The organization that brought the world “The California Kid” Urijah Faber (24-4), “Junior” Jose Aldo (18-1), Dominick Cruz (15-1), “Angel” Miguel Torres (37-3), “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (13-1), “Smooth” Ben Henderson (11-1), “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (11-4), and so many more world class fighters said its goodbyes tonight as WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis marked the final event before the WEC is absorbed into the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The WEC was known for the action packed, go-for-broke matches that stemmed from a stacked talent pool in the lower weight divisions and WEC 53 continued in that tradition, showing that the WEC would prove to be one of the very best MMA promotions in the world right up to the very end. The UFC’s little cousin announced loudly to the MMA fans that it would not be forgotten as its final event opened with four straight first round stoppages including three KO’s – one of which came via slam. When the main card started with “Danny Boy” Dan Downes (7-1) and “The Mongolian Wolf” Zhang Tie Quan (8-1), the fights only got better.
“The Prince of Persia” Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2) and “Bartimus” Bart Palaszewski (34-13) kick off the televised card with a knockdown drag out brawl that announced to the UFC lightweights exactly what kind of fighters are headed their way in 2011. Shalorus pitted his heavy handed power and brutal ground-n-pound against the studied stand-up combination striking of “Bartimus” in a fight that was all offense from both men from bell to bell. The Split Decision nod went to “The Prince of Persia” but both men established themselves as a serious threat to the guys coasting at the bottom of the UFC lightweight division.
Next on the slate was the always exciting “Cowboy” Cerrone proving himself to the big shots in the UFC that he is here to stay with a hard fought battle against dangerous Canadian kickboxing expert “The Polish Hammer” Chris Horodecki (16-3). He said before his fight, “I’m letting all the UFC guys know the ‘Cowboy’ is coming and he’s bringing hell with him.” Cerrone tested his mettle in the pocket with the heavy handed fighter before taking his back and looking for the Rear Naked Choke. He didn’t get it, but mid-way through the second round he secured a Triangle Choke that “The Polish Hammer” fought off for nearly two minutes before finally submittin, earning the victory and the very vocal approval of the fans in attendance.
The main event and co-main event went hand in hand as both fights went to the judges with each fighter leaving everything they had and more in the cage. Dominick Cruz stepped in first to defend his WEC bantamweight belt and battle to become the first UFC Bantamweight Champion against the supremely talented “Young Guns” Scott Jorgensen (10-3). It was obvious from the outset that Cruz’s fast paced counter-striking and blitzkrieg takedowns had Jorgensen outclassed, but “Young Guns” made it just as obvious that the champ was going to have to settle for a Unanimous Decision because there was no quit in him this night.
The main event was a far more even affair as “Showtime” and “Smooth” traded rounds early on before Anthony Pettis ran off with the fight in the fourth. Henderson came out strong and controlled the first round, but when the second bell rang it was all Pettis. “Showtime” consistently out-struck Henderson for the remainder of the bout and spent the majority of the third round on Henderson’s back. The “Smooth” one tried valiantly to rebound in the fourth and fifth but there was no stopping the hungry young lightweight title challenger Pettis.
As if to sum up everything that was the WEC in one blazing expression of athleticism, technique, and determination, Anthony Pettis leaped into the air, kicked off the cage with his right foot, then dropped Ben Henderson with a near fight ending flying spinning roundhouse kick to the jaw with that same right foot. It is a moment that, like the WEC, will live on forever in the minds of the MMA fans. Pettis knew he had the fight won, but like Cruz, Shalorus, and Downes before him that night, he came to fight and wasn’t going to let the judges have their say if he could help it. These men, and this organization, showed the world what it is to be a true mixed martial artist. They fought to win in every second of every fight and never coasted to the easy decision or wrestled their way out of a fight. Hopefully, they will bring this hunger and spirit to the UFC and hopefully, it will live on there as they face new challenges in the largest MMA organization in the world.
Thank you, WEC.