Former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber has his mark all over WEC 52. Not only is he headlining it, but he's also bringing two of his top teammates — Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez — along with him on the night's main card. I'm going to miss seeing Faber fight on the blue mat, so here's to hoping it's a good one. Now, sit back and relax while someone who magically picked every fight correctly at UFC 121 tries to go for the repeat.
Damacio Page makes his first return to competition since WEC 43 in October of last year. Page has been sidelined by injury and was twice forced to pull out of fights. Fights with Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 45 and Antonio Banuelos at WEC 48 were each scrapped, so ring rust could play a factor here.
Conversely, Demetrious Johnson is coming off a very quick turnaround from his last fight. Johnson beat out Nick Pace for a decision win at WEC 51 on Sept. 30, giving him only 42 days between fights. Not exactly 'The Ultimate Fighter' house, but certainly not ideal. Eddie Wineland was Page's original opponent until being forced off the card to injury, giving Johnson the opportunity to do the WEC a solid while grabbing another pay day.
I like Damacio Page in this fight. I know he's had a long layoff but he was also riding an impressive two fight win streak, winning each by first round stoppage. Johnson coming into this fight on short notice means a few things. He either didn't have enough time to train and prepare for his fight or he stayed in shape, didn't get fat, and didn't have to work as hard on conditioning. We won't know until fight night. Still, I'm going with Page.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Wagnney Fabiano
Joseph Benavidez will be looking for redemption coming off his disappointing title fight loss to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz at WEC 50. The fight served as a rematch for the pair, making Cruz two up on the smaller Benavidez. In fact, Cruz is the only man to ever beat Benavidez, now boasting a record of 12-2.
Another short layoff, Benavidez is serving as an injury replacement for former champ Brian Bowels. The Team Alpha Male member and Faber cronie is always well prepared so he should have had more than enough time to have a decent camp. Fabiano also comes from a great camp with the Nogueira brothers and is coming off back to back decision wins at WEC 46 and WEC 49.
Each of these fighters have seen their fair shares of decisions, but if this fight goes three rounds it should benefit Benavidez. Benavidez is going to use his wrestling to keep this fight standing, but even if he decides to take the fight to the ground he should be able to control Fabiano with his top game. Judges tend to score fights for the guy on top, so Benavidez should win this fight if he can avoid being submitted, something no one has been able to do.
As long as Benavidez is still fighting Wagnney Fabiano and not Dominick Cruz on Saturday night, I like his chances.
Featherweight bout: Erik Koch vs. Francisco Rivera
22 year old Erik Koch makes his fourth trip to the WEC with a record of 2-1 for the promotion. After beginning his professional career three years ago, Koch already has eleven fights with a superb 10-1 record. Pretty impressive for someone so young.
Francisco Rivera is a relative unknown. Undefeated in only five professional fights, Rivera is making his WEC debut. I really don't know much about him, but after watching this quick video of him TKO-ing someone it looks like he's not all that powerful and needs to tighten up his striking. That, or his opponent can take a beating like a champ. I have to go with Koch on this one.
I guess I can't call Chad Mendes 'Mini Faber' anymore. The third Team Alpha Male member takes on a fairly tough opponent in Javier Vasquez. I say 'fairly' because while Vasquez has some solid back to back wins against Mackens Semerzier and Jens Pulver, he also had some poor performances with Deividas Taurosevičius and LC Davis. Some fans thought Javier won both fights he lost, but I'm not so sure. His inconsistency makes it hard to see which fighter is going to show up.
Chad Mendes is pretty consistent. At a perfect 8-0, Mendes has been able to learn from Urijah Faber and master his smothering style and exhaustive pace. The man has been wrestling since he was five years old, so if there is even a glimmer of Vasquez doing better in the standup Mendes should be able to quickly take the fight to the ground. Mendes has the strength to muscle out of any submission, so I'm finding it hard to see how he may lose this fight. Aside from a wacky judges' score, I think Mendes is a pretty safe bet.
Main Event - Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Urijah Faber makes his bantamweight debut at WEC 52 against Japanese striker Takeya Mizugaki. The fight was originally in the works for WEC 50 back in August but was scrapped after Faber suffered an injury. Now with a few more months to fine-tune his new lighter lifestyle Urijah Faber is looking to make the most of his first fight at 135 pounds.
While Mizugaki is certainly no slouch (currently ranked No. 6 in our rankings) I just don't see him being able to match Faber's pace. He's going to have a hard time dictating where the fight ends up, as Faber should be able to assert his will with his superior wrestling. Mizugaki also showed up to the weigh-ins wearing Crocs, unforgivable.
I see Faber taking Mizugaki down, pounding him out, and showing everyone why he should be in talks for a title shot. Seeing as Faber already has a submission victory over current bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, the rematch would make a great addition to a UFC pay-per-view event. Faber isn't -365 for nothing.