WEC 53 recap: Pettis wins belt in classic, Cruz dominates, Horodecki gets choked


This FanPost was rewritten and front-paged by James Iannotti of

World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) is no more.

The farewell event for the promotion before merging with the UFC went down earlier tonight from the Arena in Glendale, Arizona. WEC 53: "Henderson vs. Pettis" featured a blockbuster fight card with two world title bouts and an assortment of other high profile match-ups.

Here's how it all went down:

WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson headlined the event, putting his gold on the line for the final time against 23-year-old number one contender Anthony Pettis. The WEC brass couldn't have asked for a better show out of the two men. They closed the WEC doors in style, complete with a wall walking head kick from Pettis late in the fifth round to secure the upset victroy.

It was a back and forth five round war for the ages with both fighters leaving everything they had in the cage.

Pettis didn't finish the fight with the late highlight reel kick, but that's what everybody is going to be talking about tomorrow. It was something you'd expect to see in a Bruce Lee movie. He had Henderson backpedaling. He ran off the cage and connected with a flying kick right on the chin. Henderson crumbled to the floor, but he somehow managed to recover and make it to the final bell.

The fight was very close, but Pettis deserved to win.

Henderson was the aggressor early on, holding his own on his feet while still getting off with his takedowns and ground game. He looked to be in control, but Pettis battled back with his striking and jiu jitsu to overcome the slow start. Both fighters had moments of success with punches, kicks, knees, takedowns, etc. The fight was essentially up for grabs going into the last round.

And Pettis was the better man at the end.

"Showtime" will get his chance to unify his newly earned title with the UFC belt sometime next year against Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard. He's still very young and inexperienced with the big stage, though. I'm not sure if he's ready to get thrown to the wolves like that just yet, but there's certainly going to be a lot more people interested in watching it after tonight.

The bantamweight title was on the line in the co-main event fight with champion, Dominick Cruz, and challenger, Scott Jorgensen, mixing it up for the right to secure the first ever UFC 135-pound strap, as well as a likely match-up with number one contender in waiting, Urijah "The California Kid" Faber, at a future UFC show or perhaps even as opposing coaches on the next "The Ultimate Fighter."

For Cruz that would mean a chance at avenging the only loss of his career from early 2007 when Faber choked him out in less than two minutes of work. It's probably safe to say that is a rematch that the champ has been looking forward to for some time.

Jorgensen wasn't going to just roll over and let that happen, but once the fight got going, he quickly realized that there wasn't much he could do to stop it. He showed a lot of heart throughout the grueling five round fight, but Cruz basically put on a fight clinic and used him as his dummy.

The champion displayed his trademark unorthodox movement on his feet and picked Jorgensen apart from the outside. Then to make matters worse, he battered the challenger with vicious ground and pound on the floor.

Jorgensen was a game opponent, but he had no answer for Cruz's style. The end result was a unanimous decision with all three judges awarding each of the five rounds for Cruz. Get ready for Cruz vs. Faber II for the UFC bantamweight title.

One of the more popular lightweights from the WEC roster, Donald Cerrone, closed out his illustrious career with the fight promotion, making his ninth start overall for the WEC on tonight's main card. "Cowboy" went head-to-head with former International Fight League (IFL) standout Chris "The Polish Hammer" Horodecki, and the Greg Jackson product picked up right where he left off a couple of months ago when he put a beating on ex-champ Jaime Varner at WEC 51.

Horodecki didn't really have much trouble dealing with "Cowboy's" length on the feet. The fight was actually pretty even in the stand-up. Horodecki's aggression allowed him to get inside and work punches and kicks to the body successfully.

On the mat was a different story, though.

Cerrone had some success with his wrestling early in the fight, but it wasn't until Horodecki scored with his first takedown early in the second round that he showed his dominance. Once he got the chance to fight off his back, Cerrone went right to work with his long limbs and locked in his patented triangle choke. Horodecki didn't go down easily, but eventually he had no choice but to tap.

It's the sixth time in his career that "Cowboy" has finished his opponent with a triangle and his eleventh submission overall. With all the talented wrestlers in the UFC's lightweight division, being able to finish off your back is a big asset to have for Cerrone as he makes the transition to one of the most stacked divisions in the sport.

He was asked afterward who he'd like to face in his UFC debut, and it didn't take him long to answer. Right away he made it known that he wants to fight Cole Miller and avenge a loss suffered by teammate Leonard Garcia from three years ago. After the interview he looked into the camera and said five words: "Cole, I'm coming for you."

Forty-eight fight mixed martial arts veteran Bart Palaszewski was looking for his fifth straight win tonight when he locked horns with talented Iranian wrestler Kamal Shalorus. But things didn't go as planned for "Bartimus," who came out on the wrong end of a split decision loss.

Shalorus jumped out to an early lead on the scorecards with a devastating ground and pound attack. He appeared to be well on his way to winning the fight, but he may have punched himself out early because his cardio didn't hold up and Palaszewski almost stole the fight with a one-sided third round and a competitive second. The judges awarded the split decision to Shalorus, though, who remains unbeaten through nine professional fights.

That's a wrap from Glendale.

So long WEC. You were a lot of fun to watch these last couple of years. Thanks for the memories.

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