This year the WEC replaces the UFC at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. The main event features Brian Bowles defending his bantamweight title for the first time against Dominick Cruz. This card also features WEC poster boys Miguel Torres and Jens Pulver. There are a lot of other interesting fights on the card so let's break it down:
Brian Bowles vs Dominick Cruz:
Bowles is 8-0 with all eight wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with heavy hands and solid boxing. He has beaten some of the best in his division over his time in the WEC even before his utterly shocking destruction of then champion (and pound for pound great) Miguel Torres.
Cruz is 14-1 with six wins by decision. He is also a wrestler with good boxing though his overall grappling isn't quite as advanced as Bowles. He was thrown into the fire in the WEC fighting for the featherweight title in his first fight losing badly to Urijah Faber. However, since then he has been on a tear and has looked solid if unspectacular.
Truthfully this is a very tough fight to call given how similar these fighters are. I'm tempted to say that Bowles has the advantage on the ground and more power which will set him apart in this fight. I'm picking Bowles to win via submission in the third round.
Miguel Torres vs Joseph Benavidez:
Torres is 37-2 with 31 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter who loves to strike with a strong muay thai game. He has fought some of the best in the world since migrating to the WEC and has recently started training with the renowned Team Sityodtong.
Benavidez is 11-1 with nine wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with some striking. He has fought some tough opponents since moving to the WEC but does not have the background Torres does. He trains with WEC poster boy Urijah Faber.
It's funny how you'll often see two fighter fight each other on the same card as the two guys who last beat them face off as well. This is the case here as Torres looks to bounce back from an embarrassing KO to Bowles and Benavidez looks to start a winning streak after bouncing back from his tough decision loss to Cruz.
Torres is far and away the more well rounded fighter. His striking is light years ahead of Benavidez and will only be helped from the tutelage from Mark Dellagrotte. However, he should be worried about Benavidez's wrestling even though Torres' jiu jitsu is better.
Torres, simply put, is the better fighter but I'm not sure he has the stuff to put Benavidez away. I'm picking Torres by decision.
Jens Pulver vs Javier Vazquez:
Pulver is 22-12-1 with 16 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with wrestling. He has fought the best in the world at two weight classes.
Vazquez is 13-4 with nine wins by stoppage. He is a grappler. He has fought some name opponents but no one outstanding.
This is your classic grappler vs striker match up. The question in this fight is whether Vazquez can get the fight to the mat but Pulver is no pushover. Both fighters need this win badly since Pulver has lost four in a row and Vazquez has lost two so motivation shouldn't be a factor.
Honestly Pulver has looked washed up in his last few fights and I'm not sure he has what it takes anymore. I'm not really sold on this pick but I'm cautiously taking Vazquez by submission in the second round.
Deividas Taurosevičius vs LC Davis:
Taurosevičius is 12-3 with eight wins by submission. He is jiu jitsu fighter with wins over some notable talent.
Davis is 15-2 with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with some striking. He has also fought some tough fighters.
Both fighters are looking to take that next step in the WEC and win here would be big. I think Davis has the advantage with his wrestling background and should have the ability to keep the fight off the mat. I think this will be a grind it out win for Davis by decision.
Bart Palaszewski vs Karen Darabedyan:
Palaszewski is 31-13 with 23 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some grappling. He has a ton of experience and has fought some very tough guys but has had a very up and down ride in the WEC.
Darabedyan is 9-1 with four wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker but does have a grappling background as well. He does not have the same experience as Palaszewski but is coming off a huge win in his WEC debut vs former champ Rob McCullough.
This fight may not win fight of the night but it certainly wins for toughest combination of names to spell. This should turn into a very interesting stand up fight. This is a very tough fight to pick but I'm going to go out on a limb and pick the upstart to win. I'm picking Darabedyan by decision.
Scott Jorgensen vs Chad George:
Jorgensen definitely has the experience edge here. Both fighter are strong grapplers but I think Jorgensen is better. I'm picking Jorgensen to win by submission in the first round.
Chad Mendes vs Erik Koch:
This is a very tough fight to call. Both fighters are undefeated though this will be Mendes' first test in the WEC. But he does come out of Urijah Faber's camp so he trains with tough guys every day. I'm going to take a shot in the dark and pick Koch by decision.
Danny Castillo vs Anthony Pettis:
Another tough fight to call but I like Castillo's experience and pedigree here. I'm picking him to win by decision.
Leonard Garcia vs George Roop:
Both guys are UFC cast offs (but for different reasons). Roop has never beaten anyone of note and Garcia can be quite a handful. I'm picking Garcia by submission in the first round.
Fredson Paixao vs Courtney Buck:
Paixao has had a rough start to his WEC career but I think that ends here. This will be a nice grappler vs striker match up with Paixao playing the grappler. I think he will grind out a tough decision victory.
Ricardo Lamas vs Bendy Casimir:
Casimir has a lot more experience though not against almost anyone has ever heard of. He looks to be the better jiu jitsu artist while Lamas has the wrestling pedigree. Your guess is as good as mine as to who's the better striker. I think Lamas will ride top control and ground and pound to a decision victory.