Thanks to Reed Harris and the great team at World Extreme Cagefighting, the organization has been great to watch over the years.
Matchmaker Sean Shelby has done a phenomenal job of discovering some of the finest talent in the sport, and the fighters themselves have gone into the WEC cage and delivered many memorable fights.
With the merger of the WEC and UFC, it is only fair to take a look at five fighters that will enter the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2011.
Chad Mendes (9-0, 4-0 WEC)
The two-time Pac-10 champ and two-time Div. I NCAA All-American at Cal Poly entered the WEC this past March. Since making his debut, Mendes has been on a tear, defeating Erik Koch, Anthony Morrison, Cub Swanson and Javier Vazquez.
Mendes looked like the next big thing in his last outing as he routed Vazquez to earn a unanimous decision victory. In that fight, Mendes threw flying knees, showed crisp boxing and at one point threw in a front flip to pass Vazquez’s guard.
After storming onto the scene and dominating all four of his opponents, Chad Mendes will look to continue his winning ways in 2011 on the world’s biggest stage, the UFC.
Ben Henderson (12-1, 5-0 WEC) WEC Lightweight Champion
With a record that boasts five wins and zero losses since joining the organization, the lightweight champion has been nothing short of impressive during his tenure in the WEC.
Henderson has solid wrestling, superb submission defense and one of the sport’s most vicious guillotine chokes. Anthony Njokuani, Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone have all fallen victim to Henderson’s favorite submission.
His most recent title defense was in April, when he successfully defended his title by defeating the aforementioned Cerrone by first round submission (guillotine).
At WEC 53 on Thursday night, the champion will fight Anthony Pettis to decide who will get the opportunity to unify the WEC and UFC lightweight belts in 2011.
Miguel Torres (37-3, 6-2 WEC)
Torres was on an amazing 12-fight win streak when he made his debut in the WEC, and he went on to claim victory in his first five fights in the organization to become the bantamweight champion.
The former titleholder is loved for his never say die attitude and his ability to render opponents unconscious. Five of Torres’ eight opponents in the organization have either succumbed to his black belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu or lightning-fast strikes.
Torres has been a huge star in the WEC and has helped carry the torch for the organization. He most recently defeated Charlie Valencia at WEC 51 by submission (rear naked choke) at two minutes and 25 seconds of the second round. That victory set him up to be on the main card of UFC 126 in Las Vegas, NV on February 5th.
Urijah Faber (24-4, 9-3 WEC) “The California Kid”
Living and training out of Sacramento, California at Team Alpha Male, the bantamweight contender and former featherweight champion has long been the face of the WEC.
The California Kid has helped bring the smaller weight classes to the forefront by winning eight of his 12 fights in the organization by submission, five of those ending in the first round. Among his victims are Dominick Cruz (Bantamweight champion), Jens Pulver twice (former UFC lightweight champion), Jeff Curran, Raphael Assuncao and most recently Takeya Mizugaki.
Combine Faber’s energetic personality with his marvelous performances in the WEC and it is no wonder he has been the face of the organization.
With a successful drop in weight classes from 145 lbs. to 135 lbs., Faber is primed and ready to make a run at what will now be the UFC’s bantamweight championship.
Jose Aldo (18-1, 8-0 WEC) UFC Featherweight Champion
The Brazilian featherweight became the first-ever 145-lb. UFC champion by being one of the most dominant fighters on the planet during his time in the WEC.
Aldo competed eight times in the organization and destroyed each of his opponents with devastating striking. Manny Gamburyan, Urijah Faber, Jonathan Brookins and Mike Brown are merely a few of the names that have been sent home packing with a loss on the record.
At just 24 years of age, the young champion continues to improve each time out, and with a highlight reel full of knockouts to his credit he has become one of the most electrifying fighters in the sport regardless of weight class.
A neck injury forced a withdrawal from his title defense at UFC 125, but when healthy there is arguably not a more devastating fighter on the planet. Aldo will be looking to pick up where he left off when he returns in 2011.