World Extreme Cagefighting has hitched its marketing machine on Jose Aldo and Urijah Faber as a main event for its first pay-per-view in April and even though Miguel Torres is no longer bantamweight champion, he remained the center of attention during a conference call last week with Brian Bowles – the man who dethroned him – Dominic Cruz, Joseph Benavidez and WEC general manager Reed Harris. The truth of the matter is that the WEC’s former champions (see: Faber, Torres, Mike Thomas Brown, Jamie Varner, former UFC champ Jens Pulver) provide the bulk of the promotion’s publicity power. Guys like Donald Cerrone and current Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson generate some heat but the WEC has some work to do in terms of star building. Here are five candidates who FIGHT! thinks are (almost) ready for prime time.
(Njokuani in the process of ruining Horodecki’s night.)
Njokuani is a winner of his last three fights. All three were named “Knockout of the Night,” the last a spectacular high-kick TKO of IFL veteran Chris Horodecki in the first round at WEC 45. Two glaring submission losses to Henderson and Cerrone are on his resume, but a win over Shane Roller at WEC 48 will earn “The Assassin” No. 1 contender status and another shot at the Henderson-Cerrone lightweight title fight winner on the same card.
(Roller takes Castillo’s back at WEC 44.)
Another lightweight packing major moxie coming off two straight wins and seven in his last eight, and hungry to avenge a loss to Henderson. Roller mounted a big comeback against Danny Castillo at WEC 42 before finishing him with a rear naked choke in the third round to earn Submission of the Night honors.
Roller, who also owns a win over Marcus Hicks, is one who can give Henderson a scare if he gets past Njokuani. The Team Takedown fighter’s aggressive attack dropped Henderson before “Smooth” rallied to earn a first-round TKO.
(Jorgensen keeps Antonio Banuelos on the outside.)
Memo to those fighting Jorgensen: Finish him early. Otherwise he’ll grind it out and roughhouse you for the full 15 minutes. Three of Jorgensen’s six WEC wins have gone the distance, the last an impressive victory over Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 45 that earned Fight of the Night honors. After the bout, Jorgensen told MMAjunkie.com he expects a Bantamweight title fight in 2010.
First things first: Getting past tough customer Chad George, a winner of six in a row and seven of eight, at WEC 47. This bout is on the preliminary card, but another win and WEC matchmakers may be forced to feed Jorgensen to the mainstream.
The native of Lithuania and current resident of Copiague, Long Island, New York, is 12-3 (2-0 WEC), but truly burst upon the scene with his surprising win over Mackens Semerzier at WEC 46. A closer look at Taurosevicius’ track record reveals victories over Dan Lauzon, Javier Vazquez, Bart Palaszewski and Anthony Morrison, and that he’s never been stopped in his eight-year fighting career. Taurosevicius is a part of Saturday night’s loaded WEC 47 show competing against another rising star in L.C. Davis (15-2 MMA, 2-0 WEC).
(Grispi finishes Pulver.)
Want another future star in the featherweight division? Here’s one that along with Taurosevicius and Davis will keep the 145-pound weight class the WEC’s deepest for at least the next year. Grispi is 13-1 and 3-0 in the WEC – with all three wins coming in the first round. His last and most notable victory came against Pulver in just 33 seconds.
We haven’t seen Grispi since. Two days before meeting Pulver he was hitting mitts and went for a high kick when he fell backwards and turned his right ankle to the point that it was severely swollen on fight night. Before his WEC debut, Grispi’s first 10 fights took place over a span of 15 months, and just when his career was set to take off, subsequent surgery has kept him sidelined. But at age 21 there remains no rush, so once he’s back expect “The Fluke” to prove he’s anything but.