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WEC 52: Preview and Predictions

We're down to two World Extreme Cagefighting events remaining until the promotion is permanently folded into the UFC, and on Thursday night we'll get our last chance to see the WEC's biggest star, Urijah Faber, fighting with blue gloves in the blue cage. If he beats Takeya Mizugaki on Thursday night, Faber's first UFC fight could be the first fight for the UFC bantamweight title, so the stakes are high. We've got the full preview and predictions here.

What: WEC 52: Faber vs. Mizugaki

When: Thursday, the televised card airs on Versus starting at 9 PM ET

Where: The Pearl at the Palms, Las Vegas

Predictions on the five televised fights below.

Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Mizugaki has had nothing but close fights in going 2-2 in the WEC, with wins over Jeff Curran and Rani Yahya, and losses to Miguel Torres and Scott Jorgensen. What we haven't seen from Mizugaki, however, is whether he can handle a wrestler like Faber, and my guess is that he can't: I like Faber to win this one in impressive fashion, and I think the UFC will name him its No. 1 bantamweight contender in 2011.
Pick: Faber

Chad Mendes vs.
Javier Vazquez
Mendes, a training partner of Faber's, is undefeated and has looked good in winning all four of his WEC fights, and I think he could be a UFC featherweight title contender in 2011 if he gets by Vazquez, who's dangerous with his submissions but not as good a wrestler or a striker as Mendes.
Pick: Mendes

Erik Koch vs.
Francisco Rivera
Koch was originally slated to fight Josh Grispi on this card, until Grispi was picked to challenge Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title. The bad news for Koch is that he missed out on a fight with Grispi that would have been the biggest of his career to date. The good news is that Rivera, who's making his WEC debut, is a much easier opponent than Grispi and gives Koch a much better chance of earning his win bonus. Rivera has gone 5-0 while fighting for smaller promotions, but I like the 22-year-old Koch to take him down, submit him and hand him his first career loss.
Pick: Koch

Joseph Benavidez vs.
Wagnney Fabiano
I'm very excited about this fight, and I give a lot of credit to Benavidez for taking it on short notice because Fabiano's submission skills make him a threat to anyone. I think Benavidez will show that he's one of the sport's truly elite fighters, however, by keeping this fight standing and beating up Fabiano on the feet.
Pick: Benavidez

Damacio Page vs. Demetrious Johnson
I view Johnson as the breakout bantamweight of 2011, a 24-year-old with plenty of room to grow. I'd rather see Johnson fighting at 125 pounds and taking on guys his own size, but until the UFC adds a flyweight class he's stuck fighting bigger bantamweights like Page. Despite the size disadvantage, I see Johnson winning a decision against Page.
Pick: Johnson

Share your predictions in the comments.

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