Caught in the warm, effervescent glow of the greatest final show any MMA promotion has ever put on, some are forgetting that this moment marks only the beginning. With the WEC being absorbed by the UFC, the potential for the quality of fights in 2011 has skyrocketed.
It will be interesting to see how the merger is handled. With such a deep talent pool already had at lightweight, the question is how many fighters will the UFC actually bring over. Still, a surplus of talented options isn't really the worst problem to face. For an organization that places a premium on fighters who aggressively bring the fight, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta must be overjoyed with the possibilities after witnessing the visual splendor that was WEC 53.
Here we take a look at which fighters will be brought over and the fights that need to happen once the new year begins.
This one is a given. Going into Thursday night, I was of the opinion that Ben Henderson presented a better stylistic chance against these two fighters than Pettis. The UFC lightweight division revolves around having a solid wrestling base, and Henderson surpasses Pettis in that aspect.
However, after what we witnessed in the main event, I don't think there is any way you can doubt the kid. Simply put, the Showtime Kick was one of the most incredible moments I have personally ever seen in MMA. If Pettis can pull that off in the most critical minute of his life, then who knows what he is capable of.
Both Maynard and Edgar would present significant challenges to the last WEC Lightweight champ -- Edgar with his movement, Maynard with his wrestling -- but after seeing such a spectacle, I am more convinced then ever that anyone always has a chance to shock the world in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Dominick Cruz vs. Uriah Faber
This bout is going to happen eventually, probably sooner rather than later. Both men are calling for this fight, and it makes sense on paper. Uriah is still the biggest draw coming out of the WEC, and bantamweight has always seemed more fitting for the "California Kid", who was never a big featherweight to begin with. On the other side, Cruz gets a chance to redeem the lone loss on his record -- which was also attained fighting outside of his natural weight class -- and the opportunity to increase his draw considerably against a name opponent.
At the post-fight press conference Cruz vehemently campaigned for this fight to be made.
"It's a different fight [than the previous fight]. Completely." he said. "It's been three years, and that was my very first training camp. I was still working a full-time job. And now I can devote every ounce of energy into fighting to become the best fighter that I can. I just know that I'm a completely different fighter than I was then. My ground game is better. My wrestling is better. My stand-up is better. I have weapons everywhere. I just know I'm on another level than him."
Faber is already on board, and while there are always other options -- especially with Kid Yamamoto entering the picture -- it would certainly prove to be a profitable venture for the UFC's introduction to the bantamweight division.
Ben Henderson vs. Jim Miller
While Ben Henderson may have fallen victim to a highlight reel for the ages, the fact still remains that he is a dangerous matchup for anyone at 155. Being imported into UFC, it is likely that matchmaker Joe Silva won't to throw him straight to the wolves, instead electing to ease the transition for the MMA Lab product.
Jim Miller, fresh off an impressive victory over young phenom Charles Oliveira, is a game opponent that always comes ready to fight. Riding high on a six fight win streak, Miller is beginning to call for a title shot. While he may not be quite there yet, a matchup against Henderson would go a long way towards moving his name up the rankings.
If anything, this bout would be enormously entertaining, as these two men fight with similar high-energy, push-the-pace styles. It would be a welcome introduction to "Smooth" for any casual fan, and would continue Miller's climb up the lightweight ladder.
Why not? "Cowboy" has been calling out Miller for quite a long time, it seems. In the lead-up to WEC 53 Cerrone frequently showed disdain for his opponent, IFL veteran Chris Horodecki, speaking freely about the match he wanted once he entered the UFC. He repeated the sentiment to anyone that would listen after his submission victory on Thursday night.
"That's the fight I want." Cerrone explained. "That's the fight I've wanted once I [enter into] the UFC since I can remember. The Cole Miller fight is definitely who I'm chasing down."
He beat Leonard Garcia about three and a half years ago when I was there. I was no one then. I just had about five fights. And I remember Cole was kind of [cocky], and I said ‘Alright [expletive], I got you. I got you.'"
The fight actually makes sense, as Miller provides a good litmus test as to what "Cowboy" can bring to the UFC. With a record of 6-2 in the organization, "Magrinho" has done an excellent job weeding out the contenders from the pretenders. A win over a game opponent like Cerrone pushes Miller closer to title contention, while a win for Cerrone proves that he has what it takes to compete with the big boys.
Despite a disappointing performance against Bart Palaszewski Thursday night, Shalorus managed to keep his undefeated record intact, likely securing his spot in the UFC's lightweight division. The unimpressive nature of the win, however, means that Shalorus will be forced to start at the very bottom of the ladder and slowly work his way up.
Winner, once a promising prospect in the division, has fallen on hard times of late, losing two consecutive bouts. One more and he may be given his walking papers. A win against a game Shalorus could right the Brit's ship, and send him back into the fray. Contrastingly, a win for Shalorus would go quite far in proving the he deserves to remain within the organization.
Regardless, this bout would result in fireworks, as both men would much rather stand and throw bombs then take the fight to the ground. The UFC loves action, and this contest would provide plenty of it.