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They're supposed to be on an uneven playing field, but in a battle between who looked more impressive at 155 pounds this week, the WEC's Benson Henderson rolled right over the UFC's Gray Maynard.
The 11-1 Henderson stuck out two tough rounds against relative veteran Jamie Varner to earn a flash submission victory that unified the WEC's lightweight title. It was a gauntlet that ended with a sudden reversal. Maynard, by comparison, whiffed strikes at a lanky Nate Diaz to earn a plodding split-decision victory. Bad boxing -- combined with unearned posturing by both athletes -- did little to support the idea that Maynard is ready for a title shot. It did, however, support the idea that a growing number of talented lightweights exist outside the UFC's banner.
Next for Henderson: Probable rematches with Donald Cerrone or Varner -- but why not a fast-tracked Kamal Shalorus, who looked sturdy and dangerous in dissecting Dave Jansen?
Next for Varner: Conflict resolution with Cerrone. (See above.)
Next for Maynard: A performance that cements his shot against Penn. This wasn't it.
|Jamie Varner had problems coming to terms with his loss to Ben Henderson.|
Misplaced Attention Award: Varner, for declaring that he didn't "have time to worry about cage rust" in a prefight reel. (He apparently had time to worry about Urijah Faber's promotional push, Donald Cerrone and video games, though.)
Sour Grapes Award: Varner, for the inane "I came to fight, Henderson came to grapple" comeback following his submission loss. (How did Henderson secure the choke? Varner tried shooting in for a takedown.)
Cash4Talk Award: Randy Couture, who sported an impressive array of sponsor billboards on his shirt during an interview with Joe Rogan. Lesser columnists would make a crack here about divorce settlements and split income. And if I could think of a good one, so would I.
The Mike Goldberg Excellence in Exclamation Award: Ten-time winner Mike Goldberg, for declaring that wrestler Aaron Simpson "is the 30-something Randy Couture of the 40-something crowd," a statement that manages to make less and less sense every time you think about it.
The Mark Wahlberg Award: Brian Bowles, who might be able to tour Japan with the Funky Bunch and the right amount of lighting.
|Gray Maynard's sloppy showing against Nate Diaz might cost him a title shot against B.J. Penn.|
Q: Can the WEC draw on pay-per-view?
A: WEC President Reed Harris confirmed rumors that the company was looking at doing a pay-per-view event in the first half of 2010, likely bolstered by Urijah Faber's title shot against Jose Aldo.
But no non-UFC program with a premium price tag has ever drummed up even semi-respectable business in that venue. (Affliction needed to spend millions on expatriate UFC talent to even approach rumors of 100,000 buys.)
Lighter-weight fighters have traditionally been the weaker links in combat sports, though that might be changing with the emergence of B.J. Penn, Manny Pacquiao and others. Faber-Aldo is a strong headliner, but it would need a lot of basic-cable supporting hype. And what do you do for an encore?
Q: Does Maynard deserve a shot against Penn?
A: Looping punches like he was trained by a jai alai contender, Gray Maynard looked singularly unimpressive against Nate Diaz Monday -- but Maynard is an unblemished 7-0 in the company, including a decision over co-No. 1 contender Frankie Edgar; Edgar, meanwhile, is 6-1 against arguably better competition. If Maynard finds himself chafing at the idea that a guy he beat gets a title bout, he needs to make a fight-ending statement in his next match.
Q: Would Henderson be a valuable addition to the UFC's 155-pound class?
A: The WEC's lightweight division is quickly becoming a three-way dance between Henderson, Jamie Varner -- who looked strong in two rounds before getting snared in a flash submission -- and Donald Cerrone, who gave both Henderson and Varner the fights of their lives. It's a strong hook, but is there any real reason Zuffa is doubling up on the same weight class? Can fans make sense of 155-pound segregation?
|Can Urijah Faber carry the WEC into the pay-per-view world?|
• Is Urijah Faber a draw in Sacramento? WEC 46 drew $550,215 in live gate receipts and a crowd of 8,818 attendees; the Faber-deprived WEC 45 in Las Vegas last month drew 1,741 fans for a $102,700 gate. If there were ever a case to be made for pinning company hopes on one guy, this is it
• Faber earned $62,000 for the win against Raphael Assuncao: going unreported are endorsement opportunities for the fighter, which are probably as innumerable as it gets for a featherweight attraction
• Will Campuzano and Cody Wheeler split a $20,000 fight-of-the-night bonus, which went unaired
• According to MMAJunkie, UFC dark match participant Nik Lentz had a steel groin cup split in two by a Thai kick from Thiago Tavares. This is either the most poorly made piece of athletic equipment in history, or Tavares should be playing field goal specialist for the Cowboys
• If you're Gerald Harris, how do you snag a $30,000 knockout-of-the-night bonus? Be the only knockout of the night: Eight of the 11 bouts on the UFC card went the distance