(pictured above - Joseph Benavidez slamming Junya Kudo)
The WEC(and also the UFC) has always done a particularly good job of allowing big fights to make themselves. After WEC 52, a bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson makes too much sense divisionwise and stylewise not to make right now. They both fought on short notice, using wrestling based MMA jujitsu to dominate much larger and highly skilled submission fighters in the top ten of the division. They almost fought the same exact fight. Dominance of BJJ blackbelts with American BJJ, and explosive striking should have both of these guys thinking BW title right...?
But all either guy can talk about is how light they are and how this weight class isn't right for them.
Why waste these fighter's potential by having them lose to fighters that dwarf them? Both of these guys have poster boy potential. Stylewise, this fight is explosive. They're the fastest fighters in the UFC. They both have dominated fighters much larger than themselves. You should fully expect these guys to suplex and slam the hell out of eachother for five full rounds. The fight has the makings of an instant classic.
The division could be filled in underneath them. There is a good slate of free agents and up and coming American prospects. I don't think they'd need to sign 20 fighters in order to crown a champion in the weight class.
* Nick Cottone (9-2-1), Pine Hill, New Jersey
* Alexis Vila (8-0), Coconut Creek, Florida
* Mamoru Yamaguchi (25-5-3), Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
* John Dodson (9-5), Albuquerque, New Mexico
* Louis Gaudinot(5-1), New Jersey- current Ring of Combat 125 lb. champion.
* Josh Rave (19-7), Omaha,Nebraska
* Pat Runez (4-0) UWC BW champion
* Abel Cullum (10-4), Tucumcari, New Mexico- former KOTC 125 lb. champion.
If you recall, while still building up the BW division, Zuffa flew in fighters like Takeya Mizugaki and Yoshiro Maeda and had great success in doing so, creating memorable title battles. There is no reason to assume they couldn't do the same thing with flyweight until they got enough guys to fill in the division. The BW division right now has under 20 fighters. You don't need to bring in a lot of guys. There has been talk that Lorenzo Fertitta is pushing hard for flyweight, and has his eyes on fighters like Rambaa m16 Somdet. With Joe's teammate Urijah Faber looming large in the division, it doesn't make sense to keep Benavidez around contender-killing. I say strike while the iron is hot. Create the title, worry about the rest of the division later. There wasn't a huge 155 division underneath Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian either.
(Johnson battering Frank Mendez)
Dana White has been sending some hints that this bout may not be that far off. At the Q&A session in Germany he said "Eventually we will do 125lbs. I believe we will open it up a lot sooner than people think we will. There are going to be more title fights in more places." And while it may be the UFC was planning on using 122 as a "contract dump" full of loser-leaves-town match making to clear roster space for the incoming WEC fighters, I still think the event, along with UFC 115, 119 and 120 showcase recent examples of numbered, proper UFC events that suffered from an extreme lack of top tier talent.
There is the argument that this many weight classes will cause a decrease in quality fights in other weight classes, but I know most true fight fans would rather see Pacman clobber someone at the highest level than watch two decently ranked paper titlists hug, jab and feint for 12 rounds in the crusierweight division. I don't think MMA is much different. I know I'd rather watch a Benavidez-Johnson bout, at any weight, over nearly any bout featuring any of the fighters from UFC 122.
As for the contention little guys don't sell - An unbranded Aldo vs Faber becoming the highest grossing PPV in MMA history outside of the UFC brand, and the careers of Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Vic Darchinyan say otherwise. That is largely a myth propagated by a vocal minority of fight fans who probably haven't seen much WEC in the first place. Urijah Faber infront of a sellout crowd in Sacramento for the UFC title would be a true event. UFC PPV buyers are an educated bunch. I have no worries that someone like Benavidez, with an action packed style, devastating punches and a dominate American JJ game would end up being a PPV liability. Will they ever be GSP or Lesnar? Probably not, but that is hardly the mark of a fighter who isn't successful.
I hope you enjoyed my first fanpost. I originally posted a version of this article on www.ninjasplace.com.