The World Extreme Cagefighting’s final event, WEC 53, is a bittersweet event for the world of MMA. It signifies the end of what has amounted to one of the premiere fighting leagues in the world, but also marks a great step forward for the competitors as they join the ranks of the UFC.
Arizona fight fans fought hard to bring the WEC to their state, winning the “Hometown Takedown” contest by voting Phoenix to the top of a list of various potential venues for this final WEC event.
With two WEC champions who have deep Arizona roots ruling their respective divisions, it was only fitting that the chips fell as they did. For WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, nothing is more motivating than competing as WEC champs for the first time in front of their home crowd.
This event marks the first and only chance they will ever have to do so as WEC champions and surely they will make the most of the opportunity.
Overall the event is bitter sweet due to the fact that fight fans are losing a staple of the MMA community as the WEC is taken under the wing of the UFC. Fans are losing what has amounted to one of the premiere fighting organizations in the sport, which over the years has showcased some of the greatest fighters in the world.
And the best thing about the WEC is with all the quality it had to offer, it was free.
Now all the fighters that fans have grown to follow closely like Henderson, Cruz, Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo will now come with a high price tag if fans are to continue to watch their careers unfold. While that may sting in the pocket book, it is good to know they will finally take their place where they belong under the banner of the pinnacle of the sport, the UFC, and they will be recognized with all that comes along with that brand.
It is quite an honor to fight fans in the desert to have earned the opportunity to see their homegrown champions Henderson and Cruz compete at home one time before they move on to become UFC competitors.
Training out of the MMA Lab, Ben “Smooth” Henderson is a class act who represents his camp and the Arizona MMA community with the true appeal of a world champion. Always a man of respect, always a game competitor, always dangerous, Henderson is one of a kind.
His fights have been amazing to watch and he has more than a tall order as he takes on Anthony Pettis in front of his home crowd in his final WEC title defense. Henderson’s championship pedigree has shown an ability to snatch victory wherever it is presented but he specializes in the submission.
Eight of his 12 wins have been earned in such fashion. His finest performance, though, was a decision win over perennial contender Donald Cerrone to earn both the interim WEC LW title, fight of the night, and Sherdog’s fight of the year honors.
His next challenge, Pettis, is an unorthodox and dangerous opponent for any LW fighter and surely he covets the opportunity to win this title and the opportunity to unify it with the UFC LW title as the next step in his career. Pettis is a fighter able to end fights via submission or strikes and Henderson will have to be extremely careful when he hooks ‘em up with this rising star.
Both combatants are more than capable of achieving a win tonight and moving on to attempt becoming a unified UFC champion. Regardless of who seizes that opportunity, tonight marks the first step of that journey. It's a journey that will prove quite compelling as it unfolds for both the fighters and their fans.
Another Arizona-bred champion Dominick “The Dominater” Cruz is looking to put on a show for his local fans. A brilliant game planner, Cruz has climbed his way to the pinnacle of the WEC after suffering only one loss to “The California Kid” Urijah Faber.
Dom, as his friends know him, is a humble yet confident champion who takes great pride in his style and approach as he leads the bantamweight division. True to his nickname, he has absolutely dominated since making the move to 135 pounds, including two masterful performances against highly touted Faber protege Joseph Benavidez.
Simply put, Dom Cruz, with his wrestling and striking pedigree and an ability to implement seamless game plans, is quite an imposing champion. A true master who holds his belt tightly in his grasp.
Looking to wrench it free and claim it for his own is another extremely capable competitor in Scott Jorgensen. A very underrated fighter, Jorgensen is looking to make his presence felt across the division. Making his mark against Cruz would be a huge step in the right direction.
Yet as Benavidez could easily tell him, he is in for a long night against the champ if a victory is at hand.
Nothing short of Jorgensen’s “A-game” will do when he mixes it up with the champ Cruz. And if he brings it, he has the ability to grind out a win over his opponent, but again that order is an uphill battle, there are no two ways about it.
Becoming the first ever UFC BW champion has an extremely nice ring to it and should prove quite the motivation for both these world class fighters. And that, fight fans, means you and I are in for a treat either way it goes.
No matter what happens, this is the type of grand finale event that will prove quite a swan song for the WEC. For a long time they have put on some of the greatest MMA events fight fans can remember, and that stands against all MMA organizations.
Even for the UFC and Strikeforce, the WEC has many times proven to be an extremely tough act to follow, and much of that credit is due to the athletes that left it all in the cage for the sport and its fans.
With two final title fights on the menu, and sprinkling in names like Kamal Shalorus, Bart Palaszewski, Donald Cerrone, Shane Roller and Jamie Varner, this will be a memorable grand finale to what has amounted to an amazing run for the WEC.
Tonight the athletes who have been chosen to represent this world class promotion one final time as it humbly bows out of the picture, these fighters signify the perfect ingredients to showcase exactly what the MMA community will be missing when that final bell rings.
The bittersweet symphony that will be played tonight signifies the MMA world saying goodbye to an old friend and welcoming these world class components into the ranks of the best organization in the sport, and quite frankly, it puts them exactly where they belong.
To the fighters, welcome to the top, and to the WEC, thank you and goodbye.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad.com.