FIGHT! Rankings: Pettis Top 10 & Bantamweight Contenders Line Up Behind Cruz After WEC 53

(Pettis’ superior stand up won him the WEC belt and a shot at UFC gold. Go here to see the full gallery of Paul Thatcher’s best shots from the fights.)

At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity. Go here for a detailed explanation of how FIGHT!’s rankings work.

The curtain fell on World Extreme Cagefighting last night in Glendale, Arizona, marking the end of a nine-year run that saw the promotion turn Lemoore, Calif. into a proving ground for top-shelf MMA talent, popularize sub-lightweight divisions in the U.S., and grow from a regional show to a nationally-televised sister company to the UFC. WEC 53 was the final card and was filled, appropriately enough, with frenetic fights, fantastic finishes, and moments that will become a part of MMA lore. Go here for full results, and read on for a detailed analysis of the impact WEC 53 had on FIGHT!’s rankings.

The night’s headline match featured reigning champion Benson Henderson and challenger Anthony Pettis in a bout that would not only determine the final WEC Lightweight Champion, but the top contender for the UFC Lightweight Championship. Pettis took a unanimous decision with a dizzying array of strikes, moving from #25 to #8 in the Lightweight Rankings. Henderson lost his belt and his spot in the top 10, falling from #7 to #17. If you’re wondering how Pettis could defeat Henderson but still be ranked lower than Henderson was before the fight, keep in mind that FIGHT!’s rankings are not relative – rank is determined by score along, which is determined by a fighter’s performance, frequency of activity, quality of opponent, and strength of promotion.

In other lightweight action, Donald Cerrone gained one spot, from #19 to #18, with a win over Chris Horodecki, who falls from #83 to #86 and might be looking at a move to Featherweight if he was to hang on in the big leagues. Bart Palaszewski was on a nice three-fight run before losing a decision to Kamal Shalorus – Palaszewski falls from #52 to #61, while Shalorus creeps up from #41 to #36. Former WEC Lightweight Champion Jamie Varner continued his slide, losing by submission to Shane Roller and crashing from #64 to #93 with the loss. Varner, who hasn’t won a fight since January of 2009, may need to rack up a few wins on the regional circuit before taking on the higher level of competition in the UFC. Roller moves into the top 25 with the win, jumping from #39 to #25. Jungle Fight veteran Yuri Alcantara won what amounted to a UFC tryout against Ricardo Lamas, moving from #65 to #29, while Lamas crashes from #67 to #109. In the final ranked lightweight bout of the evening, Danny Castillo beat Will Kerr and moved from #104 to #67, while Kerr enters the rankings at #154.

(Dominick Cruz defended the WEC Bantamweight crown for the last time and picked up a UFC belt at the same time. Go here to see the full gallery of Paul Thatcher’s best shots from the fights.)

The WEC’s final Bantamweight Championship bout was also contested at Arena, and Dominick Cruz put on another masterful performance. Challenger Scott Jorgensen was game but never put Cruz in any serious danger. Cruz defended the WEC belt for the final time, was awarded the inaugural UFC Bantamweight Championship, and held on to his #1 Bantamweight ranking in the process. Jorgensen suffered little in the poll, slipping from #6 to #7.

Three fights were contested at 135 pounds on the undercard, and all three could have title implications in the next 12 to 18 months. Renan Barao is relatively unknown in the U.S., having fought in the WEC only twice, but the Shooto Brazil vet scores well in our poll, coming into his fight against Chris Cariaso at #10 and leaving with a win at #4. Cariaso falls from #15 to #24 with the loss. After losing the WEC Bantamweight Championship to Chase Beebe in 2007, Eddie Wineland went underground for two full years. He returned to the WEC and lost to Rani Yahya, but since then he’s been on a tear, winning four straight including his “KO of the Night” victory over unranked WEC newcomer Ken Stone. Wineland moves from #11 to #8 and figures to be a player in the UFC’s new Bantamweight Division. In the final ranked bout of the evening, Brad Pickett continued his methodical climb up the rankings with a win over one-time UFC vet Ivan Menjivar. Pickett slides from #16 to #13 with the decision win, while Menjivar actually gains ground, moving from #36 at Featherweight, where he last competed, to #32 at 135.

No other ranked fighters appeared on the card.

(Brad Pickett and Ivan Menjivar put on a classic WEC-style barnburner. Go here to see the full gallery of Paul Thatcher’s best shots from the fights.)

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