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WEC Officially Axes Welterweight Class; Adds Tiny, Tiny Man Division

horse jockeys
(Welcome to the WEC, fellas.)

From a new press release on WEC.tv:

Las Vegas, NV (USA) – World Extreme Cagefighting® (WEC®) today announced that WEC will add a flyweight division to the WEC championship divisions. The organization will no longer actively promote the welterweight division, continuing its focus on the lighter weight classes including lightweight (155 pounds), featherweight (145 pounds), bantamweight (135 pounds) and flyweight (125 pounds).
 
Carlos Condit, reigning champion of the WEC welterweight division, and Brock Larson, as well as other top 170 pound WEC fighters will transition to the Ultimate Fighting Championship® organization to continue their athletic careers as UFC® welterweight fighters.
 
With the addition of the flyweight division, the WEC has cemented its status as the home of the greatest lighter weight fighters in the world,” said Peter Dropick WEC Vice President of Operations and Production. "We are excited to launch the 125 pound championship division, and look forward to giving our fans the best and most action-packed flyweight fights in the sport."
 
More information about the WEC flyweight division will be announced at a later date.

So that’s it — Condit and Larson are gone, and they’ve taken the 170-pound division with them. And it’s only a matter of time before the WEC completes its differentiation from the UFC, axes the lightweight class, and sends Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone up to the big leagues. But while it’s good to see the WEC adding divisions to make up for the ones they cut, you’d think a women’s division (or two) would come before a horse-jockey division. It kind of bothers me when women’s MMA is roadblocked due to a perceived lack of depth, then Zuffa installs a new men’s division where the #1-ranked fighter doesn’t even have ten wins yet, and the #8 fighter has won four of his ten fights. (And of course, how many American MMA fans out of 100 would be able to pick them out of a lineup?) Does this make any sense from a marketing perspective?

And the idea of 125-pound men fighting — doesn’t that seem kind of, I don’t know, unnatural to you? All your talk about their speed and endless gas tanks will seem beside the point when Frank Mir enters the cage and asks them to take us through the fight. Either the flyweights are going to have to stand on a step-ladder to reach the mic, or Mir is going to talk to these boys on his knees…

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Faking Or Not, Jamie Varner Was Pretty Effed Up

Jamie Varner WEC MMA
(F*ckin’ boo him.)

WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner may have won a grueling title defense against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone on Sunday — but between his injuries, the fan reaction, and his bank account, he isn’t exactly feeling like a winner right now. During an appearance on Sherdog’s "Beatdown" radio show yesterday, Varner rattled off the laundry list of ouchies that he left the cage with last weekend:

"I broke my right index metacarpal, completely fractured. So I have to get pins put in it tomorrow (Thursday). Then I go next week to see my eye doctor to make sure my retina isn’t detached. And if it’s detached it could be a career-ending injury…I broke my hand in the first or second round. I don’t know exactly where. I remember one time in the fourth round that I just couldn’t hit him with it. I told my corner that I couldn’t use it anymore…He checked one of my kicks early in the fight and that’s where I fractured my foot. Then I kicked him in the head with it in the fourth and that was it. My foot was completely done. So I walked out for the fifth round with one hand and some takedowns…I knew the fifth round was going to be boring. I couldn’t offer anything really damaging."

During that fifth round, Cerrone was able to score his first takedown of the night, then kneed Varner in the face when the champ was trying to get up. Varner’s knees — just barely — were touching the mat. Referee Josh Rosenthal halted the action and called the illegal blow unintentional, but Varner couldn’t continue, claiming that he couldn’t see. The fight went to the scorecards, and the crowd erupted in boos. Needless to say, the idea that some fans think Varner faked his injury to get out of finishing the last couple minutes of the fight doesn’t sit well with him:

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“Natural Born Killer” Moving to the UFC?

Carlos Condit WEC MMA

Multiple sources are reporting that the upcoming welterweight title match between WEC champ Carlos "Natural Born Killer" Condit and top contender Brock Larson — scheduled for WEC 39 on March 1st — has been canceled, with Condit on the verge of moving to the UFC. Though Five Ounces of Pain first reported the news, their claim that the Condit/Larson bout was scrapped due to an injury sustained by Larson is being refuted by MMA Weekly, who says that Condit was the one who first dropped out of the Corpus Christi WEC show due to a sprained wrist.

At any rate, it seems the UFC has decided that this might be a good time to bring Condit up to the big leagues; Condit is on an eight-fight win streak and hasn’t lost since June 2006. The current rumor is that he’ll be facing Martin Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 18 (April 1st, Nashville), and it’s been speculated that this is the first step towards the elimination of the WEC’s welterweight division; the WEC discontinued its middleweight and light-heavyweight classes late last year, with the UFC signing standout fighters Brian Stann, Steve Cantwell, and Chael Sonnen.

In other UFC news…

— Replacing the injured Amir Sadollah against Nick Catone at UFC Fight Night 17 (February 7th, Tampa) will be UFC newbie Derek "The Gentleman" Downey, a Utah-based fighter who has built up a 10-3 record fighting in regional promotions. Nine of his 10 wins have come by first-round stoppage.

— Houston Alexander is getting another chance to prove himself after taking his third-straight first-round loss to Eric Schafer last September. The Assassin will be returning at UFC 98 (May 23rd, Las Vegas) against Andre Gusmao, the former IFL standout who dropped a decision to Jon Jones in his Octagon debut at UFC 87.

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Could This Be the End of Lil’ Evil?

Jens Pulver Urijah Faber MMA WEC
(Jens Pulver finds himself in an all-too-familiar spot against Urijah Faber at WEC 38. Photo courtesy of WEC.tv.)

From JensPulver.com via MMA Mania:

well shit. damn that body shot hurt like no other and damned if I fell into his choke, and well fight is over. I never meant to get all emotional in the interview after the fight but when he asked me if I am still relevant it got me thinking. I could hear the crowd and boy I have to tell you it was loud and really started to move me inside that cage. Thus the F bomb at the end, I guess I was saying that to myself just happened to be out loud. There is nothing but doubt running through my mind, wondering if I am hanging on to long or am I really just at the point of turning things around. I do feel great when I am getting prepared, just had so many things going against me this time it was tough to get away for a good solid two months to give myself the best chance of winning. I do not know where I am gonna go from here and I do not know if you all just watched the last fight for lil evil. I know this I have battled all they put in front of me and I know I have always tried to do my best out there. I have been open and honest for the most part when talking and answering any question asked. I love this sport and I have loved watching it grow and become bigger and bigger as each month passes. I guess it is time to just go home and figure out where to go next. I can say this it has been an honor to fight in front of all of you who have taken the time [to] watch and all of you who take the time to come on here and say whats up. I wish you all the best in the world. again my apologies to my family, my camp at AMC and to my fans. 

Sucks to hear a legend like Pulver come face-to-face with the end of the line. But to me, Pulver’s loss to Urijah Faber on Sunday didn’t prove much — we already knew he couldn’t hang with the California Kid. Any fighter needs to do some serious re-evaluation after taking three straight losses, but the WEC can at least partially be blamed for Pulver’s last one. They’re the ones who booked him against Faber (again) after he was already on a two-fight skid, and didn’t let him postpone the match to March even though he was dealing with a new baby and the death of a close friend.

Between the two losses to Faber, Pulver got wrecked by Leonard Garcia, who may become the WEC’s next 145-pound champion. But in his first fight in the WEC, he choked out the very-respectable Cub Swanson in 35 seconds. Has Pulver really deteriorated that much in the last two years, or did he just run into Garcia on a good night, and Faber on any night? Why pack it in when you’re still skilled enough to beat good fighters (though not great ones), and when fans still love to watch you compete? Or is there no point when you know you’ll never be a champion again?

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Faber Wins Easy, Varner Retains Lightweight Belt at WEC 38

Jens Pulver Urijah Faber MMA WEC
Donald Cerrone Jamie Varner WEC
(Photo courtesy of MMA Weekly; gif courtesy of the UG.)

Former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber was able to score a victory over Jens Pulver for the second time last night at WEC 38 — and in 23 minutes and 26 seconds less than it took in their first meeting last June. Their co-headlining bout started fast and physical, with Pulver tossing Faber to the ground after a high kick attempt. But it wasn’t long before Faber drilled a vicious left hook to Lil’ Evil’s ribs, doubling over the former UFC champ and backing him up. Faber seized the opportunity and fired off punches until Pulver hit the ground, then followed Pulver to the mat and set up a fight-ending choke. The win earned the California Kid a $7,500 Submission of the Night bonus.

Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone also got some extra cash for the evening’s Fight of the Night, in which Varner defended his lightweight title and gave Cowboy the first loss of his career. Though Cerrone was the aggressor for most of the fight, and won many of the striking exchanges — thanks in large part to the long reach of his left high kick — Varner was able to take the challenger down at will, and inflicted major damage with his ground-and-pound. In the middle of round three, a punch from Varner opened a cut near Cerrone’s left eye that clearly inhibited his vision; his right eye was already swelling shut from previous abuse.

In the fifth round, Cerrone scored a successful takedown of his own, but made the mistake of bouncing a knee strike off Varner’s head while the champ was still kneeling. The action was immediately halted, and was never restarted, as a seemingly agonized Varner told doctors that he couldn’t see, and shouted "fuck!" more times than I’ve ever heard on basic cable. The fight went to the scorecards, where two judges saw it for Varner, and one judge (possibly blind himself) called it for Cerrone. The crowd booed Varner; distraught about how the fight ended, he told the fans "fuckin’ boo me, I’m better than that," and promised Cerrone a rematch as soon as he was cleared by the athletic commission.

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Miguel Torres Returns in April for Hometown Fight Against Brian Bowles

Miguel Torres Yoshiro Maeda WEC MMA
(Torres poses with victim Yoshiro Maeda after their epic battle last June. Photo courtesy of koolpaw.)

#1 bantamweight /#5 pound-for-pound fighter Miguel Torres will reportedly make his next title defense at WEC 40, which will be held April 5th in Chicago; the venue will be announced soon. Unsurprisingly, his opponent will be Brian Bowles (7-0, all wins by stoppage), who clinched his #1 contender status last month by choking out Will Ribeiro at WEC 37 — the same event where Torres retained his bantamweight strap by beating the tar out of Manny Tapia. Ferocious local support should be behind Torres, who lives and trains in East Chicago, Indiana, and made his name by competing in small shows in the area. WEC 40 will also feature another bantamweight match between undefeated Joseph Benavidez and Jeff Curran, who is dropping a weight class after taking consecutive losses at featherweight to Urijah Faber and Mike Brown. The winner of the Torres/Bowles fight will likely take on the winner of the Benavidez/Curran fight in a title scrap later this year.

Remember, WEC 38 goes down this Sunday, headlined by Varner/Cerrone and Faber/Pulver II, and WEC 39 is scheduled for March 1st, featuring Mike Brown vs. Leonard Garcia and Carlos Condit vs. Brock Larson.

In other important non-UFC matchup news…

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Heads-Up: WEC 38 Next Weekend


(Varner on Cerrone: "If he goes toe to toe with me, he’s a dead man.")

Though it’s being swallowed in the collective hype of UFC 93, UFC 94, and Affliction: Day of Reckoning, the WEC is holding their next event this coming Sunday (1/25) at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, CA. For once, Urijah Faber‘s fight won’t be the most interesting one on the card. Sure, his three-round rematch with Jens Pulver will be a must-see for California Kid/Lil’ Evil fans, but the real heat is behind the lightweight championship main event, in which defending champ Jamie Varner looks to make his second belt-defense against Donald Cerrone, the undefeated Greg Jackson-product who was one-half of WEC 36′s best fight. You can watch the action live on Versus beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT; the full lineup is below…

MAIN CARD
Jamie Varner vs. Donald Cerrone (for lightweight championship)
Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver (FW)
Danillo Villefort vs. Mike Campbell (WW)
Jose Aldo vs. Rolando Perez (FW)

UNDERCARD
Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Njokuani (LW)
Edgar Garcia vs. Hiromitsu Miura (WW)
Dominick Cruz vs. Ian McCall (FW)
Scott Jorgenson vs. Frank Gomez (BW)
Blas Avena vs. Jesse Lennox (WW)
Charlie Valencia vs. Seth Dikun (BW)

Related: WEC 39 goes down March 1st in Corpus Christi, Texas, featuring the featherweight championship bout between Mike Brown and Leonard Garcia, and a welterweight title scrap between Carlos Condit and Brock Larson.

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Fight of the Day: Razor vs. Cowboy

Even though it never made it onto the broadcast of WEC 36 — a gross oversight that actually led to people getting demoted — the lightweight war between "Razor" Rob McCullough and Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone still managed to make it onto many MMA pundits’ fights-of-the-year lists. But unless you caught the WEC’s "Best of 2008" special last month, this may be the first time you’ll see it in its entirety. Part one is above, and part two is after the jump; major props to MMA Scraps.

The tone is set in the first round round as McCullough drops the much-taller Cerrone with punches twice, but Cowboy manages to keep his shit together, score a knockdown of his own, then pounce on Razor and nail him with some heavy ground-and-pound. A bloodied and mouthpiece-less McCullough reverses the position, but finds himself knocked to the mat two more times before the bell rings. And that’s just the first five minutes. Enjoy… 

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WEC to Add Even Smaller Men to Its Roster

Shooto MMA Japan Yamaguchi Kojima
(Mamoru Yamaguchi and Shinichi Kojima: America is not ready.)

With their middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions officially closed down, the WEC is planning to add a new division to further differentiate themselves from their big brothers in the UFC. No, not women (at least not yet). According to MMA Weekly, you’ll soon be seeing 125-pound flyweights battling under the WEC banner: 

MMAWeekly.com sources on Tuesday revealed that the WEC is adding a 125-pound flyweight division. With WEC 38 in San Diego just three weeks away, no 125-pound bouts are expected for that fight card. The promotion’s next event, likely in March, is a more apt candidate to host the WEC’s new commitment to flyweight fighters.

Quick, name three flyweight fighters. If you can do it, you’re probably a die-hard Shooto fan, since that’s where most of the top 125-pounders compete. And you can be sure that the WEC will be poaching a lot of talent from the Japanese organization. But Bloody Elbow believes that the WEC will be building their new division around Henry Cejudo, the 21-year-old American freestyle wrestler who won a gold medal in Beijing last summer competing at 121 pounds. Cejudo has been training at a boxing gym in his hometown of Phoenix, and was briefly rumored as an opponent for Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto at Fields Dynamite!! 2008. The upside with Cejudo is that he’s already something of a national hero, and can actually speak English — and therefore would be a lot easier to market than some of the other flyweight talent the WEC might bring aboard.

No matchups for the WEC’s March event have been officially announced, though a welterweight title fight between Carlos Condit and Brock Larson has been rumored.

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The 5 Best MMA Events of 2008

#5: Affliction: Banned, 7/19/08

(Photo courtesy of Sherdog)

Sure, the pacing was a little shaky, and the picture quality for the pay-per-view broadcast was kind of dark, and apparently some of you don’t think that Megadeth’s Rust in Peace is one of the most kickass records ever released. But you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Affliction’s debut MMA show gave us a supernova of heavyweight star power, featuring Fedor Emelianenko’s 36-second destruction of Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski’s beatdown of Ben Rothwell, and Josh Barnett’s redemptive KO of Pedro Rizzo; elsewhere on the card, we got to see Matt Lindland, Babalu Sobral, Vitor Belfort and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in action. The organization has since turned into a bit of a shit-show, but with Banned, they gave us nearly everything we could have hoped for.

#4: UFC 87: Seek and Destroy, 8/9/08

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The UFC’s visit to Minneapolis proved the following…
Brock Lesnar is an absolute beast. His takedowns can’t be stopped, and his punches tend to break facial bones. He will mock you after he beats you.
Kenny Florian is a fantastic fighter, and worthy of a title shot; Roger Huerta maybe had a little more hype than substance.
— Demian Maia is one of the most talented submission specialists in MMA, in any organization, in any weight class. His choke-out of Jason MacDonald gave him his third-consecutive Submission of the Night bonus.
— Ben Saunders might actually be a contender one day.
— Jon Jones is athletic and explosive. I’m sorry, but the clichés are true sometimes.
Jon Fitch is one tough son-of-a-bitch.
— If you’re fighting Georges St. Pierre, tough ain’t enough.

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