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Great Moments in WEC History

By on December 24, 2010

It’s unfortunate that World Extreme Cagefighting is now a thing of the past, as the WEC was a successful promotion that had a nice following even before Zuffa purchased it. Let’s take a look back at some of the best and most important moments in WEC history, presented in chronological order.

It all begins at WEC 1

A promotion that would eventually garner television coverage on HDNet and Versus while putting on 53 live shows would all begin on June 30, 2001. The WEC’s beginnings were rather humble, with a headlining bout featuring UFC veterans Dan Severn and Travis Fulton. The WEC always was tied mostly with California, and this was no exception, as it took place at The Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, California.

Among future UFC fighters such as Gan McGee and Seth Petruzelli (McGee beat Petruzelli by heel hook, if you can believe that) were such names as Scott Carson, who you may recognize as the man set to fight Herschel Walker in January’s Strikeforce event. Another recognizable name from the first WEC event was none other than WEC standout Leonard Garcia.

Frank Shamrock returns at WEC 6

As much as I’m not really a fan of Frank Shamrock, there’s no denying that his decision to return on a WEC card helped make even more MMA fans aware of the young promotion. For the first time in almost three years, Shamrock stepped in the cage to face Bryan Pardoe, who was actually 5-2 at the time, but is now best known for sporting a bodybuilder’s physique and losing to the likes of Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Don Frye, and of course, Shamrock.

The fight itself wasn’t much- Shamrock overwhelmed his opponent and submitted him with an arm bar less than two minutes into the fight- but again, it was a big deal for the WEC at a time to land Shamrock for his big comeback fight. Of course, at the time we didn’t know that there would be another three-year layoff after this one was over, either.

The Olaf Alfonso-John Polakowski trilogy

It’s a shame that quite possibly the best fight of 2004 has been largely forgotten, as most fans don’t seem to have ever seen the first bout between Alfonso and Polakowski. Stuck in the middle of a card that included Mike Swick, Chris Leben, Shonie Carter, Mike Kyle and Yves Edwards was the first bout between the two, and as soon as the event was over there was “fight of the year” buzz by all those who witnessed it live. Unfortunately, finding the first fight (or the other two) online is seemingly impossible, so only those who saw it back when it happened or soon after can testify to how awesome it was.

It was much like the first fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, though it had aggressive moments that were more like the later WEC bout between Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung. Though Polakowski took the fight on one day’s notice, he didn’t tire and the pace was fast throughout. Also, Alfonso’s notoriously suspect chin held up to the brutal war that the first and third fights (which were won by split decision by Alfonso and Polakowski, respectively) presented. The second fight didn’t live quite up to the other two, as Alfonso was injured in the first round and couldn’t continue.

It’s unfortunate that Alfonso is more known as the guy on the receiving end of more nasty KOs than Justin Eilers, while Polakowski is known as “the guy who hugged everyone on ‘The Ultimate Fighter'”. It’s also worth noting that to date, Polakowski has only fought four times professionally- the first three of which were against Alfonso.

Zuffa buys the WEC

WEC 24 was an appropriate end what the WEC used to be, as the third Polakowski-Alfonso bout was part of the card, which was headlined by a great fight between Hermes Franca and Nate Diaz. Also, the show was the last one in Lemoore, California, where all but one of the first 24 events was held.

Then, two months later in December of 2006, Zuffa purchased the WEC. Almost immediately, changes were apparent. WEC 25 would be the first of many WEC events to take place in Las Vegas, for instance. Also, the organization dropped its super heavyweight and heavyweight divisions to focus on lighter weight classes, which was a sign of things to come. Still, though the Zuffa purchase would eventually lead to the UFC absorbing the promotion, it also brought the WEC to many more fans and secured its place in MMA history.

WEC 34 brings it all together

If you want to pick one of the early Zuffa events that really showed what the WEC had become, WEC 34 is a great place to start. First of all, you had the main event between the promotion’s poster boy, Urijah Faber and former UFC champion Jens Pulver. Now, Pulver has obviously had a rough patch of losses, but at the time he was seen as a great contender due to not only his name value, but his great record at 145 pounds. While Faber was never in much danger in the five-round fight, it still proved to be a memorable matchup.

The card also featured a tremendous fight between another standout, Miguel Torres, and Yoshiro Maeda. This bantamweight title bout featured a ridiculous pace, good standup action and some great submission attempts as well until Herb Dean had to stop the bout due to damage to Maeda’s eye from punches by Torres.

Henderson and Cerrone put on one for the ages

Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson put on not only one of the most entertaining, but also one of the most competitive title bouts in MMA history at WEC 43 for the interim lightweight title (as champion Jamie Varner was injured and couldn’t compete). The fight was amazing from start to finish, as Henderson pushed the pace and put on an inspiring display of grit and determination while escaping several ridiculously deep submission attempts from Cerrone throughout the bout.

The two had a rematch in another six months, but as is often the case, the sequel didn’t stand up to the original and Henderson caught Cerrone early in the fight with a guillotine choke that appeared to surprise “The Cowboy”. Both will now be in the UFC, so perhaps even though Henderson has a 2-0 edge, we’ll one day see another fight between the two.

WEC 48: The first WEC pay-per-view

Although there were no WEC logos to be seen during the show due to the intricacies of the organization’s television deal with Versus, the first and only WEC pay-per-view was both a sign of the promotion’s success and an indicator of what would eventually come. The show was produced like a UFC show, with promos featuring UFC personalities, Bruce Buffer doing announcements, and the UFC team of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg doing ringside commentary.

This show was a great one from start to finish, though there were two especially notable bouts. One was the title fight, where Urijah Faber fought for what would probably be the last time at 145 pounds against a dominant Jose Aldo, who really cemented his status as one of the sport’s best fighters in a punishing five-round win.

Then, there was yet another WEC fight that garnered “fight of the year” talk, this time between Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung, also known as “The Korean Zombie”. The two absolutely slugged it out for fifteen minutes, with Garcia throwing his favored wild hooks while the Zombie backed up his name by walking through the shots to land knees and punches of his own. In the eyes of many, the decision in favor of Garcia was the only thing that marred an unbelievable fight.

Pettis and Henderson close out the WEC appropriately

Throughout the organization’s history, the WEC was known for having outstanding fights and featuring new and emerging talent. Therefore, it only seems appropriate that the last bout to take place in the WEC was between then-lightweight champion Ben Henderson and upstart challenger Anthony Pettis.

Henderson was a legitimate top ten fighter, the only one represented in the WEC’s lightweight division, which often was not given the respect it deserved. Meanwhile, Pettis had garnered some fame from a likable and even touching appearance on the MTV show “The World of Jenks”, as well as from his unorthodox, creative striking that led to highlight-reel performances on earlier WEC shows.

The fight itself was another astounding five-rounder and fight of the year candidate, even before Pettis defied gravity, convention and the expectations of fight fans who have seen thousands of bouts by landing what is now known as “The Showtime Kick” just before the end of the fight. In the end, Pettis walked away as the organization’s final lightweight champion, but both fighters did their part to give the WEC a fitting goodbye.

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