UFC 126 was in many ways a coming out party for the WEC as four of their biggest stars competed on the card and in every instance picked up the victory. Of their opponents really the only one who was an established UFC guy was the Brit Paul Kelly who brought a 5-3 UFC record into his prelim bout against Donald Cerrone. The greatest absurdity of pre-merger Zuffa was the inexplicable existence of two lightweight divisions and the disparity between the two. It was pretty much a guarantee that at any point, no matter who the champs were, that the UFC lightweight champion was assured a spot on the top 10 pound for pound list whereas the WEC title holder was somebody to be snickered at. Of course the UFC’s division was deeper and tougher and was where everybody wanted to be, I am hardly arguing anything to the contrary, but I am saying that starting with this show we are finally getting to see where the WEC guys truly rank and that this is something I am genuinely excited about.
Cerrone was probably the most interesting case Saturday night. A long time Fight of the Night specialist (5 coming into 126) he seemed baffled and stifled for most of the fight with Kelly. Stylistically Kelly’s slow, nose to the grindstone brawling is not something that was overly prevalent in the WEC and Cerrone’s thirst for high octane kickboxing was never really quenched. And yet he was able to mirror his opponent, take the fight to the ground, choke the man out and pick up yet another bonus check for providing high amounts of entertainment value. It was well deserved too and even though it hardly stands out as one of Cerrone’s best it was certainly the best on what turned out to be a rather dry card. Of course back in the olden days Cerrone was always on the cusp of the title shot and now he’s sitting something like 12th back in the bloated division. Climbing to the top of that particular mountain may prove to be too much for him but you have to love the guy for realizing that a shortcut to the top can be gained by throwing caution to the wind and thrilling the likes of Joe Silva. A certain bantamweight should have been paying attention.
We all know the sad, sad story by now about how hard it is out there for a UFC lightweight these days (hell, Tyson Griffin wisely saw himself out of that division this weekend), but for the most part the featherweights and bantamweights were able to make the transition unscathed. Chad Mendes, a top contender for Jose Aldo’s strap, took on Michihiro Omigawa and won a decisive if less than engaging fight. The same goes for Demetrious Johnson as he welcomed Kid Yamamoto into America by defeating him via unanimous decision. Then there is the unfortunate case of one Miguel Torres, a man who has won oodles of big, stimulating fights in his career. Here he stole the GSP UFC 124 playbook and used it to submit the audience via boredom induced coma. I feel as though my credentials are in order when it comes to defending a fighters right to play defense even if it costs the company some fans (I had no problem with Anderson Silva’s tap dancing around Demian Maia and I found the release of Gerald Harris to be one of the great injustices of 2010), but I found this to just be too much. Torres was out there protecting more than just early round points he racked up. He was playing defense from the opening bell and did not make one move that could even be classified as semi-risky. I felt as though the mission was to protect his status not only within the bantamweight division but also within the company. His division stayed the same, it is still rather thin and he felt it OK to jab his way to a decision win. The whole thing stunk of elitism. To back up that point further and to make matters even worse at the post-fight press conference Dana White came out and laid the blame squarely at the feet of Torres’ opponent Antonio Banuelos saying “Actually my criticism is to Antonio. You notice he closed the distance that last 10 seconds of the third round? He couldn’t do that the last three rounds?” Sorry but that is not the fight I saw. I know White is a business man who only says what the money tells him to say and that long term Torres will probably be much more profitable than Banuelos. But White tries to skate by as a man of the people who only ever shoots straight, sadly if he keeps up with fibs like this the fans might start to view him as though he were any other CEO in America.
Tags: Antonio Banuelos, chad mendes, Dana White, Donald Cerrone, Kid Yamamoto, Michihiro Omigawa, miguel torres, Mixed Martial Arts, Tyson Griffin, UFC 126