang up their gloves just yet, but not quite good enough anymore to get their hands on gold one more time. It will be Zuffa’s challenge to find Faber fights that he is interested in training for and that his legions of fans will flock to see. Norifumi Yamamoto, a rematch with Tyson Griffin or a third meeting with Mike Thomas Brown could be options down the line.