With the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion now in the history books, after their final card WEC 53 went out with a bang! They have officially merged with Zuffa’s sister promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The WEC was often overlooked and underappreciated by the more casual MMA fans, but now their fighters get the chance to show what their made of inside the biggest Mixed Martial Arts Organisation in the world; The UFC. Fans who are more familiar with the WEC will know, that they were known for their high octane performances and willingness to leave everything inside the cage.
We are going to take a look at some of the WEC’s most talented combatants, that will look to take their careers no the next level within the ranks of the UFC. The WEC was primarily known for the weight classes of lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight, they did have both welterweight and middleweight classes but were abolished, as their main focus was the the lighter weight classes.
I am now going to list some of the WEC’s best prospects from the lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight divisions, and give you a brief overview of their careers thus far, and hopefully give you a better understanding of what these fighters are all about!
Anthony ”Showtime” Pettis
Now, most of you will have Pettis’ awe inspiring ”Showtime” kick still fresh in your memory from last week, where he bested long reigning lightweight Champ Ben Henderson for the WEC’s lightweight gold. Pettis will be the WEC’s last ever lightweight Champion, and with this; he will get the chance to take on the winner of the Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard title fight, in order to unify the two championships. Pettis is currently 13 – 1 in his MMA career with his only loss coming via a somewhat controversial split decision to Bart Palaszewski at WEC 45. Showtime has only gone to a decision twice in his career, (his most recent one landed him the WEC gold) and has finished five fights by knockout, and six by submission. Pettis is well known for his flashy style, his unorthodox striking and will be often seen throwing crazy Tae Kwon Doe kicks and even some Capoeira. He fights out of the Roufusport gym in Milwaukee, Winconsin. under the tutelage of legendary kickboxer Duke Roufus, Anthony will look to cement himself into the UFC’s ranks in 2011 and will eagerly await next weeks UFC 125 bout between Edgar and Maynard to determine who he will face in the title unification bout.
Benson ”Smooth” Henderson
Henderson is coming off the toughest loss of his career, where he lost to the afore mentioned Pettis last week at WEC 53. Henderson will look to bounce back, when he enters the UFC and some stage in 2011. Pettis and Henderson got FOTN honours for their efforts in at WEC 53 and he will look to carry his exciting style with him when he gets his chance in the UFC. Benson is currently 12 – 2 in his MMA career, and became WEC lightweight Interim Champ back at WEC 43 where he defeated Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision in 2009’s Fight of the Year! and from there he went on to secure two straight guillotine submission victories over Jamie Varner, and Donald Cerrone in their second meeting, and became the WEC’s undisputed lightweight Champion in the process, before coming up short against Pettis. Henderson is still one of the WEC’s most talented fighters, and make no mistake he will be out to prove this, come 2011.
Donald ”Cowboy” Cerrone
Cerrone also featured last week at WEC 53, where he took on Chris Horodecki and finished him decisively in the 2nd round via Triangle choke. and previously to that he defeated bitter rival Jamie Varner in their 2nd meeting to even up the score. Cerrone is a former professional kickboxer and went 29-0-1, before making the transition to MMA. The Cowboy is 13-3 in MMA his 3 losses coming from Ben Henderson (X2) and Jamie Varner, Cerrone has only ever been finished once; courtesy of Henderson at WEC 48 via guillotine choke. he has won FOTN honours four times in the WEC and will hopefully bag himself some more inside the Octagon. Donald has already looking ahead to life in the UFC, and immediately after WEC 53, he called out the UFC’s Cole Miller and said he would like Cole to be his first fight within the UFC. Cerrone also made it no secret that he would also be open to a fight with Nate Diaz and would even make the trip up to welterweight to make that fight happen. Cerrone will also be anticipating Jose Aldo‘s move up to lightweight and has stated more than once he would ”love” to welcome Jose to lightweight. Watch out for the Cowboy when he enters the UFC, as I can assure you, he will come out Guns Blazin!
Others in the mix: Jamie Varner, Shane Roller, Kamal Shalorus.
Jose ”Junior” Aldo
This man might not need need much of an introduction, but I’m going to anyway. The WEC’s last and the UFC’s first ever featherweight Champion, Aldo is 18-1 in his MMA career (8-0 in the WEC) and has been on a tear since joining the WEC, and is most notably known for his eight second, double flying knee KO of Cub Swanson at WEC 41, that earned him the KOTN award and a title shot. From there he went on to capture the featherweight title against Mike Brown at WEC 44, and earning another KOTN award, disposing of Brown at one minute and twenty seconds into the second round. And since that Aldo has defended his belt successfully on two occasions, where he handed Urijah Faber a beating that forced the Califonia Kid to drop to bantamweight, he then made short work of Manny Gamburyan at WEC 51, knocking the Anvil out at just one minute and 30 seconds in to the second round. Aldo possesses some of the most devastating Muay Thai in MMA, and quite frankly is looking unstoppable, pair that with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and you’ve got the ”Brazilian Cobra.” Josh Grispi was scheduled to be Aldo’s next opponent at UFC 125, but due to a neck injury Jose was forced to pull out. It is unclear when Aldo will make his UFC debut, but I feel sorry for who ever it is that has to stand opposite him, when he does. Aldo is already in the UFC history books, as he became the UFC’s first ever Featherweight Champion and will look to continue his path of devastation inside the Octagon.
Josh ”The Fluke” Grispi
Grispi was the number one contender for the next shot at Jose Aldo‘s gold, but with an injury that forced Aldo to pull out, Grispi will now face Dustin Poirier at UFC 125: Resolution. Josh will be looking to add to his current ten fight win streak and keep him self active as he anxiously awaits Aldo’s return. Grispi is 14-1 in MMA (4-0 in the WEC) and has wins over Mark Hominick, Jens Pulver, Micah Miller and LC Davis under the WEC banner. Out of his fourteen wins; Grispi has finished 13 of his opponents inside the first round, winning six by knockout and seven by submission, and is widely considered to be the biggest threat to Champ Jose Aldo. As many other featherweights wait for their UFC debuts, Grispi has little over a week to wait for his chance to impress inside the Octagon. The Fluke will look to add to his finishing ratio against Canada’s Dustin Poirier, and further cement his legitimacy as the number one contender for Aldo’s featherweight crown.
Manvel ”The Anvil” Gamburyan
Manny’s last outing in the WEC didn’t end too well for him as he was left face down in the canvas, at the hands of Jose Aldo, he’s not on his own, many have fell victim to the current Champ. Manny’s next opponent is yet to be named, but the Anvil will be out for blood in 2011. Gamburyan featured on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter and was defeated by Nate Diaz in the Finale. Manvel is also a veteran of the UFC, and went 2-2 in the promotion as a lightweight, before joining the WEC and dropping to featherweight. He is currently 11-6 (3-1 in the WEC) and has wins over Leonard Garcia, John Franchi, his most notable win came at WEC 48 where he knocked out Mike Brown at 2.22 of the very first round, before stumbling to Aldo. Gamburyan will look to make an impressive return to the UFC; this time as featherweight!
Others in the mix: Mike Brown, Mark Hominick, Leonard Garcia, Chad Mendes.
Dominick ”The Dominator” Cruz
Cruz defended his bantamweight crown at WEC 53 against Scotty Jorgensen, where he dominated Jorgensen for five rounds to secure a unanimous decision victory; and becoming the WEC’s last ever bantamweight Champion, and the UFC’s first ever bantamweight Champion. Cruz is 17-1 in MMA, (8-0 in the WEC) his only career loss is to Urijah Faber (as a featherweight) and since dropping to bantamweight, has looked unbeatable, disposing of many top bantamweights in dominating fashion. Cruz holds victories over Charlie Valencia, Joseph Benavidez (X2) and Brian Bowles; to name a few. Cruz will enter the UFC in 2011, brimming with confidence, no one has come close to defeating him thus far and will fancy his chances against anyone in the UFC.
Torres entered the WEC with an impressive record of 33-1, and in his second fight for the promotion captured the bantamweight championship, where he defeated Chase Beebe in the first round via guillotine choke. Torres then successfully defended his title three times under the WEC banner, before losing to Brian Bowles via knockout in the first round, that snapped his 17 fight win streak and cost him his title. Torres then fought Joseph Benavidez and came up short losing this time by guillotine choke. Since those two losses Miguel has regained his composure and secured a submission victory over Charlie Valencia at WEC 51. Torres is set to take on Antonio Banuelos at UFC 126, which will be his debut in the promotion.
Urijah ”California Kid” Faber
Faber was one of the WEC’s best known fighters, and after a long and successful run at featherweight, he decided to make the drop to bantamweight. Faber held the featherweight title for the best part of two years, defeating everyone the WEC could throw at him. Faber then lost his title to Mike Brown at WEC 36, and since then he had been blowing hot and cold amongst the featherweight division, losing again to Brown and then Aldo. After his loss to Aldo, Faber opted to drop to bantamweight, and had a successful debut where he defeated Japanese fighter Takeya Mizugaki via rear naked choke, that left Mizugaki unconscious on the mat. Faber’s next opponent is unknown, but rumours have began to circulate about him being a coach, on the thirteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Nothing has been announced so far, but it is a distinct possibility he will coach, against either Miguel Torres or Champion Dominick Cruz.
Others in the mix: Joseph Benavidez, Brian Bowles, Scotty Jorgensen.
With the UFC’s recent signings of Japanese MMA sensations; Michihiro Omigawa and Norifumi ”Kid Yamamoto, I couldn’t let them go unnoticed. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the fighters, I will now fill you in on some of their credentials and past achievements. Omigawa will be joining the UFC’s featherweight division, as Kid is set to make his UFC debut at bantamweight. These two fighters are considered legends in their native Japan!
Michihiro Omigawa started his career in martial arts with Judo, and after a successful run at the Asian Games, he transitioned to MMA and competed as a lightweight. The Japanese are not known for nurturing their prospects, and Omigawa went 4-7 as a lightweight, and 0-2 in the UFC before being released. But since then Omigawa made the drop to featherweight and managed to turn his MMA career around, going 8-2 as a featherweight and 12-8-1 overall. Omigawa has defeated some of Japan’s best featherweights including Nam Phan, Marlon Sandro, Hatsu Hioki, Hiruyoki Takaya, under the DREAM and Sengoku fighting championships. Michihiro is considered a top 5 featherweight worldwide, and will make his return to the UFC against the undefeated Chad Mendes, at UFC 126: Silva vs Belfort. He is a fan favourite in Japan, and I expect his popularity to transcend in the UFC!
Norifumi ”Kid” Yamamoto
Not too many Japanese fighters are associated with their wrestling prowess. However, Kid is a different story, he has won various wrestling tournaments in Japan and his wrestling is near olympian level. Yamamoto is 18-3 in his MMA career and has competed at lightweight, featherweight, and bantamweight throughout his career. Kid’s most famous victory was his 4 second flying knee KO of Kazuyuki Miyata at K1-Heroes 5, and holds notable wins over some of Japan’s most highly regarded competitors, including; Bibiano Fernandes, Caol Uno, Genki Sudo, Royler Gracie, just to name a few. Kid will make his UFC debut against Demetrious Johnson in the bantamweight division, at UFC 126: Silva vs Belfort, alongside his fellow countryman Omigawa. Expect Kid to make some noise in the UFC, and like Omigawa, I expect him to become a fan favourite!
Potential fights in store for 2011
Anthony Pettis vs Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard
Ben Henderson vs Evan Dunham
Donald Cerrone vs Nate Diaz
Ben Henderson vs George Sotiropolous
Donald Cerrone vs Charles Oliveira
Jose Aldo vs Josh Grispi
Jose Aldo vs Michihiro Omigawa
Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar
Mike Brown vs Michihiro Omigawa
Manny Gamburyan vs Frankie Edgar
Dominick Cruz vs Miguel Torres
Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber II
Dominick Cruz vs Kid Yamamoto
Urijah Faber vs Kid Yamamoto
Miguel Torres vs Urijah Faber
The fights listed above are all potentially mouth watering for any fan, and the different opponents could be switched around, those are just some of the fights I would find intriguing. Lets hope some of these actually materialise, and we’ll be in for a treat in 2011.
All right folks that’s the wrap, and hopefully everyone’s a little more informed on what to expect from the WEC fighters crossing over, and the additional weight classes that have now been added to the UFC.
Consider this an early Christmas present for you LowKick’ers! and let me know what ya’s think. Have a Good Christmas, and go easy on the Turkey!