In William Shakespeare’s most heralded play Romeo and Juliet, the acclaimed line, “Parting is such sweet sorrow” was birthed. What brought about Juliet’s moment of melancholy was when she and Romeo were unable to find a way to spend their lives together.
While fans of World Extreme Cagefighting will no longer see action under that brand, in no way will they have to experience any moments of withdrawal. Thanks to Ultimate Fighting Championship, WEC has been enveloped by the lead brand in Mixed Martial Arts, giving the “little guys” a grander stage to fight on. Unlike UFC (Pre-WEC merger) and StrikeForce, WEC has been known to give disappointment-free cards, and the final event, WEC 53, was no exception.
The first of the two main events saw Dominick Cruz outlast Scott Jorgensen to both retain the WEC Bantamweight title, and become the first ever UFC Bantamweight champion. In typical, yet ironic fashion, Cruz was able to push the pace of the fight, using his striking while limiting Jorgensen’s bull rush attack. For the most part, Jorgensen was being used for target practice, landing multiple, three-to-four strike combinations. Jorgensen tried to mount attacks, but the champion was too elusive and quick for the number one contender to establish any kind of control. At the conclusion of the fight, which Cruz won by unanimous decision, the champion immediately announced he would like to face Urijah Faber, the only fighter to blemish his record in his 18 fight career. It’s only a matter of time before the UFC makes this must-see rematch official.
If another rematch is to be made official, then former WEC Lightweight Champion Ben “Smooth” Henderson will have to wait before he gets a shot at the belt he once owned. If you are not aware of who Anthony Pettis, he showed the world at WEC 53 why his nickname is “Showtime”. Pettis and Henderson waged war on each other that warranted this bout “Fight of the Night”. Everything you wanted in a championship fight could be found here. Henderson won the first round and Pettis took the second and third. A pivotal moment took place with 90 seconds left in the third round when Pettis was able to take Henderson’s back standing up. With Pettis’ right arm snaked over Henderson’s shoulder, Pettis’ left arm was free to pound Henderson with some rib shots that echoed throughout the Jobing.com Arena. Henderson would survive the assault, and even won the fourth round, but as the fight progressed into the last round, the change in the former champion’s demeanor became glaring, leading to his eventual demise. Then again, Pettis hit Henderson with two accidental kicks to the cup, which could’ve also turned the tide of the fight. The two got into an exchange of strikes, which mostly went in Pettis’ favor. Henderson would soon work in a takedown at the base of the fence, only for Pettis to escape. Henderson takes Pettis back, but he escapes that and invites Henderson to finish the fight standing up. As the two are sizing each other up, Pettis attempts an unprecedented move and banks it. Seeing the distance between the two, “Showtime” runs towards the cage, springs off it with his right foot, turns himself in midair and lands a kick onto Henderson’s chin, knocking down the former champion. Pettis closed in on “Smooth”, punched away at him and “Smooth” was able to escape, but it wasn’t enough to keep the WEC Lightweight Champion. Henderson is still arguably one of the best lightweights in MMA, but to reach the top of the mountain, he will have to wait his turn, as the next major fight in that division will feature Pettis against the winner of the UFC Lightweight strap between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. From there, the WEC and UFC belts in this class will be unified to decide an undisputed lightweight champion.
So as the WEC turns out its lights one last time, the parting is anything but sorrow. Given the excitement that the little guys bring to the octagon, UFC’s brand, as if it really needed, has just elevated to another plateau. With the right marketing, bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight fighters will be discussed in the same breath as Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre and Cain Velasquez when it comes to UFC’s “Must-See Fighters”.
By Antoine Hoffman