Originally posted on the Toledo MMA Examiner
If you are an avid fan of mixed martial arts, I'm sure you mourned with me when the WEC faded into oblivion this past December. Thankfully, a piece of the WEC lives on, and if you followed the path of their former titles, one of their first championships ever created is actually on the line tonight in Sydney, Australia as BJ Penn and Jon Fitch square off in the main event.
It all started at WEC 6: Return of a Legend in Lemoore, California. Frank Shamrock had defended his UFC light heavyweight title against Tito Ortiz in 1999 but promptly retired from the sport due to an accumulation of injuries. He had only fought once since then, a five round decision over Elvis Sinosec in Tokyo, Japan. WEC 6 was his big comeback. After having just one fight in 3 1/2 years, Shamrock was in the main event against the bigger, stronger, Brian Pardoe.
Pardoe towered over Shamrock in the staredown and tagged him early. Once he had Shamrock pinned against the cage, Pardoe took Shamrock down easily but this was what Frank wanted. He'd survived nearly four rounds on his back with Tito Ortiz. This was a piece of cake. Shamrock snaked his legs up and locked in an armbar, rolling Pardoe over and forcing the tap in less than two minutes to become the inaugural WEC light heavyweight champion.
Shamrock would never defend his title. He would not fight for another three years until he headlined the first ever Strikeforce event against Cesar Gracie in 2006. Shamrock would defeat Gracie easily, knocking him out in just 21 seconds.
Renzo Gracie would avenge Cesar's loss in the main event of the first ever EliteXC show nearly a year later. Gracie controlled the bout throughout with beautiful trip takedowns, side control, knee on belly control and punches from top position. Gracie even survived the ridiculous "Stand up Warning" rule that EliteXC implemented midway through the first round and took Shamrock right back down. Gracie was controlling Shamrock again in the second round and a frustrated Shamrock kneed Gracie in the back of the head while Gracie was in side control and then kneed him again, this time much harder. When Gracie was unable to continue, he was awarded the victory via disqualification.
Again, the WEC light heavyweight title would be shelved for over three years until the 43 year old Renzo made his comeback against Matt Hughes in 2010 at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. Gracie would be pummeled with punches and leg kicks throughout the fight by the former UFC welterweight champion, being dropped multiple times in the third due to leg kicks. An exhausted and injured Gracie was finally dropped and finished with big strikes in the end of the third round making Matt Hughes the de facto WEC light heavyweight champion.
Hughes would defend the title at UFC 117 against Gracie protégé Ricardo Almeida. Hughes rocked Almeida early in the first round with a big straight right and choked him out with a Dave Schultz front headlock just 3:15 into the first round.
Hughes would attempt to defend the title in the co-main event of UFC 123 in Auborn Hills, Michigan against BJ Penn in the final chapter of their trilogy, but it was not meant to be. Penn lit Hughes up, catching him very early with some strong punches, dropping him and finishing Hughes off with ground and pound in just 21 seconds. It was the same amount of time that Shamrock had first defended the title in an interesting coincidence.
So there you have it. Believe it or not, BJ Penn is the current lineal WEC light heavyweight champion. Granted, he did balloon up to about 200 lbs to fight Lyoto Machida once at heavyweight, but it's still pretty crazy to think about. While Dana White has said this fight is for the number one contender status in the UFC welterweight division, it's always interesting to add some bonus significance to the fight. So who will make history tonight, BJ Penn or Jon Fitch?
Who wins the lineal WEC light heavyweight title tonight?
BJ Penn (24 votes)
Jon Fitch (18 votes)
Frank Shamrock ambushes them both with a steel chair to reclaim his initial title (46 votes)
88 total votes