WEC 46 Aftermath: Sorting Out the Lightweight Picture
To those who scour through the MMA websites, skimming through what you think is mediocre MMA news just to get to your precious UFC headlines, I have one question for you.
What is wrong with you?
One of the many organizations that is often over-looked by the new generation of fight fans is World Extreme Cagefighting. Featuring lighter weight classes, this Zuffa owned company puts on action-packed shows almost on a monthly basis.
Zuffa had many fight fans glued to their seats earlier this week with two nationally televised cards—UFC's Ultimate Fight Night 20 and WEC 46. Ask any fight fan who happen to of watched both events, and the general consensus would be that WEC's show blew the UFC program out of the water.
One of the fights to generate that pulsating buzz was the night's main event, the lightweight championship unification bout between champion Jamie Varner, and interim champion Benson "Smooth" Henderson.
Henderson executed a perfect game-plan that obviously frustrated the impetuous Varner through three rounds before Henderson went for the throat, and essentially the kill, with an inescapable guillotine choke.
After the fight, the man quickly being dubbed as "The People's Champ" had nothing but kind words to say about his opponent, his future opponents, the fans, the WEC, and of course, his own personal savior.
Now the question is, where does the WEC's lightweight division go from here?
In a recent interview with B/R's Bryan Levick, Henderson voiced his plans to take a little bit of time off to sharpen up his already razor-sharp attack, although we shouldn't expect him to be out for too long.
There are two guys that jump to mind in terms of "Smooth's" first title defense—Donald Cerrone and Anthony Njokuani—both of whom have already lost to Henderson.
In terms of marketing, the rematch with Cerrone would be more appealing to the masses. At the same time, marketing is also a big reason why Cerrone shouldn't be the first to challenge Henderson for his strap...but we'll get to that one in a bit.
That's why the first undisputed title defense of Henderson's career should come against Njokuani.
The man known as "The Assassin" has rattled the brain of three skilled opponents consecutively since his loss to the champion, all three winning him Knockout of the Night honors.
Both Henderson and Njokuani have improved by leaps and bounds since their original meeting, almost assuring the fight fans a completely different fight the second time around.
Donald Cerrone & Jamie Varner
It's time to settle the score that began almost a year ago, is it not?
The original bout saw the two come in as courteous adversaries, but a highly controversial ending to the fight saw them leave as bitter enemies.
This rematch has been marketing itself in the form of trash talk between Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone for the past year, which is why marketing kills Cerrone's almost-immediate rematch with Henderson.
The grudge match between these two needs to happen. Besides, this match is much more marketable than Cerrone vs. Henderson at the current moment.
Let's face it, almost every fan enjoys the occasional war of words...the occasional animosity that just lingers in the air and seeps through your television set, amping you up in the process.
Cerrone vs. Varner 2.0 does just that.
Waiting in the Shadows
It's obvious that the top four of the lightweight division are Henderson, Cerrone, Njokuani, and Varner—the order is debatable. But what about the guys who are lurking in the shadows? The ones who are ready to pounce on an unsuspecting champion?
One of them, Shane Roller, has already experienced what it's like to fight against the always-improving game of Henderson. In fact, that is his only loss inside the WEC, going 4-1 along the way. One more big win could put Roller into contender status.
Roller's most recent opponent, Danny Castillo, was riding a nice win streak before falling down a notch on the ladder. Despite the loss, Castillo is still one of WEC's more dangerous lightweights. Expect him to bounce back even stronger in his next fight.
WEC 46 also featured the dominating break-out fight of Kamal Shalorus, as he used his "world class" wrestling, or wrestling-in-reverse, to destroy the will of Dave Jansen.
He also displayed some explosive hands, knocking Jansen's head around like it was a speed bag. With one or two more victories, Shalorus could be in future title talks.
Close, But Not Quite Yet
The young karate-based fighter Ed Ratcliff has compiled a 3-2 record inside the WEC with an exciting display of striking. However, he just hasn't showed the skills necessary to defeat some of the division's better fighters. If Ratcliff is able round-out all of his skills, he could be a serious threat to the title holder in the future.
The WEC was excited to sign Shawn Tompkin's prospect, Chris Horodecki, but unfortunately his debut didn't go exactly as planned.
The 22-year-old fighter made an inexcusable mistake and casually jogged away from Njokuani, directly into a brutal head kick.
Horodecki has shown the skills to be a potential contender—he just needs to find discipline inside the cage.
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