WEC Never Die: Fantasy Booking One Last Event Two Years Later
Two years ago I found myself in Glendale, Arizona, on the floor at the Jobing.com Arena for WEC 53.
I had just left a job at Apple and decided on a whim to fly out for the final WEC event ever. It was so last minute that I flew in the day of the fights and left immediately afterwards. I may have spent a total of 18 hours total in Glendale. At the time, I was unsure what I'd do next with my life after years working in a corporate atmosphere.
Sitting cage-side, I had goosebumps throughout most of the night. I got to see some of the most exciting fights first hand, including the epic "Pettis Kick".
It was a trip that ultimately led me to MMA journalism and one that I'll never forget. Now, two years later, I'd like to revisit the WEC and book one final card.
Scott Jorgensen vs Brad Pickett II
If you saw their first bout, you know that it was one of the best fights to happen inside the WEC cage. Inside the Pearl at the Palms, these two fighters stood toe-to-toe and put on an absolute classic, in a fight that went the full 15.
Jorgensen picked up the win and earned himself a bantamweight title shot against Dominick Cruz.
It's now two years later, and we've seen both fighters improve. A second bout would be a great way to open up this WEC card.
Brian Bowles vs Eddie Wineland
These two fighters never met in the WEC, though both held the bantamweight title in the organization. Eddie Wineland was the first WEC bantamweight champion when he defeated Antonio Banuelos at WEC 20. Brian Bowles shocked the world when he knocked Miguel Torres out at WEC 42.
Since the UFC absorbed the WEC, both fighters have struggled. Bowles continues to battle injuries outside of the cage, while Wineland dropped two straight to Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez.
Eventually these two will meet, so why not in a nostalgia show?
Miguel Torres vs Joseph Benavidez II
When these two met at WEC 47, Miguel Torres was a bit of a wounded animal. He was coming off the knockout loss to Brian Bowles and was extremely tentative. It ultimately cost him the bout with Benavidez, as he seemed reluctant to push the pace.
While Benavidez has dropped to flyweight, a fight with Torres would be a great way to rebound after losing to Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152.
Dustin Poirier vs Erik Koch
These are two of the top young fighters in the featherweight division. In fact, at different times, they have been viewed as future champions.
They were actually scheduled to fight at UFC 143. It was an anticipated bout, as Koch's striking would present a unique challenge to Poirier's skill set. Unfortunately, Koch suffered an injury in training and would be replaced by Max Holloway.
This will eventually happen inside the Octagon, so why not book it for this final WEC card?
Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Njokuani
These two never fought inside the WEC cage, but they did have a fight at Ring of Fire: 29, which Cerrone won with a triangle choke.
In the WEC, Cerrone was always around the lightweight title scene but never found success in those big fights, coming up short on three separate occasions. Njokuani was expected to play a role at the top of the division after a spectacular head kick knockout of Chris Horodecki at WEC 45.
It's a fight that should have happened years ago in the WEC, so why not book it now?
Urijah Faber vs Norifumi 'Kid' Yamamoto
For entirely selfish reasons, I want this fight to happen.
This is a bout that was discussed for years when "Kid" Yamamoto ruled the Japanese fight scene. At the same time, Faber was the top fighter in the United States and a fight seemed all but guaranteed when they were both signed to the UFC.
While it's clear that both are past their primes, it's a bout that needs to happen—just so we know who truly was the best for all those years.
Chan Sung Jung vs Chad Mendes
Chan Sung Jung's WEC run was defined by his absolute war with Leonard Garcia at WEC 48. The fight went to split decision with Jung coming out on the losing end, but it cemented his place as one of the most exciting fighters in the organization.
Chad Mendes quietly strung together four straight wins in the promotion while fighting in the shadow of teammate Urijah Faber. He relied on his outstanding wrestling to control opponents on the mat and had a reputation as being a boring fighter.
Since those early growing pains, the two have become cornerstones of the UFC's featherweight division. Mendes has put together back-to-back knockout victories, while Jung is riding a three-fight winning streak with all three fights ending in a finish.
They've never met in their respective careers and the fight is guaranteed to be a candidate for an "Of The Night" award. It's the perfect fight to get the crowd on their feet.
Bantamweight Title: Dominick Cruz vs Renan Barao
Both fighters competed on WEC 53, except on opposite ends of the card. Renan Barao was in the opening match against Chris Cariaso, winning by first round submission. He's since gone on a four-fight winning streak, capturing the interim UFC bantamweight title at UFC 149 against Urijah Faber.
Dominick Cruz became one of the most recognizable fighters in the WEC with eight fights in the promotion. After falling to Faber in his first bout in the organization, he went on to capture and defend the bantamweight title.
He became the UFC's bantamweight champion with a successful defense at WEC 53 against Scott Jorgensen, and he defended the strap twice in the UFC. Unfortunately, he's suffered a string of injuries that have him sidelined for an extended period of time.
This bout needs to happen. It will be to unify the titles and answer the question of who is the best bantamweight fighter in the world.
Featherweight Title: Jose Aldo vs Frankie Edgar
No idea what happened to this slide.
Anyways, this is a bout that will be happening soon in the UFC but could have happened years ago in the WEC in an alternate reality.
For years, fans and media alike pleaded for Frankie Edgar to move down to featherweight, despite his success in the lightweight division. Even after capturing the lightweight title, Edgar was subject to discussion regarding a more natural weight class.
Aldo became the featherweight kingpin after running through the division, picking up wins over Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, and Manny Gamburyan along the way. As he continued to dominate the division, people wondered out loud who could present a serious challenge.
This bout is expected to take place at UFC 156 but why not have it as the co-main event at this final WEC show?
Lightweight Title: Benson Henderson vs Anthony Pettis II
I had the pleasure of seeing the first bout between these two young, dynamic lightweights at WEC 53. Until that ridiculous kick landed, Benson Henderson looked to be on his way to a decision victory. That kick made Pettis a household name and earned him a guaranteed shot at the UFC lightweight title.
Unfortunately for Pettis, the title shot never came. Both Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard were sidelined due to injury, so Pettis was instead matched up against Clay Guida. Guida out-worked and out-wrestled Pettis to earn a Unanimous Decision victory.
Henderson quietly entered the UFC's lightweight division with a Unanimous Decision victory over Mark Bocek. He'd then defeat both Jim Miller and Clay Guida to earn a shot at Frankie Edgar's belt. Henderson captured the lightweight title and has defended it twice.
With no challenger on the horizon, it seems like a great time to put together the rematch between the two young fighters. Why not have them headline this fictional last WEC event?