UFC 144 Results: Ben Henderson Win Proves The Value Of The WEC

Ben Henderson lands a punch on Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 on Feb. 25, 2012 in Saitama, Japan. Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

At UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, Ben Henderson pulled off a tremendous win, defeating Frankie Edgar in a close decision to become the new UFC Lightweight champion. Post-fight, rumors swirled that his next defense would be a rematch against Anthony Pettis. Earlier this month, at UFC 143, Carlos Condit had a similar close win over Nick Diaz to claim the Interim UFC Welterweight title. When you look at this collection of names, 3 letters stand out: WEC.

With Henderson's win, of the 7 active UFC champions, 4 are former WEC champs. And later this year, Chael Sonnen (who should be considered the final WEC Middleweight champion) will look to make it 5 of 7 when he rematches Anderson Silva. This abundance of WEC champions wearing UFC gold is no surprise in the lighter Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions, but the wins from Henderson and Condit come as something of a shock.

During its tenure, the common perception of the WEC was always that the divisions above Featherweight were entertaining, but ultimately irrelevant - a place where fun fighters who were not good enough to hang in the UFC would go. Condit and Henderson have effectively flipped that perception, validating the higher WEC weight classes. What's more, I would argue that their UFC success comes exactly because of their WEC runs.

In the WEC, these champions had a chance to develop in a system outside of the UFC. They gained TV experience, felt the pressure of title fights, and trained for 5 round battles. But they did so not against the absolute elite that exist in the UFC championship scene, but against other fighters at their same level. Henderson, Cerrone and Pettis sharpened and pushed each other, and the end result is that all emerged from their WEC runs as significantly better fighters. When they stepped up to the UFC, they were better prepared, and last night we saw how that preparation helped Henderson reach the pinnacle of the sport's deepest division.

But in looking at Henderson and the WEC's success, I have to ask - did Zuffa make the right move in shutting the organization down? If WEC was producing future champions, with it closed, is there a missing opportunity for future growth? Maybe, but Zuffa already has the answer in front of them for how to deal with that problem, and its name is Strikeforce.

Check back tomorrow for more on how Zuffa can learn from the WEC in order to best utilize Strikeforce.

SBN coverage of UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson

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