by Ryan Pike
Six months after the Ultimate Fighting
Championship officially absorbed World Extreme Cagefighting, the anniversary is
celebrated the same way the merger was – at the Ultimate Fighter Finale. Back
in December 2010, the UFC integrated bantamweights and featherweights for the
first time, but in the six months since then, there have been a mere handful of
bouts between the lightweights previously in WEC and those that spent their
time in the UFC.
This weekend's Ultimate Fighter Finale in
Las Vegas features just the eighth and ninth WEC vs. UFC lightweight bouts
since the merger as Jeremy Stephens faces former WEC fighter Danny Downes
(replacing Ultimate Fighter season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins) and Clay
Guida faces former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in the main event. Of
the seven previous bouts, four of them have been won by former WEC combatants.
UFC 126: Donald Cerrone [WEC]
def. Paul Kelly [UFC] (2nd round submission)
UFC 127: Curt Warburton [UFC]
def. Maciej Jewtuszko [WEC] (decision)
Live on Versus 3: Shane Roller
[WEC] def. Thiago Tavares [UFC] (2nd round KO)
Live on Versus 3: Danny
Castillo [WEC] def. Joe Stevenson [UFC] (decision)
UFC 128: Edson Barboza [UFC]
def. Anthony Njokuani [WEC] (decision)
UFC 128: Jim Miller [UFC] def.
Kamal Shalorus [WEC] (3rd round TKO)
UFC 129: Ben Henderson [WEC]
def. Mark Bocek [UFC] (decision)
The results don't tell the whole story,
though. Most of the fights can be broken down into a couple categories: WEC
contender vs. UFC mid-level guy (Cerrone/Kelly, Roller/Tavares,
Castillo/Stevenson, Henderson/Bocek), newish UFC fighter vs. mid-level WEC
fighter (Warburton/Jewtuszko, Barboza/Njokuani), and Miller vs. Shalorus, which
basically existed to give Miller someone to beat decisively. Progressively, though,
the compete levels in the fights expanded.
In short: we are only now getting to
the WEC vs. UFC bouts that really mean anything for comparing the quality of
the two divisions. Jim Miller beating Kamal Shalorus and Ben Henderson beating
Mark Bocek were indications of where each individual fighter fit it, but the
bout between Clay Guida and Anthony Pettis should shed some light on whether
the best WEC fighters can hang with strong UFC fighters.
Heading into Saturday's bout, Pettis is
riding a four-fight winning streak and is just 24 years old. His last fight, at
the final WEC event, was arguably the best fight of 2010, and catapulted him
into the title picture. Boasting wins over Danny Castillo, Shane Roller and Ben
Henderson, Pettis has beaten some of WEC's best and can cement himself into the
UFC title picture with a win. For his part, Clay Guida can do the same. A
veteran of the Octagon, Guida is on a three-fight winning streak and has gone
toe-to-toe with the best 155 pounders in the world, although he's tended not to
come out on top.
In the UFC's crowded lightweight division,
it is incredibly important for potential contenders to stay alive by stringing
wins together. Jim Miller, Ben Henderson, Melvin Guillard and George
Sotiripoulous are hanging around the title picture, so a win on Saturday night
can make or break the title hopes for either Anthony Pettis or Clay Guida.
It's just an added bonus that the fight
will likely be really, really good.