A detailed guide to former WEC stars who will make their UFC debut at UFC 128
There have already been a handful of former WEC fighters in the Octagon. Miguel Torres, Donald Cerrone, Brian Bowles and others have all collected their first UFC victories, while some have been less fortunate thus far.
That was the first wave, but the onslaught begins in earnest next Saturday at UFC 128, as seven former members of the World Extreme Cagefighting family make their initial appearance under the UFC banner in Newark, New Jersey.
To help you get up to speed on the fighters you’re bound to see but might not already know, HeavyMMA.com introduces you to next Saturday’s seven newcomers.
Urijah Faber (24-4-0)
Many fight fans will already be familiar with “The California Kid,” the long-time face of the WEC. A former featherweight champion, the leader of Team Alpha Male dropped to the 135-pound featherweight class for his last bout in the smaller cage of the WEC, submitting Takeya Mizugaki in the opening round.
A standout collegiate wrestler at Cal-Davis, the 31-year-old Faber has dynamic striking, a tremendous guillotine, and a gigantic heart. In his rematch with Mike Brown at WEC 41, Faber fought with two broken hands, throwing elbows instead. Though he ultimately lost a one-sided decision, he won over a lot of fans that night, and we’re sure he’ll add a few more to the Faber Nation at UFC 128.
Eddie Wineland (18-6-1)
The man who will face Faber in the co-main event of UFC 128 is also a former WEC champion. In fact, Wineland was the very first bantamweight champion, defeating Antonio Banuelos at WEC 20: Cinco de Mayhem on May 5, 2006 to claim the title.
He lost the belt to Chase Beebe in his first title defense, but has since gone 6-1 to climb back up the rankings. Last time out, the 26-year-old who fights out of Chesterton, Indiana won Knockout of the Night honors for his impressive slam knockout of Ken Stone; he won the same award for his previous victory over Will Campuzano as well.
Though he may not be as well known as his opponent or some of the other former WEC competitors featured on the card, make no mistake about it: Wineland is a talented and dangerous fighter, and he’ll give “The California Kid” all he can handle in the night’s penultimate pairing.
Kamal Shalorus (7-0-2)
By the time his fight with Jim Miller is finished, Shalorus will likely have earned a number of new fans.
The Iranian lightweight is a former international-level wrestler, but don’t think for a minute that he’s a lay-and-pray artist. Shalorus uses his wrestling to keep fights on the feet, where he can fire repeated punches from his hips with the intention of taking his opponent’s head off. Extremely strong for his weight class and difficult to take down, the unbeaten fighter known as “The Prince of Persia” is a very intriguing addition to the 155-pound division.
At UFC 128, Shalorus has the opportunity to play spoiler to Jim Miller’s lightweight championship dreams. Much like Dennis Siver did to George Sotiropoulos last month at UFC 127, an upset for Shalorus would stop Miller’s momentum and give Shalorus the chance to move up the rankings. After Miller’s disparaging comments about the former WEC lightweights, you can be sure that Shalorus will come prepared.
Anthony Njokuani (13-4-0)
Don’t blink when Anthony Njokuani is in the cage.
An explosive kickboxer, the 31-year-old from Lagos, Nigeria won three consecutive Knockout of the Night awards in 2009, culminating with a devastating headkick that floored former IFL standout Chris Horodecki at WEC 45.
While he lost back-to-back bouts to open 2010, Njokuani rebounded in his final WEC appearance, earning a technical knockout over Edward Faaloloto in November. That win gives him momentum heading into his UFC debut, a meeting with rising Brazilian prospect Edson Barboza that will kick-off the Spike TV Prelims Live broadcast.
Pay attention, because this fight could be ultra-violent.