Friday, December 17, 2010

Goodbye WEC (or, 'The Showtime Kick')

My monthly UFC predictions are a staple of this blog, but really, I probably should've been giving equal attention to the WEC this entire time. World Extreme Cagefighting has been the UFC's sister promotion for the last four years, for the last couple only focusing on the lower weight classes of lightweight (155 pounds), featherweight (145) and bantamweight (135) to distinguish it from the larger UFC fighters. The beauty of an entire promotion full of smaller and more energetic fighters is the fights are almost entirely non-stop action; sure, some fights are better than others, but by and large, if you watch a WEC bout, it's almost guaranteed to be exciting.

Now, however, the WEC is closing its doors. The UFC is absorbing the company and instituting its own bantamweight and featherweight divisions (plus merging the two 155-pound divisions, which I'll get back to in a second). It's a win-win in many ways --- the fighters get more money and exposure fighting in the 'big leagues' of the UFC, we'll get better and more exciting fights for our money on UFC pay-per-views, and basically everyone wins. The only drawback is that it ends the WEC itself, thus robbing MMA fans of a surefire fantastic show every six weeks. The promotion will absolutely be missed, but its legacy lies in the terrific array of fighters that we'll now see carry on under the UFC banner.

Okay, enough waxing poetic, let's get to the dude being kicked in the face. So last night was the WEC's final event, headlined by a lightweight title match between champ Ben Henderson and challenger Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. The winner would carry the belt into the UFC and get an immediate title shot at the winner of the UFC lightweight title bout on January 1 between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Big stakes, and Henderson and Pettis fought a match worthy of those stakes. It was nothing but back-and-forth action for the full five rounds....and then this happened with about a minute left.

Sweet Georgia Brown. Henderson, to his credit, managed to finish the match, but it was Pettis who was awarded the judges' decision and the championship. But blah blah results, HOLY LORD was that incredible. That might be the single greatest move I've ever seen performed inside an MMA cage. It's the kind of move that, if you saw it in an MMA-related movie, you'd get mad at the film for including such an unrealistic strike. The "Showtime Kick" is destined to be shown on MMA highlight reels for decades to come, and Pettis made himself an instant star as he's headed into the UFC.

WEC, you will be missed. But you went out on the highest possible note.

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