On Wednesday, November 18, 2009, the WEC returns to Las Vegas with WEC 44 - Brown vs. Aldo. The event will serve as the lead act of a Zuffa double-header in Sin City this week, as UFC 106 will also be in town three nights later. WEC 44 will take place at The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event of the card will be a highly-anticipated featherweight title fight between current champion Mike Thomas Brown and the #1 contender Jose Aldo. Brown and Aldo made their WEC debut together on the same night at WEC 34 in June 2008 and quickly put the division on notice with a pair of impressive victories. Brown earned a Unanimous Decision over the highly-regarded veteran Jeff Curran, while Aldo defeated longtime Shooto kingpin Alexandre Franca "Pequeno" Nogueira via TKO. The main card of WEC 44 will be televised live on Versus in the United States at 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST.
Brown will look to defend his title for the third time on Wednesday night. After his victorious WEC debut over Curran, he went on to challenge the WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber for the title at WEC 36 in November of last year. Faber had been the champion since winning the belt at WEC 19 in March 2006, which was an era before the Zuffa acquisition of the WEC. Faber had dominantly defended his belt five times and many wondered if there was a 145-pound fighter alive that could threaten his reign. Brown answered that question emphatically with a shocking first round TKO of Faber, thus becoming just the second featherweight champion in WEC history. Brown would then go on to successfully defend the title for the first time against Leonard Garcia at WEC 39 in March of this year. After battering the fellow UFC veteran, Brown finished Garcia on the ground via Arm-Triangle Choke within the first two minutes of the bout. Three months later, he would defend his title for a second time at WEC 41 in an intense rematch against Faber. The fight took place in Faber's hometown of Sacramento and would earn "Fight of the Night" honors. After going the distance, the judges awarded Brown the Unanimous Decision victory.
Brown will now look to defeat Aldo, who is a man that has appeared on all four WEC fight cards that Brown has fought on, since they made their promotional debut together at WEC 34. During Brown's run of four consecutive wins in the WEC, Aldo has also remained undefeated for the promotion with five consecutive wins. Since joining the WEC, Aldo has made it a point to literally "strike" fear into his opponents. His fearsome Muay Thai pedigree, consisting of equal parts precision and power, has put all five of his WEC opponents on Queer Street in highlight reel fashion. After defeating Nogueira in his WEC debut, he has strung together four more TKO victories over the likes of Jonathan Brookins, Ronaldo Perez, Chris Mickle, and Cub Swanson. Aldo's last win over Swanson took place on the same WEC 41 card in June, where Brown won his rematch against Faber. Aldo's win over Swanson, took only 8 seconds and was clearly Aldo's most scintillating performance to date. As soon as the referee signaled the start of the fight, Aldo came flying across the cage with a Double Flying-Knee that immediately dropped Swanson and split him open badly. The knees were followed with punches until the referee stopped the onslaught and the victory earned Aldo "KO of the Night" honors, as well as tonight's WEC featherweight title shot against Brown.
Also on the main card on Wednesday night will be a bout between two former UFC lightweights, who have since moved down in weight to compete in the WEC featherweight division. Leonard Garcia will return to action, after edging out Jameel Massouh via Split Decision at WEC 42 in August. That win helped Garcia bounce back from the first round drubbing he received from the champion Brown in March. Garcia is now set to face TUF 5 finalist Manny Gamburyan who is the cousin and training partner of UFC welterweight Karo Parisyan, who is set to fight Dustin Hazelett at UFC 106 on Saturday night. Gamburyan fought for the UFC five times as a lightweight, before moving down to his more natural weight class of 145-pounds earlier this year. In June, Gamburyan won his promotional debut at WEC 41 via Unanimous Decision over the previously unbeaten John Franchi. The winner of Garcia vs. Gamburyan will position themselves among the top contenders in the WEC featherweight division.
The main card will also feature a pair of top lightweight bouts. The first will feature the return of former WEC lightweight champion "Razor" Rob McCullough vs. black belt judoka Karen Darabedyan. McCullough is coming off a Majority Decision win over former #1 contender Marcus Hicks in March at WEC 39. In that fight, McCullough fractured his right hand, which required surgery. McCullough also got married exactly one month ago, so a win over Darabedyan would surely prolong his honeymoon celebration. Darabedyan is a student of Gokor Chivichyan and "Judo" Gene LeBell and a training partner of the aforementioned Gamburyan and Parisyan. Thus, Darabedyan will likely rely on his judo and boxing background during his WEC debut against McCullough on Wednesday night. The final bout on the main card will feature a pair of collegiate wrestling stars that have found similar success as lightweights in the WEC. Shane Roller is a former three-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State and holds a record of 3-1 in the WEC, while Danny Castillo is a former NAIA All-American wrestler at Menlo College and holds an identical 3-1 record in the WEC. The winner of this bout should join the winner of McCullough vs. Darabedyan as two of the top WEC lightweight contenders.
-Mike Thomas Brown vs. Jose Aldo (Featherweight Bout)
-Leonard Garcia vs. Manny Gamburyan (Featherweight Bout)
-"Razor" Rob McCullough vs. Karen Darabedyan (Lightweight Bout)
-Shane Roller vs. Danny Castillo (Lightweight Bout)
-Kamal Shalorus vs. Will Kerr (Lightweight Bout)
-L.C. Davis vs. Diego Nunes (Featherweight Bout)
-Cub Swanson vs. John Franchi (Featherweight Bout)
-Antonio Banuelos vs. Kenji Osawa (Bantamweight Bout)
-Ricardo Lamas vs. James Krause (Lightweight Bout)
-Frank Gomez vs. Seth Dikun (Bantamweight Bout)