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WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 10, 2011, 6:50 AM

WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis

Phoenix, Arizona

-Your hosts are Todd Harris and Stephan Bonnar and naturally they discuss that this is the last ever WEC show before the company is dissolved into the UFC, and thus jobs are on the line and the two title fights are probably the biggest and most important in WEC history. Well, they donít actually say that, but we all know itís true!

Lightweight Fight: Kamal Shalorus vs Bart Palaszewski

With the UFCís Lightweight division already probably the most loaded with talent in the whole company, it was obvious that guys like this were probably fighting for a chance to get onto the roster in 2011. Wrestler Shalorus was looking to follow up on his inexplicable draw with Jamie Varner Ė one of the biggest judging fuck-ups of 2010 Ė that had somehow allowed him to keep his unbeaten record, while Palaszewski was coming off a win at WEC 50 over Zach Micklewright.

Round One and Bart circles on the outside, but Shalorus wades in with some wild hooks that cause him to cover up. Good takedown from Shalorus puts Palaszewski on his back in guard and he starts to deliver punches to the head and body. Really good shots to the body from Shalorus. Shit, Todd Harris just mentioned that Shalorus is 38! Had no idea he was that old. Armbar attempt from Bart but Shalorus pulls free and then leans down over him to deliver some punches. Bart looks to get up but eats some more punches before Shalorus drops back into the guard. To be fair Palaszewski is doing a good job of covering up to avoid the brunt of these shots. Shalorus stands out of the guard again and delivers a hard low kick, but Bart manages to pop back to his feet only to eat a left hand. They exchange some kicks with Bart landing a couple of good ones, as Bonnar suggests he could steal the round with some good kicks. No, just, no, unless he were to knock Kamal out that is. More leg kicks from both men and thatís the round. 10-9 Shalorus, easy.

Second round and they exchange some kicks with neither man really gaining an advantage. Striking exchange continues with Shalorus really swinging for the fences. Crowd begin to boo with about three minutes remaining. Head kick glances for Palaszewski. Finally Kamal closes in for a takedown, but Bartimus manages to stuff it and weíre back to the striking exchange. Really even round thus far. Leg kicks land for both men before Shalorus decides to switch it up and hits an easy single leg to guard. Crowd boo wildly as Bart ties him up to prevent any ground-and-pound, but a few shots to the body get through. Bart uses the fence to get to his feet, but eats a combo on the way up. They break and Bart pushes forward, but slips on something and goes down before getting up to throw a head kick to end the round. 10-9 Shalorus but the crowd donít like this at all.

Third and final round and Bart pushes forward, but gets tagged by a flurry of punches to slow him down a little. Winging punches from Shalorus land glancingly. Takedown attempt follows and Palaszewski gets dumped onto his back, but this time he reverses to his feet and lands a solid knee. More exchanging and now it looks like Palaszewskiís beginning to take over a little. Single leg from Kamal puts Bart on his back again, although how he wasnít able to stuff such a slow shot Iím not sure. Two minutes to go. Kamal works into half-guard and lands with some clubbing punches. Solid elbows from the bottom from Bart. Scramble from Bart and he gives his back in the process, but manages to slip free to his feet. Weak shot is blocked by Bart and he answers with a combo ending with a good high kick. Big knee from Palaszewski forces Kamal to go for a single, but itís easily stuffed. Bart really pushing for the finish now and he backs Shalorus up, but doesnít really go for anything wild. Fight ends there. Iíd go 10-9 Bart there but it was too little, too late to win him the fight.

Judges have it a split decision somehow, but thankfully it goes 30-27 Shalorus, 29-28 Palaszewski, and 29-28 for Kamal Shalorus. At least the right man won. Not sure how youíd give that fight to Palaszewski. Pretty shoddy fight overall though as Bart never really looked comfortable in opening up until very near the end of the third round, and Shalorus seemed more content to wing crap haymakers rather than use his sick wrestling to his advantage. Onwards to the UFC for Kamal then, and onwards to, I donít know, Bellator or something for Palaszewski. Donít see Shalorus doing much in the UFC if Iím honest either.

-Quick plug for UFC on Versus 3 with Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann. Wouldnít normally mention such things but thatís a SICK fight. Go Diego go!

Lightweight Fight: Donald Cerrone vs Chris Horodecki

Why Horodecki hasnít dropped to 145lbs already is one of the biggest mysteries in MMA to me. I mean seriously, the guy is TINY at 155lbs and is clearly carrying excess bodyfat. Why give up size to guys who walk around at about 170lbs or so when you can drop and fight guys who are your own size? In fact I donít think heís really much bigger than say, Brad Pickett, so even 135lbs could be a possibility. On paper to me at least this was a gimme for Cerrone to walk into the UFC with some momentum and into some really intriguing fights. Cerrone on Horodecki Ė ďthe little bastard fights!Ē Man, Cowboy really is a fountain of charisma. And shit he just busted out the ďhellís coming with meĒ Wyatt Earp line from Tombstone. Can it get any better? Not unless heís allowed to cut Horodecki with the spurs on his boots, motherfucker.

Fight begins and both men come out throwing strikes, with Cerrone looking really aggressive. Knee to the gut from Cerrone and they clinch briefly before breaking off. Low blow lands for Cowboy and the ref calls time to give Horodecki a chance to recover. Heís fine and they restart with Cowboy using his range to avoid a combo before answering with a body kick. Good takedown from Cowboy and he gets right into mount with ease. Good escape from Horodecki though and he scrambles to his feet. One-two lands for Horodecki to counter a knee. Leg kick lands for Cerrone. Hard knee lands for Cowboy as Horodecki steps in. Leg kicks land for Horodecki but Cerrone keeps stalking forward. Heavy body kick from Cowboy. Spinning back kick misses for Horodecki. Horodecki lunges in and eats a big knee, but grabs a single leg off it and gets the takedown. Scramble from Cerrone allows him to his feet and he throws a high kick, but Horodecki manages to grab the leg to block. Another takedown follows for Horodecki but Cerrone looks active from his back and quickly reverses to his feet. Body kick from Horodecki but Cerrone answers with a takedown right into back mount, but he doesnít have time to finish things as the round ends. Cerrone stole it right at the end I think, so 10-9 Cowboy.

2nd round and Horodecki comes out throwing kicks before taking Cowboy down. Cerrone wastes no time in locking up an oma plata and then grabs the head like a crippler crossface variant, and then transitions from that into a triangle. Nice sub chaining from Cowboy. Horodecki manages to hang on in the triangle for a while, even attempting to fishhook Cerrone (!), but eventually he succumbs and taps out.

Well, Horodecki did better than I expected but once he went to the ground he was severely outmatched and Cowboy didnít need much time at all to get him out of there. Cerrone in the UFC should be a lot of fun. As for Horodecki, heís been cut by Zuffa but I think he ought to make the move to 145lbs and look to put some wins together there to get back in. He certainly has the talent I think, just needs to not be outsized all the time.

-Craig Hummer joins Urijah Faber and UFC Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez, who is very happy to see WEC in Arizona and says he looks forward to the UFC coming there. Faber, who has enough charisma to carry the interview for both men, pays tribute to the WEC as heís been fighting there since 2006, and then he pretty much calls out the Cruz-Jorgensen winner.

-History of the WEC video package follows and it even shows a ton of highlights from the pre-Zuffa days which is cool. Swick vs. Leben, baby!

WEC/UFC World Bantamweight Title: Dominick Cruz vs Scott Jorgensen

Winner here not only retains the WEC Bantamweight Title for good, but also becomes the first ever UFC Bantamweight Champion which makes it probably the biggest title fight in WEC history Iíd say. Cruz had won the belt from Brian Bowles in March and made a successful defence against Joseph Benavidez in August, while Jorgensen had won five straight fights including beating the likes of Brad Pickett and Takeya Mizugaki to earn the title shot. Despite Jorgensenís very well-rounded game, I didnít think heíd have the skills to dethrone Cruz, who thus far has looked like a very difficult puzzle to solve.

Cruz looks quite a bit bigger than Jorgensen in the staredown. First round begins and Cruz dances on the outside right away before landing a couple of punches to the head and body, leaping in before getting out before Jorgensen can counter. Beautiful combination lands for Cruz. Man is this guy slick. Like a dancing version of Machida or something. Takedown attempt from Jorgensen and he manages to grab a rear waistlock, but Cruz turns him into the clinch and backs out. Cruz begins to dance around again and lands a right hook into a thudding leg kick. Big leg kick follows up. Jorgensen comes in swinging but he just canít catch Cruz who lands with a combination of his own. Nice uppercut from Cruz as Jorgensen steps in with a right hand. Another combo lands for the champ. One minute to go and thus far Jorgensen has had nothing for him. They clinch and Jorgensen looks to muscle Cruz down, but Dominick is having none of it and breaks off before hitting another leg kick. Takedown attempt from Jorgensen and he manages to get Cruz down and take his back, but Cruz slips out and gets on top to end the round. 10-9 Dominick Cruz.

2nd round and Cruz continues to dance around before almost getting a takedown off a low kick. Jorgensen blocks it though and they back out. Cruz dances in and out with another combo. Good leg kick again from the champion. Nice step-in left hook follows. More dancing around and then Cruz hits a double leg to guard. Punches to the body land for Cruz and he works Jorgensen over from top position albeit not doing all that much damage. Jorgensen looks to use the fence to get up, and does it while avoiding a mount attempt. Cruz gets back on his bike, but then lands with a beautiful flying knee and a leg kick. Clinch from Cruz but Jorgensen muscles off to finish the round. 10-9 Cruz.

Third round begins and Dominick picks up where he left off, dancing in and out while clocking Jorgensen with combinations. Jorgensen desperately tries to walk him down, but a big straight right from the champion puts him down for a second. Jorgensen pops up, and eats another combo before Cruz stuffs a takedown. Cruz is just owning this fight. Sick right-left-leg kick combo from Cruz. Head kick follows and wobbles the challenger. Body kick finally connects for Jorgensen. Uppercut into a left hook from Cruz. Jorgensen tries to close him down but some Anderson Silva-style hands down head movement allows Cruz out. Quick exchange ends with another Cruz leg kick. Two minutes to go in the round and Jorgensen has no answer at all for this. Jorgensen comes forward but takes another right hook and then an uppercut. Another combo follows before Cruz hits a beautiful knee-tap takedown to guard. Few punches from Cruz but Jorgensen hits a reversal and almost takes the back, before Cruz slips free and pops up to his feet in ha clinch. Cruz breaks off and Jorgensen looks like heís got a bloody eye. Round ends there. Another round in the books for the champion.

Fourth round and Cruz lands with a heavy right hand from the off. Jorgensen pushes the action, but another takedown from Cruz follows to plant the challenger on his back. To do that to as good a wrestler as Jorgensen is really impressive. More ground-and-pound follows before Jorgensen uses the fence to work to his feet and separate. Clinch from Cruz but Jorgensen reverses and drives him into the fence. Good uppercut inside from the challenger. They break off and Cruz lands a heavy leg kick. Good low kick to answer from Jorgensen and he adds a jab for good measure. Cruz refuses to slow down though, getting a takedown off a combination and passing into side mount. Jorgensen looks to reverse and attempts a single leg of his own, but Cruz takes a ride and gets to his feet. SICK combo from Cruz ending in a body kick and a stiff right hand. Beautiful faked superman punch into a takedown from the champion and he ends the round on top with Jorgensen in guard. 10-9 Cruz. This is a shutout.

Fifth and final round and Cruz continues to pop Jorgensen with punches from range while Jorgensen canít seem to catch him. Very slick counter-right hand lands for the champion. Cruzís pace and footwork is something to behold even if youíre one of the fans who dislikes his style. High kick into a combo from the champion. Even when heís on the defensive Cruz is still landing combinations. This must be incredibly frustrating for Jorgensen. Takedown attempt from Jorgensen and he finally manages to hit an inside trip to put Cruz down. Dominick immediately reverses up to his feet though and separates. Superman punch into another combination from Cruz and a shot from him is successful, driving Jorgensen into the mat. Not much action on the ground this time as I guess Cruz figures he has the fight won. Seconds to go and he starts bashing at the body again. Cruzís nickname of ĎDominatorí is absolutely perfect. Less than 20 seconds on the clock and Cruz lets Jorgensen up and hits him with a flying knee into a combo to end things. 50-45 Cruz.

Post-fight Cruz gives the evil eye to Urijah Faber at ringside. Well, might as well start the build early because thatís going to be *the* Bantamweight fight for 2011. Judges all score it 50-45 for Dominick Cruz, making him both the final WEC Bantamweight Champion and the first ever UFC Bantamweight Champion. Jorgensen tried, but Cruz was in another league entirely, and thatís nothing against Jorgensen who is a genuine, tough, top ten contender, itís just that Cruz is that good, almost impossible to hit, can dance in and out and clock you with combos AND heís a threat with takedowns. Can Faber solve the riddle? Personally I think he can but weíll wait and see. I actually think the new, methodical Miguel Torres might be his toughest fight though if he can earn a title shot. Exciting days ahead at 135lbs. Oh, and I find Cruz and his style entertaining, sue me.

WEC Lightweight Title: Ben Henderson vs Anthony Pettis

Big match here as the winner was promised a shot at the UFC champion in order to unify the belts Ė something, admittedly, I didnít agree with, as after all, Carlos Condit hadnít been given a unification match with GSP when he arrived in the UFC, and with guys like George Sotiropoulos and Jim Miller around the title scene in the UFC, it seemed a little wrong for Henderson or Pettis to step right into a shot given they hadnít really proven themselves outside of the WEC bubble. I mean sure, both guys had looked impressive, especially Henderson, but only against other largely unproven fighters. Still, I was certainly excited to see the fight given the style of both men, and was picking Henderson to make another successful defence as I figured he was slightly more well-rounded.

First round gets underway and they circle around with little action in the first thirty seconds. Finally Bendo throws a body kick that lands and sends a bit of a message I guess. Leaping kick from Pettis is blocked by Hendersonís arm. Right hand from Pettis puts Henderson on the back foot a little before the crowd chant for the champion wildly. Rushing leg kick into a right hand from Henderson and he backs Pettis up before clinching. Double underhooks from Bendo and he looks to muscle Pettis off his feet. They muscle for position with Bendo landing some knees to the legs, and Pettis decides to pretend to yawn. Trip takedown puts him on his back though and he ends up seated against the cage. Sudden triangle attempt from Pettis but Henderson shrugs it off easily and stands over him to drop a couple of right hands. Pettis pops back up to his feet and comes forward with a heavy right high kick that Bendo blocks. Less than a minute to go and they exchange front kicks, with Pettis landing the better one, knocking Bendo back. Superman punch attempt from Henderson is met with a counter right, and Henderson looks a little stunned and dives for a leg. Pettis defends well, but Bendo keeps driving forward and gets the trip. Seconds to go and Bendo ends with some punches from a standing position. Close round but Iíd go 10-9 Bendo.

Round Two and Pettis pushes forward, but takes a body kick to counter a right. Leg kick from Pettis and he follows with a heavy one-two that stuns Bendo badly, before taking the back off a failed takedown attempt. Henderson looks to twist up a kimura from the standing position, but Pettis trips him down and tries his own kimura. Henderson escapes that and they come back to their feet in the clinch. Quick break and Pettis stalks forward, throwing a high kick that just misses. Exchange of punches goes Pettisís way as he lands a stiff right. Big flurry from Henderson and he goes for a single leg, but Pettis defends and breaks away. Two minutes to go and Pettis is firmly the aggressor at the minute. Body kick lands for Henderson though. Flying knee from Pettis but Henderson catches him and looks for the takedown, but Pettis defends and breaks off. One minute to go now and Pettis lands an accidental low blow. Ref Herb Dean calls time but Bendo shakes it off fast and they restart. They exchange some kicks Ė advantage, Pettis Ė and thatís the round. Close one again but this time Iíd lean towards the challenger, so itís 19-19 going into the third.

Round Three and Henderson opens with a hard leg kick. Body kick from Henderson, answered by a low kick from Pettis. Bonnar apparently agrees with me on the first two rounds which is either reassuring or worrying, I havenít decided which. Pettis stalks forward again but almost eats a heavy right hand for his troubles. Takedown from the challenger follows and as Henderson scrambles, Pettis takes his back! Beautiful transition from Pettis. Henderson stands to try to shake him off, but Pettis clings on and manages to control him. Few short punches from Pettis and heís clearly looking to set up for a choke. Henderson stands up fully now with Pettis clamped onto his back with a body triangle. Big ďBEN!Ē chant as neither man seems sure what to go for, bit of a stalemate to be honest. Good left hands to the ribs from Pettis though. Only 1:30 remaining though so he needs to be quick if he wants to finish things. Finally he goes for the choke, but itís near-impossible to submit Henderson and he easily avoids it. Henderson begins to land some downward elbows to the thighs, but that leaves the neck open and Pettis goes for the choke again. It looks almost sunk, but Bendo manages to shake the challenger off and thatís the round. Well, got to be 10-9 Pettis there.

Fourth round and neither man seems at all fatigued. They exchange right away with both men landing. Body kick lands for Henderson, all shin. Nice right hand from Pettis coming forward. Bendo follows with a combo and looks to shoot, but he leaves his head open and Pettis quickly grabs a guillotine and drops to finish it. He forgets that you CANíT CHOKE BENDO though and immediately the champion is out, taking top position! Pettis quickly goes for submissions from his back as they go at a BREAKNECK pace, and the sequence ends with Bendo taking Pettisís back with a body triangle! Looks like heís got the choke sunk and Pettis grits his teeth, but somehow he pulls the arms off. Pettis tries to roll to escape, but Henderson stays firmly on the back. Pettis looks calm though, and suddenly flips over into the guard before passing to side mount. Henderson scrambles but now HE gives his back, but manages to pop to his feet and they break off. Crowd are going mental now. Big body kick from Bendo is answered by a hard right from Pettis, who continues to push the action. Knee to the body lands for Henderson. Flurry from Pettis forces Henderson to shoot, but he finds himself in a guillotine again. This time though he pops into half-guard and the choke doesnít look dangerous. Pettis manages to get back to full guard, but Henderson doesnít seem fazed and he lands some shots to the body to end the round. Best round thus far and it was very, VERY close to score too. Probably 10-9 Bendo, but who knows? You could go either way.

Fifth and final round and the fight is still there for the taking. Overhand right from Pettis puts Bendo on his back foot a little. Low kick from Pettis goes awry and lands to the groin and the crowd donít like that one at all. Bendo recovers and they get going quickly, and Pettis blocks a body kick. Right hand lands for Pettis and has Bendo stunned a little, but he recovers pretty quickly. Pettis randomly begins shuffling his feet like Ali or something and Henderson randomly slips to his back, then looks for an ankle pick before Pettis steps over and takes the back. Heís too high this time though and quickly gives the position up. Wild takedown attempt from Henderson is countered by a BIG FLYING KNEE and it lands flush, clearly hurting the champion who desperately tries to cling to a single leg. Pettis sprawls and punches at the head at the same time, but Henderson drives forward and gets him down! Two minutes to go and Pettis rolls and gives his back! Bendo has one hook in but a SICK roll allows Pettis into top position and he brings the fight back to standing. Pettis continues to stalk forward and a high kick is just about blocked. One minute to go and Pettis LEAPS UP THE CAGE AND PUSHES OFF WITH A FLYING KICK THAT KNOCKS HENDERSON DOWN!~!~! Holy SHIT. Somehow Henderson survives and dives for an ankle, but Pettis lands some shots to the head and I have no idea how Bendo is still in this. INSANE. Seconds to go and Pettis stays in dominant position and lands punches and elbows before stuffing a takedown on the buzzer. Good lord. Pettis just won the title with that kick methinks.

Judges have it 48-47, 49-46 and 48-47 for the NEW WEC Lightweight Champion, Anthony ĎShowtimeí Pettis! Wow, I guess the kick DID pretty much win him the belt. And quite rightfully so really. I mean shit, look at it.

People have called it the craziest move in MMA history and itís hard to argue with that really Ė I mean, if this were a movie about cage fighting and a guy won a fight with that kick, youíd be like, shit, thatís unrealistic. And yet BOOM, there it was. God bless Anthony Pettis. I donít think this was quite FOTY (my pick is Silva vs. Sonnen) but if it wasnít a high-end candidate before the kick, it certainly is after it. As for the title situation? The draw between Maynard and Edgar means Pettis wonít get his title shot right away and will have to go through Clay Guida, which I think is a little fairer, but the sky is definitely the limit for him. Tremendous main event.

-Highlight reel rolls and on a wild note, thatís that for the WEC.

Final Thoughts....

Overall not the strongest show to go out on for the WEC, with only four fights and one of them (Palaszewski-Shalorus) being pretty crappy, but man, when youíve got Pettis-Henderson complete with THE KICK as your main event itís practically a thumbs up right away, and while Cruz-Jorgensen wouldnít have been everyoneís cup of tea Cerrone-Horodecki was fun enough, meaning three out of four, which ainít bad. Iíll miss the WEC but the merger should be best for everyone. Thumbs up for this show at any rate.

Best Fight: Pettis-Henderson
Worst Fight: Palaszewski-Shalorus

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 119-126, Fight Night 23
Strike Force: Diaz vs. Cyborg
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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