Ticket sales, financial woes and management changes aside, the fight card hardcore fans are looking forward to this weekend is Affliction’s sophomore event, “Day of Reckoning,” at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Fully aware that it cannot compete with the star power of Andrei Arlovski and Vitor Belfort or the undisputed class of Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett, rival promotion Zuffa has settled for throwing some twigs into the spokes of the Affliction machine. A solid World Extreme Cagefighting show will air live on the Versus Network less than 24 hours later.
WEC 38 “Varner vs. Cerrone” will feature the lightweight title fight between champion Jamie Varner and unbeaten challenger Donald Cerrone, along with a rematch between former featherweight king Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver, both of whom will attempt to bounce back from devastating defeats.
WEC Lightweight Championship
Jamie Varner vs. Donald Cerrone
Striking : 2.5
Grappling : 3.5
Submissions : 2.5
Experience : 3.0
Total : 2.9
Striking : 1.5
Grappling : 2.5
Submissions : 3.0
Experience : 2.0
Total : 2.3
Coming off his “Fight of the Year”-caliber scrap with former titleholder Rob McCullough in November, the undefeated Cerrone (9-0, 1 NC) will now challenge for the WEC’s 155-pound crown. Varner (15-2) has no plans to give up his strap, which he won from McCullough a little less than a year ago.
Varner, a Phoenix native, burst onto the Arizona scene in 2003 and quickly became the lightweight champion for the Rage in the Cage promotion. He reached the UFC in 2006, making his debut against Hermes Franca in August. After he split two fights in the Octagon, Zuffa made him one of the shingle fighters for the WEC.
Cerrone earned his spurs in the Midwestern mixed martial arts scene, as he was featured heavily by the Colorado-based Ring of Fire promotion. After a win over unlucky Japanese fighter Yasunori Kanehara inside Cage Force -- one of the few Japanese shows that utilizes a cage -- he sent his letter of recommendation to the WEC. Despite a bumpy start -- his first bout ended in a no contest -- the 6-foot Cerrone worked his way up to a title shot.
Prediction: Varner has a distinct advantage in just about every aspect of the game, with the exception of submissions, and the difference in experience seems particularly glaring. Cerrone boasts a four-inch reach advantage and the carefree approach that comes with an unblemished record. In the end, Varner’s wrestling and boxing will be too much for Cerrone, who will fall prey to a technical knockout late in the third round.