World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) will be dipping its feet into the pay-per-view waters for the first time this Saturday night (April 24) with WEC 48: "Aldo vs. Faber." The blockbuster event, featuring two world title fights, is set for the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California.
In the headliner, hometown favorite and former WEC featherweight champion, Urijah "The California Kid" Faber, will look to recapture his lost title from one of the most feared strikers in the game today, current 145 pound kingpin, Jose "Junior" Aldo.
Also on tap is a lightweight title fight rematch between friends and rivals Ben "Smooth" Henderson and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.
Mike Brown, Manny Gamburyan, Anthony Njokuani, Shane Roller, Scott Jorgensen and Antonio Banuelos will also be in action for the promotion's landmark event.
To help get you better prepared for the festivities, we've laid out some quick analysis and predictions for the main card below.
Check it out:
WEC featherweight champion Jose "Junior" Aldo vs. Urijah "The California Kid" Faber
How do you game-plan for a guy like Jose Aldo?
"Junior" is one of the most feared strikers in the WEC. He can hit you with knockout power from any angle, at any time, with any of his eight limbs. On top of that, he also has a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt tied around his waist, meaning, at least in theory, that there is no relief for opponents that choose to take their chances with him on the ground either.
And that's if they can even take him down, which is a feat that even the ridiculously powerful ex-champ Mike Brown couldn't pull off.
The truth is, right now Jose Aldo looks to be as close to unbeatable as a fighter can be in this sport, which is why he's a -300 favorite to keep his title on Saturday night. So, what does Urijah Faber have to do to pull off the upset?
First off, he needs to humble himself. If Urijah walks into that cage this weekend thinking that he has to prove that he can match up with Aldo on his feet, then he's in for a long night. "Junior" is a lot more versatile of a striker than Faber is. As I said before, he uses all eight limbs and has knockout power that can come from any angle at any time. Faber is insanely quick and athletic in his own right, but Aldo's kicks and length make the striking department an area that "The California Kid" should try to avoid at all cost.
History has shown us that Faber is at his best when he's scrambling his way into makeshift submissions on the ground. His unorthodox wrestling and submission attack are what made him, at one time, the top 145 pound fighter in the world. And even though we know Aldo has the black belt, we haven't seen him have to use those skills yet in the WEC. What we have seen from him, however, is that he is an Anderson Silva-like striker.
So, behind one door for Faber is a proven world-class stand-up fighter, and behind the other is, well, a mystery in the form of a black belt jiu-jitsu player. It's a pick your poison type of situation, but still an easy decision from what we've seen to this point from Aldo.
Now, with all that said, Aldo's takedown defense against Brown was outstanding, and in my estimation, there's no reason to believe that Urijah Faber will be any more successful in that area. Perhaps using speed and quickness as opposed to power can be the difference, but that also seems unlikely, given Aldo's own speed and quickness.
The truth is, I don't see Faber having much more of a chance to win than what the odds makers have given him. I think Aldo wins this fight with strikes in one of the first two rounds. Like I said, Faber's best chance to win is to try and get the fight horizontal, and everybody knows it, especially Aldo. I can see Faber quickly becoming uncomfortable on his feet once he feels the wrath of a few of Aldo's leg kicks and punches.
Things won't get any easier for him after a few of his takedown attempts get stuffed either. When it's all said and done, this fight will end in a very similar fashion to the WEC 44 main event.
Final Prediction: Jose Aldo via technical knockout in round two.
WEC lightweight champion Ben "Smooth" Henderson vs. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone
"Smooth" won the first fight between these two with a steady dose of takedowns, ground control and good old fashioned hard work, not to mention some slick submission escapes. "Cowboy," who is usually very good fighting off of his back, surprisingly had no answer with Henderson on top of him.
For that reason, I don't see Henderson switching up his game-plan in the rematch. He seems to have a pretty good idea about what's going on inside that cage when it comes to wrestling, which is, after all, why he is the champ.
For "Cowboy," however, he'll need to tweak his strategy a bit if he wants to avoid the same fate. He was never really in danger of being finished by Henderson when he was taken down, but he'll still need to show some better takedown defense in case this fight makes it to the scorecards again.
Late in their last fight, "Cowboy" started to turn the tides a bit. Whether that was a case of Henderson gassing or "Cowboy" figuring things out is something that will likely be answered on Saturday night.
Either way, if "Cowboy" wants to win the rematch, he'll need to avoid the slow start and avoid being put on his back as much as possible. He showed that he's capable of the latter in the championship rounds of the first fight, but the former has always seemed to be an issue for him during his time with the WEC.
I think that "Cowboy" is the better fighter. He brings more to the table. But even with that being so, this is a match-up that will always be a bad one for him unless he can clean up his takedown defense and sluggish starts.
With that said, this is where Greg Jackson comes in to play. Jackson is a great strategist and MMA mind. Now that he has five rounds of tape to dissect, I think "Cowboy" will come into this fight a million times more prepared for Ben Henderson, as opposed to just being prepared to fight.
I've got "Cowboy" by decision.
Final Prediction: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone via unanimous decision.
Mike Brown vs. Manny "The Pitbull" Gamburyan
This is a very interesting match-up between two of the strongest 145 pound fighters in the world. Both guys are at their best when they're overpowering their opponents with takedowns and submissions. But facing off against each other is likely force both men to alter their strategy a bit on Saturday night.
Instead of a three round wrestling match, I expect to see a lot of stand up in this fight. For whatever reason, match-ups like this often seem to take on that style, and I have a feeling these two are going to follow that trend.
With that being said, I think this is Mike Brown's fight to win or lose. He's the better all-around striker. They both have great power and adequate speed, but Brown can mix it up more with kicks, knees and punches in or out of the clinch.
When push does come to shove and one of them does have to shoot for a takedown, I've got my money on Mike Brown there too. I can't see Manny just overpowering him into submission, and the fact that Brown trains with one of the best camps in the world at American Top Team makes me doubt Manny's ability to beat him with technique as well.
Manny is tough, so I think he goes the distance, but like I said, this is Mike Brown's fight to win or lose.
Final Prediction: Mike Brown via unanimous decision.
Anthony Njokuani vs. Shane Roller
This is a classic striker vs. grappler match-up.
Njokuani prefers to keep his fights standing so he can use his length and Muay Thai skills to stop his opponents with strikes. It's a style that has lead him to three straight impressive knockout wins under the WEC banner over Bart Palaszewski, Muhsin Corbbrey and Chris Horodecki.
Roller, on the other hand, is a wrestler, and a good one at that. If he doesn't feel like it's in his best interest to stand and trade (which this fight is absolutely not) then he'll try to take you down and either submit you or pound you out with strikes. It's a style that has won him four of five fights in the WEC, including a recent submission finish over the red hot Danny Castillo.
With that said, I hate this fight for Njokuani. It's just a bad match-up for him. Roller is completely different than the three guys I named above that he's recently beat. In fact, Roller's style is most similar to the one guy in the WEC that has beat Njokuani, Ben Henderson.
Njokuani's thin frame at six feet tall makes him vulnerable to Roller's takedowns, and I don't think the Team Takedown product is going to have much trouble executing his gameplan on Saturday night.
Final Prediction: Shane Roller via submission in round two.
Antonio Banuelos vs. Scott Jorgensen
This is a rematch from a WEC 41 undercard fight that ended in a split decision victory for Banuelos. As is the case with most split decisions, there were a lot of people who felt that the outcome should have been different.
Thankfully, the WEC is giving these guys a chance to make their case one more time. More so for Jorgensen, who has a big opportunity to erase the one loss that he's had in the WEC over the past two years. If not for that split decision loss, Jorgensen may already be in line for a crack at Dominick Cruz's bantamweight title.
As it stands though, he'll have to at least get through Banuelos first. And even though Banuelos took home the win the first time around, I think Jorgensen is completely capable of handily winning the rematch.
Not only do I think Jorgensen was robbed on the scorecards the first time around, but the 28 year old has shown a lot of improvement since that fight last June with three straight wins, including a unanimous decision over former top contender Takeya Mizugaki.
Banuelos' boxing and toughness will keep this fight relatively close, but I think the decision should be a lot easier for the judges this time around.
Final Prediction: Scott Jorgensen via unanimous decision.
That's a wrap.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide live coverage of the main card, beginning with the pay-per-view telecast at 10 p.m. ET, as well as up-to-the-minute results of the under card action beginning at around 8 p.m. ET.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Saturday, April 24), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view from Sacramento. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8 p.m. ET with the preliminary bouts.
Check in early and often -- it should be an exciting night of fights! In the meantime, feel free to share your WEC 48-related thoughts and predictions in the comments section below.