Sunday, January 10, 2010

WEC 46: Varner vs. Henderson-- Main Card Preview

There is some great news for Canadian MMA fans this weekend. "The Score," a cable sports channel available in most homes, will air WEC 46: Varner vs. Henderson live tonight (Sunday, January 10th) at 6:00 PM PST. This is a welcomed change because TSN, who previously owned the North-of-49 distribution rights, used to show WEC action on tape-delay-- often several days after the action had taken place.

None of this would matter, of course, if the quality of fights wasn't there at WEC 46, but it is in a big way.

Main Event: Jamie Varner -145 vs. Ben Henderson +115

WEC 46 is set to be headlined by a lightweight (LW--155lb.) title unification match featuring the two-time-defending WEC champion Jamie "C-4" Varner (16-2). He hasn't competed in nearly a year since quitting early against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at WEC 38, but still winning a controversial split-decision. Oddly enough, Varner's opponent tonight, interim title holder Benson "Smooth" Henderson (10-1) also defeated Cerrone by decision in his own last fight. What's more, oddsmakers just might favor Cerrone in a rematch against either Varner or Henderson, but I digress. Both these champs are fairly well-rounded, but Varner has the more polished grappling as well as slightly superior striking technique due to the fact he was both a Div. I college wrestler and an NCBA boxing champion. That said, Henderson is known to have a near-limitless gas tank and is extremely difficult to finish. "Smooth" also has excellent training partners, including BJ Penn, and has a few tricks of his own both standing-up and on the mat.

All that should make for a pretty thrilling potential five-rounder, especially considering that Varner, who already has somewhat of a reputation for gassing out, will likely have some cobwebs to work out in his game early on. Meaning that, by the time Varner gets rolling, it may already be to late for him to keep up with Henderson.

Co-Main Event: Urijah Faber -550 vs. Raphael Assuncao +375

The night's penultimate fight features far-and-away the biggest star in WEC history, Urijah "The California Kid" Faber (22-3). Currently ranked third in the world at featherweight (FW--145lbs.), the one-time pound-for-pound standout, Faber, has fallen on somewhat hard times of late. He has lost two of his last three fights, but his impressive resume and unquestioned stature in the sport dictate that, with a win at WEC 46, Faber will surely receive a title shot at the newly crowned champ Jose Aldo. To get there, though, he'll first have to get by FW world #6 Raphael Assuncao (14-1). It's tough to handicap the fight because their strengths on the ground are so different. It will be a match-up of Faber's ground'n'pound against Assuncao's BJJ submissions. Actually, top control may not be the safest place from which to operate for Faber given Raphael's penchant for slapping on fight-ending armbars. Likely being the superior wrestler means that Faber will have more say in where the fight goes. Should he elect to stand, though, the fight won't get much easier. While Urijah Faber's stand-up is impressively creative, that feature of his game has also gotten him into trouble in the past. Assuncao's striking may be less flashy, but his cold, rational approach may be just what is needed to neutralize Faber's erratic style.

It is tempting to see this as a set-up fight designed to get Faber another title shot, and he is the rightful favourite here, but if "The California Kid" is careless he could easily find himself tapped-out, punched-out, or out-pointed tonight en route to accomplishing little more than building up a new star to take his place.

Main Card

Faber vs. Assuncao might only look like a squash match, but this next webfooted, quacker really is a duck. There is simply no good reason to believe that world #2 FW Mike Thomas Brown (22-5) will lose to Anthony "Cheesesteak" Morrison (15-7). If he does, it will be the biggest upset MMA fans have witnessed in years. Really, though, it's understandable that former champion Brown, who holds two consecutive wins over Urijah Faber, would be given a build-up fight after getting outclassed and (T)KO'ed in his most recent fight with current FW king Jose Aldo. Regardless of that performance, Brown is still a powerful, powerful man for any size and possibly one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in the game today. That's not even mentioning Brown's underrated submissions, which account for more than half of his victories.

Meanwhile, "Cheesesteak" has a fairly mediocre record, but solid wins over the likes of Alvin Robinson and Micah Miller. Anything can happen, of course, but taking on Brown is quite a lot to ask from a guy making his Zuffa debut.

Mackens Semerzier -140 vs. Deividas Taurosevicius +110

This match features the return of Mackens Semerzier (5-0) whose triangle submission victory over legit 145lb. contender Wagney Fabiano qualifies as the biggest gambling upset of 2009. This bout against a solid career journeyman and stutterer's nightmare Devidas Taurosevicius (11-3) should tell us whether Semerizier's now-legendary win was only a flash in the pan or a sign of bigger things to come.

Dave Jansen -200 vs. Kamal Shalorus +160

These two may be less well-known than some of the fighters on the card, but both have put in the hard miles to get where they are right now and neither wants to squander this opportunity to make a positive impression with MMA fans on live television. Dave Jansen (14-0), the more experienced of the two, will look to use his strong wrestling base to dictate the fight's location, but he'll be in tough against Kamal "Prince of Persia" Shalorous (5-0-1) who can unleash devastating strikes from anywhere at anytime.

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