With two world title fights headlining World Extreme Cagefighting’s grand finale in Glendale, Ariz. on Dec. 16, the card was already shaping up to be the perfect way to end 2010. Now, with the recent announcement that the UFC will feature the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, as well as a loaded lightweight division including WEC’s best 155-pound fighters in 2011, the Dec. 16 event at Jobing.com Arena has become one of the most significant cards in recent memory.
In the main event, champion Ben Henderson will meet Anthony Pettis in a highly-anticipated title bout. The winner will move on to face the victor of the Jan. 1 UFC lightweight title bout between champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. What’s more, the winner of the Dominick Cruz-Scott Jorgensen fight on Dec. 16 will be crowned the first ever UFC bantamweight champion.
“This event will go down as one of the most important in the history of the lighter weight classes,” WEC General Manager Reed Harris said. “The winner of Henderson and Pettis will fight for the UFC lightweight title next year, while the winner of Cruz-Jorgensen will immediately become the UFC bantamweight champion. The stakes have never been higher.”
As the anticipation builds for the Dec. 16 event, WEC confirmed today the remaining bouts for this historic card in Arizona.
The fights are: Chris Horodecki vs. Donald Cerrone, Kamal Shalorus vs. Bart Palaszewski, Danny Downes vs. Tiequan Zhang, Shane Roller vs. Jamie Varner, Ivan Menjivar vs. Brad Pickett, Ken Stone vs. Eddie Wineland, Will Kerr vs. Danny Castillo, Yuri Alcantara vs. Ricardo Lamas and Chris Cariaso vs. Renan Barao.
“Each of these fights has added importance,” Harris said. “All of these competitors want to prove that they are the best in the world and each wants to head to UFC in 2011 riding momentum. We expect some explosive fights at Jobing.com Arena on Dec. 16.”
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone demonstrated his most complete game to date in September when he thoroughly dominated archrival Jamie Varner en route to a unanimous decision victory. Using a devastating array of wrestling and Muay Thai striking, the 27-year-old picked apart the former champion and immediately reinserted himself into title contention. The ex-bull rider Cerrone (12-3, 1 NC) looks to continue the momentum when he takes on Canadian striker Chris Horodecki. Nicknamed “The Polish Hammer”, the 23-year-old is riding back-to-back wins over Danny Downes and Ed Ratcliff. With a victory over Cerrone next month, Horodecki (15-2) hopes to propel himself into the lightweight elite.
A volatile lightweight bout pits the heavy-handed Kamal Shalorus against tested veteran Bart Palaszewski. A former national wrestling champion in his native Iran, Shalorus has posted two wins in three WEC appearances. In his last fight in June, Shalorus (6-0-2) traded leather with former champion Jamie Varner in a bout that ended in a controversial draw. He’ll look to continue his unbeaten streak in Glendale when he meets Palaszewski. Born in Poland and now living in the Midwest, the 27-year-old “Bartimus” has amassed nearly 50 fights in his career. Owning wins over Anthony Pettis, Karen Darabedyan and Zack Micklewright in his last three bouts, Palaszewski (34-13) plans on using his power and slick grappling to guide him past Shalorus on Dec. 16.
The first fighter from Mainland China to ever compete in WEC returns next month to take on one of the lightweight division’s rising prospects. Tiequan “The Mongolian Wolf” Zhang burst onto the U.S. scene in September with a first-round submission victory over Pablo Garza. The unbeaten Zhang seeks his 18th straight victory when he battles Danny Downes in Ariz. Training under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, “Danny Boy” works on a daily basis with WEC stars Anthony Pettis and Erik Koch. Seeking to put the first blemish on Zhang’s record, Downes (6-1) expects his polished striking and strong takedown defense to pay dividends when he enters the cage at Jobing.com Arena.
Two of the 155-pound division’s best wrestlers lock horns on Dec. 16 when hometown fighter Jamie Varner battles Shane Roller. A standout wrestler and boxer from Lock Haven University, the 26-year-old Varner (16-4-1, 2 NC) is a former WEC lightweight champion on a mission to reclaim his status as the best 155-pounder in the world. Standing in his way is Roller (8-3), a three-time Division I All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State University who owns wins over the likes of Marcus Hicks, Danny Castillo and Anthony Njokuani. Expecting to spoil Varner’s return to his hometown, Roller plans to power past his opponent and capture his fourth win in five fights.
Canadian bantamweight Ivan Menjivar makes his WEC debut on Dec. 16 when he takes on rugged Englishman Brad Pickett. A tremendous competitor who has fought top-notch opponents including Georges St-Pierre, Caol Uno, Joe Lauzon and Urijah Faber, Menjivar (21-7) makes the move to 135-pounds in search of a world title run. He’ll face a stern test in his first bout when he meets Pickett (20-5). Known for his fluid ground game, crisp boxing and sturdy chin, the 32-year-old fighter originally from London, England trains with alongside former featherweight champ Mike Brown at American Top Team. With wins over Kyle Dietz and Demetrious Johnson in his WEC career, Pickett believes his versatility will fuel him past Menjivar next month.
Former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland has strung together three consecutive victories and now appears poised for a shot to reclaim the world title. The 26-year-old firefighter hopes a win over newcomer Ken Stone is the final piece of the puzzle that leads him back to WEC gold. Out to supplant Wineland as a bantamweight title contender is WEC debutant Stone (9-1), an American Top Team fighter whose victories have all come by way of stoppage. Recognized for his competent striking and efficient ground work, Stone expects to make a big statement when he takes on Wineland (17-6-1) in Glendale.
Lightweight Danny Castillo heads to Glendale to battle Will Kerr in a pivotal 155-pound contest. After posting a dominant performance in his last fight in Aug. against Dustin Poirier, Castillo (9-3), who trains alongside Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez in Sacramento, is hungry to finish his next opponent. The 28-year-old Kerr (9-2) is equally motivated to earn his second straight victory after submitting Karen Darabedyan in his last fight in June.
A winner of three straight, Ricardo Lamas faces the toughest test of his younger career when he meets newcomer Yuri Alcantara on Dec. 16. With solid boxing and excellent wrestling, the 28-year-old Lamas (9-1) has put together consecutive victories over James Krause, Bendy Casimir and Dave Jansen. In order to earn a fourth win in a row, he’ll have to best Alcantara (20-3), a dangerous Brazilian who has finished 19 opponents in 20 victories.
Outstanding bantamweight Renan Barao seeks his 22nd victory when he steps inside the cage with Chris Cariaso. After defeating Anthony Leone by submission in his WEC debut in June, Barao (21-1, 1 NC) proved that he has the potential to one day capture the bantamweight title. A training partner of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Barao expects to take another step forward by beating Cariaso. Boasting a record of 9-1, “Kamikaze” Cariaso earned an impressive victory over veteran Rafael Rebello in his debut in June. He looks to end the rise of Barao when the two go to war at Jobing.com Arena.