When Zuffa decided to silence the World Extreme Cagefighting organization, many felt the smaller weight classes would never gain traction inside the Octagon. Instead, many of the top stars in MMA have grown up over the course of their short UFC careers.
Jose Aldo, Benson Henderson, Dominick Cruz, Carlos Condit, Demetrious Johnson and Renan Barao all cut their teeth inside the WEC. And, all six have become UFC champions – with five of them still wearing title belts in the promotion.
That short list doesn’t even include the likes of Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone or Chad Mendes, all of which are either on the cusp of competing for a title, or have had shots at the belt.
Yes, the flyweights, bantamweights and featherweights have all had marquee headlines at pay-per-view and Fox-televised shows, giving themselves world-wide attention.
Below is a list of the Top-12 fighters to enter the UFC from the WEC:
1. Jose Aldo: The current UFC featherweight champion has battled injuries through most of 2012, but his one bout was a highlight-worthy one, as he handed Chad Mendes his first loss in Brazil. “Scarface” landed a nasty knee and flew out of the Octagon to embrace his victory with his supporters. Aldo is a former WEC featherweight champion and sports an overall record of 21-1. He went 8-0 in the WEC and will look to move to 4-0 in the UFC when he faces Frankie Edgar next month at UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar.
2. Benson Henderson: After falling in the final WEC match to Anthony Pettis, Henderson has been one of the hottest fighters in all of MMA. “Bendo” picked up the UFC lightweight title by besting Frankie Edgar, and successfully defended it vs. Edgar, as well. He also topped Nate Diaz, and will welcome Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez to the UFC in 2013 at UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez. Henderson is 18-2 in his career and 6-0 inside the Octagon.
3. Dominick Cruz: “The Dominator” was the final WEC bantamweight champion, and continues to hold the title in the UFC. Cruz has been on the sidelines, though, for several months rehabbing from knee surgery. His return date is unknown at this time. Cruz is 19-1 in his career, 2-0 in the UFC and went 7-1 with the WEC.
4. Carlos Condit: Condit didn’t come over to the UFC during the final merger between the two promotions. He was the final WEC welterweight champion, and wore the interim UFC title before falling to Georges St-Pierre in a close five-round affair. “The Natural Born Killer” meets Rory MacDonald in his next fight at UFC 158: St-Pierre vs. Diaz, looking to improve upon his 28-6 record. Condit is 5-2 with the UFC, and went 5-0 in the WEC.
5. Demetrious Johnson: The first-ever UFC flyweight champion, Johnson went five rounds with Dominick Cruz before coming up short in his quest to wear the bantamweight title. “Mighty Mouse” faces John Dodson this Saturday at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson, giving him a headlining act on network television. Johnson is 16-2-1 in his career, including 4-1-1 with the UFC.
6. Renan Barao: The Brazilian didn’t spent much time in the WEC, but we collected a pair of victories during his run there. Barao scored the interim UFC bantamweight title in a match with Urijah Faber, and will put it on the line this year vs. Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald. Barao, who has not lost since his MMA debut in 2005, is 29-1 in his career and 4-0 with the UFC.
7. Anthony Pettis: “Showtime” closed the door on the WEC with his kick-off-the-fence against Benson Henderson, netting himself the WEC lightweight title in the process. However, his shot at the UFC title never panned out, as Pettis took a fight with Clay Guida while waiting on the sidelines and was defeated. He returns to action this weekend against Donald Cerrone at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson after spending much of 2012 on the sidelines following surgery. Pettis is 15-2 in his career, including a 5-1 mark with the WEC.
8. Donald Cerrone: A fan favorite because of his willingness to fight on a moments notice, “Cowboy” earned three shots at the WEC lightweight title. He was never able to secure the belt, falling twice to Benson Henderson and once to Jamie Varner. Cerrone will face Anthony Pettis this Saturday night at UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson, seeking his 20th career victory. Cerrone is 19-4 in his career, including a 6-1 record with the UFC.
9. Chad Mendes: “Money” went 4-0 while fighting for the WEC, and earned himself a shot at the UFC featherweight champion upon entering the promotion. Mendes, however, was unable to solve the mystery of Jose Aldo, suffering his first career defeat. Mendes is 13-1 in his carer, including 3-1 with the UFC, and faces Manny Gamburyan at UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche next.
10. Joseph Benavidez: After finally finding a home at flyweight, Benavidez entered the UFC’s tournament to crown a champion in the weight class as the odds-on favorite. Instead, it was fellow WEC alum Demetrious Johnson who picked up the belt. Benavidez was a two-time WEC title contender, falling both times to Dominick Cruz. He is 16-3 in his career, 3-1 in the UFC and went 5-2 with the WEC. He meets Ian McCall at UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar next month.
11. Brian Stann: Another throwback to a previous era of the WEC, Stann was the promotions light heavyweight champion. “The All-American” now competes mostly at middleweight, though he will take a fight back at his old home later this year with Wanderlei Silva at UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann. Stann is 12-5 in his career, including a 6-4 mark with the UFC.
12. Eddie Wineland: Wineland is amongst the list of contenders looking to face Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title. Since entering the UFC, Wineland has gone 2-2, pushing his overall record to 20-8-1. He went 4-1 with the WEC, and faces Dustin Poirier in early 2013 at UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald.