Jamie Varner (left) file photo: WEC.tv
WEC 49 is the Mariano Rivera for a packed weekend of MMA, and you better believe it’s going to close it out proper.
Hitting us live from the Rexall Place in Edmonton and airing on Versus, the show will determine top contenders in both the lightweight and featherweight classes and also features the usual collection of quality prospects. There is a lot to keep track of on this card, so consider this the ultimate cheat sheet that will make you the smartest guy in the room full of drunken testosterone freaks.
Jake Gyllenhall is Not the Prince of Persia
Kamal Shalorus has turned into quite the fan favorite thanks to his unique blend of truly world-class freestyle wrestling and punching power unencumbered by things like technique or defense. The former will give Jamie Varner fits, but the latter could cost the “Prince of Persia” his undefeated mark.
That really is what this fight boils down to, as Shalorus can out-wrestle most anything on two legs yet would rather gamble on his unrefined, clubbing punches winning the day. It’s a tactical error that Varner’s superior boxing will not allow to go unpunished. What makes this bout interesting, however, is the very real possibility that it will be decided in the third round. If this fight comes down to the final five minutes, Varner better have the gas -- and the will -- to survive.
Return of the Mack?
Like Mark Morrison once did, it’s time for Josh Grispi to sing his comeback song and he’ll have to do it against the clubbing ground-and-pound of L.C. Davis. Besides this being a quality fight, the winner will be firmly entrenched in the featherweight title picture and it’s no secret that the WEC is hoping Grispi’s their man.
Injuries are the only reason it’s even taken this long for Grispi to get a co-feature bout, but Davis is hardly a showcase opponent. While Grispi has the more diverse offense in terms of strikes and submissions, Davis is likely the better wrestler and his ground striking is a sight to behold when he gets after it. Expecting Davis to actually use his ground-and-pound to the fullest requires some rosy shades, however. The Missouri Valley College alumnus has long been inexplicably hesitant to put his best fistic foot forward.
While Davis can probably out-wrestle Grispi -- especially since “The Fluke” is unaccustomed to fighting superior wrestlers -- he isn’t going to pull that feat off for 15 minutes solid. Given the offensive brilliance Grispi has shown fight after fight, Davis may simply be delaying the inevitable if he starts fighting not to lose instead of fighting to beat him up.
Get Up on Downes
The latest baby-faced prospect out of the Roufusport team is Danny Downes. He gets the unenviable task of making his WEC debut on less than a week’s notice against Chris Horodecki. Then again, of all the fighters in the WEC’s lightweight division, Downes couldn’t have drawn a better foil than Horodecki.
Still very much a developing fighter, Downes has shown an ability to throw strikes in high volume both at range and in the clinch. If there is one thing Horodecki has never been able to resist, it’s getting into exchanges consequences be damned. While neither fighter will ever be confused for a knockout artist, all that means is we’re likely headed for three rounds of buck wild brawling worthy of a John Woo flick.
Don’t sleep on Downes’ chances. Horodecki’s striking has long been severely overrated. By the same token, Downes doesn’t have the power or speed that usually befuddles Horodecki (see: Anthony Njokuani). As long as Horodecki doesn’t play the spoil-sport by diving for takedowns, we’re in for a fine short-notice special.
A Man Named Karen
After outclassing former WEC lightweight champion Rob McCullough, Karen Darabedyan was immediately regarded as the next title contender in the making. One improbable submission loss to Bart Palaszewski later and Darabedyan is on the prelims fighting Will Kerr.
Darabedyan is way too talented to stay on the prelims forever and will likely light up Kerr in grand fashion. However, he needs to prove that he can correct the mental errors that cost him his undefeated record. Otherwise, given the insane level of competition in the lightweight division, fans will quickly forget about the hype Darabedyan once had and move on to the next hot prospect in a heartbeat.
It’s up to Darabedyan to prove that he can drown out the naysayers and remind fan and analyst alike that he is a legit player in the WEC lightweight division. Here’s hoping that the Armenian native is more Manny Gamburyan than Karo Parisyan.
Dancing with the Bantamweight Stars
Team Bombsquad and Kimura Nova Uniao are two teams flying under almost everybody’s radar, but both have gained a well-earned reputation for producing top-shelf talent. Renan Barao of the Kimura Nova Uniao team and the Bombsquad’s Anthony Leone are living proof that their respective teams are churning out cash money prospects.
Win or lose you’re looking at two mainstays in the bantamweight class, and the winner will likely be put on the fast track to title contention. While Leone’s versatility makes him a live underdog in this fight, Barao more than lives up to his team’s long lineage of elite grapplers. It really is hard to overestimate the caliber of grappler that Nova Uniao’s branches have produced. While Barao isn’t quite at the top of the heap, he is not to be trifled with.
I need everyone’s fingers crossed for some quick main card matches because this is the prelim fight any fan wants to see.
A Bonus … Just Because
I can’t let everyone live without a fresh batch of picks, so here goes something -- maybe nothing:
• Shalorus will outlast Varner for a UD.
• Hominick outclasses Jabouin standing.
• Grispi taps out Davis late in the fight of the night.
• Horodecki just barely edges out Downes in a crackler.
• Wineland rocks the 1-2 all night on Campuzano’s dome.
• Darabedyan does terrible things to Kerr.
• Fabiano wins his bantamweight debut at Gomez’s expense.
• Koch smothers Casimir for an easy decision win.
• Assuncao wins a grappling match over Nunes.
• Caraiso pulls off a mild upset by beating Rebello.
• Barao taps Leone with something nasty.