2010 31 Oct

A Perfect Plan – Making the UFC WEC Merger Work

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In case anyone has recently regained consciousness from a three day coma, UFC President Dana White announced on Thursday (Oct. 28) that the UFC and the WEC will finally merge.

Many people have speculated how it will all unfold, and White has already answered some of the initial questions by naming Jose Aldo the UFC Featherweight Champion and matching him up with Josh Grispi at UFC 125 on New Years Day.

He will also award the winner of Antony Pettis vs. Ben Henderson at UFC 53 a chance to unify the UFC and WEC lightweight titles by taking on the winner of the Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard fight scheduled for Jan. 1, 2011.

So far, a pretty good start to the merger.

But whats next? White, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, WEC General Manager Reed Harris and the rest of the Zuffa brass clearly have their hands full now by combining both brands. With any merger could come headaches, clustered rosters and several yet-to-be-known obstacles they could face.

A closer look at some of the previously announced plans and a few suggestions on moving forward after the jump.

Unify the lightweight title:

Why does this make sense?

Well, for starters, the belt is already up for grabs on the last planned WEC show in December. How can the WEC and Versus market their show with a championship where we would all know really no longer exists?

Now they won’t have to because when Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and Ben “Smooth” Henderson collide on Dec. 16 it will not only determine the last reigning WEC lightweight champion, but will name the number one contender for the UFC’s lightweight division.

A division that will showcase the title fight between reigning champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar and number one contender Gray “The Bully” Maynard just  three weeks after. Maynard has already shown his interest in the fight, citing that the merger only further cements the division’s status as having the best fighters.

The relevancy of the WEC’s championships will be given a chance to prove themselves as Henderson has been on the outside looking in on most MMA lightweight rankings. “Smooth” has already issued a warning to the UFC’s 155ers and unlike the problems the Strikeforce/Bellator champions are having in finding a way to fight each other we will get to see two top notch promotions sending there champions into a fight with each other.

My question is will the WEC champion be able to shake off the jitters that many fighters have experienced when they step into the sport’s brightest and largest stage, especially since rarely does anyone have their first fight on that stage as a title fight?

Regardless of the outcomes of either fight we will be able to know immediately where the best of the WEC stacks up against the best of the UFC in the lightweight division.

Will the speed and “peek-a-boo” boxing of Frankie Edgar or the powerhouse, smothering wrestling of Gray Maynard prove to be too much for the WEC’s top two lightweights? Or will the “Smooth,” well rounded skills of Bendo and the gritty, tough as nails Pettis come through and prove that the WEC has been overlooked and underestimated for too long?

WEC’s Brightest Star Taking Center Stage In The UFC’s Biggest Show:

The WEC has always provided exciting fighters, bouts and cards, however, the majority of them have been enjoyed by a small amount of people and the most of that demographic comes from the hardcore crowd of MMA.

That is about to change come 2011.

It’s been announced that Jose Aldo will face Josh Grispi at UFC 125 on Jan. 1 which every year tends to be the UFC’s biggest card. With a heavyweight showdown scrapped when an injured Shane Carwin pulled out of his fight with Roy Nelson, the card looked very soft at the top end of the pay-per-view (PPV).

Enter Jose Aldo.

The WEC’s Featherweight Champion has steamrolled through every single challenge the promotion has put forth his way, from the utter destruction of Cub Swanson, the dismantling of WEC poster boy Urijah Faber and all the way to the beatdowns on Mike Thomas Brown and Manny Gamburyan.

“Junior” will now take center stage, serving as the lead in to the co-main event of the evening featuring Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Aldo will bring his exciting, diverse and plain ol’ devastating style of fighting into the Octagon on a huge night, where all the lights will be on him to put on a show for many who will be seeing him for the very first time.

Jose Aldo’s future has so many possibilities.

Being so young his career could go anywhere from here especially now that he will be getting the exposure he deserves. Being named in pound-for-pound arguments already, he will have his chance to cement that if he beats Grispi and is offered a second chance to join the lightweight division where many intriguing match-ups await.

At 145, Aldo may have cleaned the division out (by beating Grispi) unless the WEC decides they will sign Japanese fighter Michihiro Omigawa, who has already expressed interest in challenging Aldo.

Welcome the WEC into mainstream homes with coaching gigs on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF):

Let’s see, we have much-anticipated superfight vs. a grudge match trilogy, two very intriguing options for the UFC to wager on.

Instead of tying up champions or contenders to coach TUF, why not use this opportunity to showcase two high profile fighters as coaches and introduce a new fresh batch of smaller fighters in the house?

Spike TV will get its first taste of MMA under 155-pounds. Whether the TUF class is made up of new guys or by the guys already signed by the WEC, the new TUF could be similar to that of season four where the “comeback” show featured guys already with UFC experience making a second run in the sport.

You will not need to worry about cardio and dull fights if you put the 145 and 135-pounders in the Octagon, but who will the coaches be?

Option #1: Miguel Torres and Urijah Faber ruled atop their respected divisions of the WEC for quite some time and many wanted one to switch weight classes and set a superfight between the champs.

Instead, Mike Thomas Brown derailed Faber and Torres fell into a two fight losing streak. Now Torres is coming off a win and this month Faber will fight the always game Takeya Mizugaki.

With a win, Faber could coach alongside Torres in what could make into a very entertaining season of TUF. Both fighters have the personality, both fighters train uniquely and both fighters were at one time the most marketed guys for the WEC.

Option #2: Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner do not like each other. That’s an understatement to say the least and these two would provide the same drama that originally vaulted TUF into stardom.

Two fighters that want to beat the other up and smile while doing it. They have already faced off twice, the first time seeing “C-4″ getting the better in a decision and the opposite happening the second time with “Cowboy” winning a rather lopsided decision.

Neither of these guys lack the personality and they would also do a very great job introducing the TUF fighters to very good gyms, trainers and training regiments.

The Marketing Push For The 135-pound Title:

The only title remaining is the WEC’s 135-pound title, currently held by Dominic Cruz, which will be defended when he faces Scott Jorgensen at WEC 53 on Dec. 16. While the two fighters are the least marketed of the six WEC fighters competing for titles, both of them could have a very special position in the UFC’s marketing push.

Showcase the next title fight as the headliner of a “Fight Night.”

Whether it be Cruz or Jorgensen, the idea will remain the same. Spike TV audiences and UFC/MMA fans are rarely treated to a title fight for free on broadcast television.

Here is a win/win situation.

The UFC does not have to throw out a highly marketable fight (or fighters) on free television but the public still gets a free title fight. This also will gain a lot of eyes focusing on the least marketed weight class and the least marketed champion.

UFC vs WEC Match Ups:

With the merger will come a lot of undercard filler until the WEC guys make names for themselves. That doesn’t mean there will be a shortage of interesting match-ups. For me personally, I would like to see Kenny Florian vs. Donald Cerrone, the rematch of Urijah Faber vs. Tyson Griffin and even Anthony Njokuani vs. “KenFlo.”

Here is a list put up on BloodyElbow of the many guys coming over in the merger.

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