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WEC 45 predictions and preview for 'Cerrone vs Ratcliff' on Dec. 19


World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) is all set to close out its 2009 fight season with "Cerrone vs. Ratcliff" this Saturday night (Dec. 19) from "The Pearl" at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, beginning at 9 p.m. ET on the Versus network.

WEC 45 will feature a main event between two of the promotion's more exciting contenders in the 155-pound division -- Greg Jackson pupil Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and feared striker Ed "9mm" Ratcliff

The Versus telecast will also showcase two dynamite bantamweight fights with all kinds of potential title implications on the line. Japanese import Takeya Mizugaki and Scott Jorgensen will go toe-to-toe, as well as Urijah Faber protoge, Joseph Benavidez, taking on Brazilian jiu-jitsu stud Rani Yahya in the night's co-main event.

And of course there are plenty of other WEC stars who will be in action this weekend, including the debut of former International Fight League (IFL) standout Chris "The Polish Hammer" Horodecki, Anthony Njokuani, Anthony "Showtime" Pettis, Bart "Bartimus" Palaszewski and Jameel Massouh, among others.

To help get you better prepared for the festivities,  check out some quick analysis and predictions for the four main card bouts set to hit the Versus airwaves on Saturday night.

Check it out:

155 lbs.: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (10-2) vs. Ed "9mm" Ratcliff (7-1)


Ratcliff is a dangerous striker who undoubtedly wants to keep this fight standing. When he gets an opponent who is willing to trade with him, he usually ends up with his hand raised at the end.

With that said, "Cowboy" has always come off as a fighter who is willing to bang with anyone. He has a solid Muay Thai background and he's shown a nice set of skills when given the opportunity. But, for those reasons, and probably by design, a lot of guys have been fooled into thinking they're in the middle of a striking match with "Cowboy," only to find themselves tapping out moments later from a submission out of nowhere.

The fact is, that's when Cerrone is at his best.

He's made a living out of submitting opponents who have been tricked by his style. And Ratcliff looks like another tailor-made victim. Now, we've seen Cerrone get his weakness (wrestling) exposed a bit recently against Henderson and Varner, but those guys both have much better wrestling than "9mm."

That shouldn't be an issue for Cerrone in this fight.

Ratcliff probably won't have too many tricks up his sleeve to surprise "Cowboy" with in this one. He's going to want to stand and knock him out. Knowing that, Cerrone and his world class team of training partners and coaches at Greg Jackson's gym shouldn't have too much of a problem putting together a winning formula for their guy.

Final prediction: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone via submission

135 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez (10-1) vs. Rani Yahya (15-4)

This is going to be a very high paced, technical fight between two of the division's most athletic and talented fighters.

Benavidez has improved greatly as a striker, but his strength is his ridiculous athleticism, which makes him a fantastic wrestler and grappler. Dominick Cruz had success against him by keeping his distance and winning stand up exchanges, but with this match up, he won't have to worry about that.

Yahya won't be trying to pick Benavidez apart on his feet. That's not his style. He's a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter. And he's one of the best in the world.

He'll try to get to the mat and submit Benavidez at all costs, which to me seems like an almost impossible mission. Don't get me wrong, I don't say that as a knock on Rani's jiu-jitsu skills at all. It's more of a testament to how insanely good I think Benavidez is when he gets a match up like this.

His style is eerily reminiscent of his training partner Urijah Faber in that he attacks from unorthodox angles and uses his speed and versatility to keep his opponents guessing and off balance. To me, the way to beat Benavidez is to either knock him out with power strikes or to pick him apart like Cruz did. Anything other than that and this guy is more than a handful to deal with.

Look for Benavidez to take this one with either a late technical knockout or unanimous decision.

Final prediction: Joseph Benavidez via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Chris "The Polish Hammer" Horodecki (13-1) vs. Anthony Njokuani (7-1)

This fight has fireworks written all over it. Both these guys like to sling leather and both have knockout power.

"The Polish Hammer" is making his debut for the promotion, while Njokuani is coming off back-to-back technical knockout victories over Muhsin Corbbrey and Bart Palaszewski under the WEC banner.

Palaszewski is also a previous opponent of Horodecki's (twice) during their IFL days. Horodecki didn't have as easy a time as Njokuani though. He eked by "Bartimus" with a split decision in both fights. That doesn't mean much of anything heading into this bout, but it does show how dangerous Njokuani can be, finishing off a guy as tough as Palaszewski.

In fact, I think Horodecki is going to have a really difficult time dealing with the variety of strikes Njokuani is going to hit him with, and I'm picking the Muay Thai specialist to win this fight early. Looking at Njokuani's only two losses, he was subbed by a superior wrestler in Ben Henderson, and he fell victim to the Cowboy Cerrone trickery I spoke about earlier.

"The Polish Hammer" did score the first submission win of his career recently, but he's clearly not as much of a threat on the ground as "Smooth" or "Cowboy." Look for Njokuani to show his advantage in the striking game early and often. "The Polish Hammer" does have one punch power, but I expect Njokuani to wear him down and frustrate him for a round or two before eventually finishing him off with a barrage of strikes.

Final prediction: Anthony Njokuani via technical knockout

135 lbs.: Takeya Mizugaki (12-3-2) vs. Scott Jorgensen (12-4)

Jorgensen has been impressive during his five fights in the WEC. He does have a couple of close losses to Damacio Page and Antonio Banuelos, but he has been more than competitive every time out for the promotion.

Expect that trend to continue in this fight, even though he'll likely be handed a third close loss in this one.

Mizugaki has fought two of the most accomplished and credible fighters on the entire WEC roster in his first two fights for the promotion. But, even though Jorgensen doesn't carry the name value of a Miguel Torres or a Jeff Curran, Mizugaki better still bring his A game on Saturday night.

He can't come into this fight thinking he has an easy opponent, because he doesn't.

With that said, Mizugaki has not shown any reason for us to believe he'll overlook Jorgensen. So far, all we've seen from the Japanese import is a hard working fighter with a hard chin and a heart of a champion. Expect him to be on his game on Saturday, and expect him to use a lot of takedowns en route to another decision victory.

Final prediction: Takeya Mizugaki via unanimous decision

That's a wrap.To check out the complete full lineup for WEC 45 click here.

Remember that will provide live coverage of the main card, beginning with the Versus telecast at 9 p.m. ET, as well as up-to-the-minute results of the under card action beginning at around 7 p.m. ET.

Check in early and often -- it should be an exciting night of fights! In the meantime, feel free to share your WEC 45-related thoughts and predictions in the comments section below.

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