(“Pequeno” gives thumbs up to WEC.)
Ex-Shooto champ Alexandre Franca “Pequeno” Nogueira is scheduled to make his WEC debut on June 1st at WEC 34. He will face Jose Aldo, as confirmed by Sherdog. “Pequeno” is 13-4-2, but is 1-2 in his last three. He has fought only twice since July of 2005, mostly due to injuries.
Nogueira won the Shooto featherweight title in 1999 and held the belt in dominating fashion for seven years. The title was taken from him due to injuries in May of 2006. The fighter had lost via KO to Hideo Tokoro at K-1: Hero’s 2 while still holding the Shooto belt and then followed his title-stripping up by losing via decision to Koutetsu Boku at K-1: Hero’s 6. He got back on track last July when he KO’d Shuichiro Katsumura in the first round of K-1 Hero’s Middleweight Tourney. He used to be mentioned as one of the best, but how things change when you lose two fights in a row (see: Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva). It should be noted that the guy was fighting through injuries, lost his KO fight in the third and the other fight went the distance. If he’s finally healthy, he can still rock the cage.
Nog’s opponent is on a three-fight win streak, winning his last in July via decision at a Pancrase event. Aldo has a 9-1 overall and has been a journeyman for much of his career. His only loss was to Luciano Azevedo via RNC in 2005. It will also be Aldo’s WEC debut.
In related news, contender Jeff “The Big Frog” Curran and WEC newbie Mike Brown are rumored to also be going toe-to-toe on June 1st. While agreements have not been inked, Curran has told MMAWeekly that the wheels are in motion.
“I have been told and Mike has been told that we are facing each other, but we don’t have contracts yet,” Curran said. “That announcement will become official soon I am sure. I am just so ready to go fight again.”
WEC 34 will be headlined by feathers Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver in a title bout. Pulver — a former UFC lightweight champ — has never been beaten at featherweight, but “The California Kid” is on a 12 fight win streak since losing the only fight of his career. Jeff Curran was one of those victims. The night will also see 32-1 Miguel Torres defend his bantamweight belt against undefeated Manny “The Mangler” Tapia.
You gotta’ hand it to the WEC for stockpiling such a great group of little guys. With the signing of Nogueira and already having guys like Pulver, Faber, Torres, Chase Beebe, and Tapia, among others, not many organizations can boast that many top fighters that come in under 145.