When the WEC disappears from the series of tubes and dishes that comprise cable TV at the end of this year, there's some stuff I certainly won't miss. The local news quality graphics, the budget-saver production values, the pint-sized paychecks – all that can be easily forgotten.
But, as WEC 52
showed on Thursday night, the loss of this guaranteed night of action-packed fights on free TV is something that's going to leave a void in our lives. Once again the little fighters delivered, bringing us several entertaining scraps for 145 pounds or less. For consistent quality of performances over the years, no organization has delivered like the WEC.
Getting the call to move up to the big show is good for the fighters and their bank accounts, as well as the sport in general, but it's still bittersweet for those of us who are only now realizing how much we took for granted over the years.
But enough brooding, on to the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between from WEC 52. Biggest Winner: Urijah Faber
He's only gotten quicker with the move down in weight, and he's done it without sacrificing any of his explosive power. Last night's performance against Mizugaki gives us reason to think this isn't one of those I-need-a-quick-fix-for-my-career weight class jumps. This seems more like a genuine I-would-have-done-this-years-ago-if-there-was-any-money-in-it moves. Good for Faber and for the new energy it injects into what will become the UFC's 135-pound division. Bad for everyone else in that division.Biggest Loser: Damacio Page
He came into this fight as a huge favorite, and the first few minutes of the opening round seemed to justify the 5-1 line. Then Johnson settled down and figured out how to keep from getting flipped onto his back every 30 seconds, and gradually it turned into a different kind of fight. The accidental but still very painful kick to the groin might have slowed Page down a little, but the real problem is that he just didn't make the proper adjustments as the fight wore on, but Johnson did. A difficult step back for "The Angel of Death," who can at least comfort himself with the knowledge that he has one of the most uncomfortable nicknames in all of MMA.Most Frightening Moment: Takeya Mizugaki's Power Nap
When a fighter makes the decision to hold on through a choke and go for the blackout rather than the tapout, he does so with an unspoken reliance on the referee's ability to stop things once he's clearly out. But last night against Faber, Mizugaki got caught in a bad angle at a bad time that made it difficult for Josh Rosenthal to tell right away that he'd left the realm of the conscious. The result was a choke that stayed on too long and a few scary moments before he came back from dreamland. It's not necessarily Rosenthal's fault, but it's also not something anybody wants to see repeated in MMA.Most Impressive in Defeat: Mackens Semerzier
If Cub Swanson hadn't gotten back to his feet and turned into a haymaker machine in the last ten seconds, Semerzier would have another win on his record this morning. But that's how it goes with MMA judges. Whatever they see last is the thing that sticks with them when they go to put pen to paper at the end of a round. That's a bummer for Semerzier, who fought his way through some tough moments in that fight and dominated most of the final round. At least he has a Fight of the Night bonus check to ease his pain, even if it's a WEC-sized payout.Most Glaring Failure to Learn from Experience: Wagnney Fabiano
After nearly getting snared in one guillotine choke, you'd think Fabiano would have become slightly cautious of leaving his neck out there. After almost getting caught in a second, you'd expect him to be downright wary. Instead, he went and got himself caught in a third, and this one he wasn't able to escape. Was he hoping Benavidez would tire out his arms with all those near finishes? Did he think his jiu-jitsu black belt also acted as an invincibility cloak? That's two submission losses in his last four fights, begging the question, isn't that supposed to be his area of expertise? Not if he can't learn from his own mistakes before making the same one three times in one fight.Best Highlight Reel Addition: Erik Koch's Head Kick
A head kick finish is always a great way to impress your employer, especially when you're on the verge of moving to a higher pay grade. Sure, you could argue that he did it against a replacement opponent who was far less dangerous than Josh Grispi, who Koch was originally scheduled to face, and you'd be right. But so what? When life gives you lemons, sometimes you have to kick those lemons in the face. They'd do the same to you if they had legs. Or faces. You get the point.Most Creative: Chad Mendes
You have to admire his willingness to think outside the box when it came to dealing with Vasquez's frustrating guard. His front flip standing guard pass didn't exactly yield the results he was hoping for, but at least it was fun. In fact, at times Mendes seemed like the only one who was intent on making that an interesting fight to watch, and one man can only do so much in that regard. At least he didn't get too flashy and invent a new way to get submitted on accident.