With the lack of major MMA cards over the past several weeks, I’ve had somewhat of an absence, but yet the landscape of the sport has been forever changed.
Last week UFC President Dana White announced the merger of UFC and it’s sister company WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting). Long heralded for it’s outstanding excitement and level of talent, the WEC will soon be dissolved into the UFC as its Bantamweight (135 pound) and Featherweight (145 pound) divisions are now recognized and utilized.
I see a variety of things playing into this decision. Frank Mir vs. Mirko Crocop was a huge letdown as a main event recently, and Dana White, nor the Fertita Brothers want to experience that again. If you’ve ever watched a WEC card, boring fights rarely, if ever occur. The addition of two weight divisions adds two more titles to the company, and allows it to build more marquee talent.
Shane Carwin also pulled out of his bout at UFC 125 against former Ultimate Fighter Season winner Roy Nelson, in a Co-Main Event that was already a little lacking. Both competitors coming off of losses, Carwin was in dire need of back surgery and had to remove himself from the match. This left UFC in a raw situation, although being two months out gave them a few options. Jose Aldo, the WEC’s dominant and brutal featherweight champion came to the rescue, and will now be a headliner on the UFC 125 card.
Also recently Anthony Pettis, the number one contender to Ben Henderson’s Lightweight Title, was featured on and MTV show titled “World Of Jenks”. A documentary style show where the show’s host Adam Jenks lives with the subject and experiences their life. This episode was wildly successful and gained interest among non-fans. Myself I’m very glad this happened, as it’s given many people a look and an amount of respect for what mixed martial artists go through on a daily basis. The fact that Anthony Pettis is now known by millions of fans really helped out the WEC’s case as well.
Some are very quick to point out the negatives, in that the UFC has way too many people on their roster and won’t have anything to do with them. This simply isn’t true. You know all those European based UFC cards that everyone complains about (like the upcoming UFC 122 next Saturday) not having enough main event level talent on it? The issue with that is, a lot of fighters don’t WANT to headline those cards, as the pay, and travel isn’t worth it to them. This will no longer be the case. The WEC guys have been severely underpaid for a very long time. The opportunity for them to make between 25-50 thousand to be on these cards will be a welcome change.
That still begs the question of how the UFC will be able to make time for all this talent. That’s simple: There will be more cards. Dana White already announced that the UFC would be picking up 2 more cards that will air live & free on the Versus network next year. The level of talent will do nothing but increase, and you’ll see people more inclined to fight at weights that are made comfortable to them.
The WEC was already home to Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, Ben Henderson, Mike Thomas Brown, Jose Aldo…guys that the average MMA fan already knows and likely follows. Add that to the fact that WEC archived programming will now likely air on Spike TV, and surely a Bantamweight/Featherweight season of The Ultimate Fighter (likely featuring Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber) will be on the way. The UFC got a huge shot in the arm at a time in which it was beginning to experience a dip in Pay Per View revenue.
A huge announcement was also made that the winner of Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis for the WEC Lightweight Title (on the WEC’s last card in December) will face off with the winner of Gray Maynard vs. Frank Edgar in a UFC/WEC title unification bout. This is what should have happened when the WEC’s heavier divisions were also dissolved by the UFC, as Paulo Filho was an undefeated Middleweight, and Carlos Condit has proven to be a worthy challenger.
This overall was a GREAT announcement for all fans and the company as a whole. While I’m not particularly looking forward to covering the upcoming UFC 122 card, you never know what can happen in MMA, and the addition of two new weight divisions certainly will help these cards.
Now to preview the only relevant bout for next weeks card, Yushin Okami has long been in consideration among the top contenders in the Middleweight division. Once scheduled for a title fight with Anderson Silva, Okami unfortunately had to withdraw from the card due to injury. Yushin Okami is one of the most well rounded Japanese MMA fighters in the world, and has compiled a 9-2 record in the UFC. Okami is often criticized for having boring fights, but it obviously plays into his favor. I don’t however think his boxing or wrestling will be able to outmatch that of Nate Marquardt’s. Nate has managed a 9-3 record in his UFC run, including a Title match loss to Silva, and former number one contenders Chael Sonnen and Thales Leites. Marqaurdt has stepped up his game and learned to excel in many disciplines, and has raw knockout power, which I think will be the deciding factor, as Okami usually tries to take a fight to the judges scorecards. Look for Marquardt to take this fight in the second round.
Also on the card, the UFC continues to try to protect the overrated Amir Sadollah, by feeding him a guy who is coming off of two losses. I’ll just wait and talk about this AFTER the fight.
One last item I’d like to peg, since it’s died down a little bit is the Undertaker/Brock Lesnar Fiasco.
Personally, I think a few things. Regardless of what Dana White says, if Brock Lesnar wanted to do a match at WrestleMania, he would allow it. It’d be nothing but money for he and the UFC AND the WWE. Say what you will about how MMA fans would react to Brock Lesnar taking part in a pro wrestling again, but that’s a GOOD thing. The fans that already hate him would have more fuel to add to their fire, while his fans plop down the 60 or so bucks for Wrestlemania.
The reality is Brock Lesnar would be losing this match. The Undertaker’s streak, and Brock’s one time appearance would not bode well for a Lesnar victory, and there’s no way he goes over in this match. However, I do believe Brock could pull a seven figure payday for WrestleMania EASILY. Brock will not be returning to WWE full time, that is simply not a possibility. His disgust for constant travel, having a family, his financial security, and UFC contract are all factors, so that is not going to happen.
But one night? Press for the WWE, Press for Lesnar, Press for UFC. It was all very possible. However the likelihood is dwindling due to a possible serious injury by The Undertaker, and the possibility of Brock Lesnar fighting Roy Nelson. But my very, very reliable sources close to the situation say that if both are healthy, with the positive relationships held between UFC, WWE, Dana White and Vince McMahon, anything is possible.
Until next week, follow me on twitter for my MMA and Wrestling thoughts!