The merger of the WEC into the UFC puts some pressure on the lightweights from both promotions. At WEC 53, Ben Henderson will make the final title defense of the lightweight belt at the final event for the organization. The winner of that fight, Henderson or challenger Anthony Pettis, is expected to face the winner of the UFC 125 title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Henderson's a long and rangy lightweight with solid wrestling and a black belt in tae kwon do but can he really match up with a guy like Edgar who's just beaten BJ Penn twice? Or possibly worse, Maynard, who in that case would have given Edgar the only two losses in his career? Henderson did defeat Donald Cerrone twice and although Cerrone looked amazing in his most recent over Jamie Varner, it's difficult to gauge how he would match up in the big show as well. In a 2009 interview, I asked the "Cowboy" how he thought he would match up in the UFC; "I think I could beat a lot of the lower level UFC guys. How I would do with the top ten, I don't know, I'd like to say that I'd do good with them but I would have to get in there and see."
If history is any indication, we can look back at the transitions that were made when the WEC dissolved its heavier weight classes into the UFC, although those WEC champs weren't given automatic bids to unify the titles.
The last WEC light-heavyweight champ was Steve Cantwell. He was successful in his UFC debut, a submission of the night armbar over Razak Al-Hassan. He then lost back to back fights to Luis Cane and Brian Stann, respectively, the latter coming in September of 2009. Injuries and undisclosed medical issues have kept him from fighting throughout all of 2010. Stann, however, is 3-2 in the UFC and has now moved down to middleweight where he's expected to take on Chris Leben at UFC 125.
Grades: Cantwell - D, Stann - C+
Paulo Fihlo was the owner of the final WEC middleweight belt. He failed to make weight in the final defense of the title so the loss he siffered to Chael Sonnen was a non-title fight and Fihlo's last fight for Zuffa. Sonnen made his UFC debut at UFC 95 against Demian Maia. When Maia locked up a triangle choke in the first round and put Sonnen to sleep, it seemed to some as though Sonnen might not last long in the UFC. The Maia victory was widely considered the 2009 submission of the year in all of mma and Sonnen came back strong with consecutive wins over Dan Miller, Yushin Okami, and Nate Marquardt which lead him to a title shot against Anderson Silva. After dominating Silva for four and a half rounds, he again fell victim to a triangle choke and lost the fight in what was still probably the greatest performance of his career.
Sonnen's grade: A-
Former WEC welterweight champ Carlos Condit also dropped his first UFC fight, a split-decision to Martin Kampmann. He then defeated Jake ...