With the final WEC event going down Thursday in Glendale, Ariz., several MMA For Real staffers give their top three WEC memories.
The Summer of 2008 was one to remember for the WEC. Of all the events WEC has run, it's tough to find a stretch of two shows better than WEC 34 and WEC 35. WEC 34 featured the long-awaited featherweight title fight between Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver in front of a huge crowd of more than 12,000 at Arco Arena in Sacramento. On top of that, Miguel Torres defended his bantamweight title against Yoshiro Maeda in a "Fight of the Year" candidate. Two months later at WEC 35, three titles were on the line as Jamie Varner defended his lightweight title against Marcus Hicks, Steve Cantwell became the light-heavyweight champion by beating Brian Stann and Carlos Condit defended the welterweight title, stopping Hiromitsu Miura in a four-round war. These two shows really showed what the WEC was all about and helped solidify the WEC as a show to watch.
WEC 31 was another show with three titles on the line. We saw Doug Marshall beat Ariel Gandulla to retain the light-heavyweight title, then we saw the controversial first fight between Paulo Filho and Chael Sonnen and also a very exciting fight that saw Faber beat Jeff Curran. The show also saw Jens Pulver make his WEC debut by beating Cub Swanson rather quickly, setting up his title shot against Faber. This, like many WEC shows, was a very fun event. Because of the Filho/Sonnen fight, this event still is talked about to this day.
For excitement and violence, few WEC events measure up to June's WEC 49. The show saw two crazy fights, one between Mark Hominick and Yves Jabouin and another between Jamie Varner and Kamal Shalorus. The show also saw Josh Grispi choking out L.C. Davis. A great show that is underrated by many.
The fact that EVERY WEC event was a much watch event. I can't recall ever going into a WEC event with the notion that it was going to be a boring night of fights, no matter who was on the card. That's something that many promotions can't say, including the UFC. I can recall war after war from Condit/Miura to Faber/Pulver to Torres/Mizugaki, not to mention all of the fighters I had never heard of that had me saying....daaaaaayum!
The fact that the WEC basically put the lighter weight guys on the map. I can recall going back to Urijah Faber at WEC 25 where he made all of $10K. Now at WEC 56 he made $56K. Granted, that's still not a lot of money but it's a far cry from $10K. Nobody knew who Faber was or Miguel Torres, Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Scott Jorgensen prior to the WEC being pushed by the Zuffa machine.
WEC 48 PPV: I didn't think the PPV would do well at all but the Zuffa hype machine won again apparently. A tweak here and a tweak there (UFC presents WEC 48: Aldo vs. Faber for example) with Dana White pushing the event is all it took. Although the main event was pretty much a mismatch, it was still a joy to watch the heart of a former champion in Faber still trying to compete with one of the best fighters on the planet. Let me just say I'm going to miss the WEC as a standalone product, but I've been a big supporter of the UFC absorbing the WEC for some time now. Now it's time for these lighter weight fighters to really shine amongst the masses.
I'll never forget the anticipation leading up to Faber vs. Pulver. Urijah had clearly established himself as the # 1 featherweight fighter in MMA and Pulver, although past his prime, seemed like a legitimate threat to the title coming down from lightweight. The hype for that show really raised the brand awareness for the WEC and the fight ended up being a good match. Overall, the WEC did a fairly good job in showcasing lighter weight fighters and the promotion for this main event exemplified this.
Mike Brown has been one of the most accomplished lighter weight fighters in MMA's brief history. He held a legitimate world championship and defended it successfully. But the win that I saw Jose Aldo score against him when Aldo took the title was one of the most impressive changing of the guard moments that I've witnessed in combat sports. Aldo seemed to be two moves ahead of Mike that night and it was the highlight of Jose's career thus far, in my opinion. I really enjoyed watching that fight and was impressed by Aldo. Brown is a bad man but Jose made a statement that night.
No list would be complete without mentioning the Leonard Garcia vs. Chan-Sung Jung bout. It wasn't the prettiest fight in the world and the defense displayed wasn't that great, but it was definitely fun to watch. Even some folks I know that are only casual MMA fans have heard of this fight or seen footage from it online. This was definitely a fan-friendly match-up, though it might have put some real wear and tear on both competitors. But, hey, MMA needs Mickey Ward type fighters just as much as it needs world champions.