World Extreme Cagefighting, after its 2006 acquisition by Ultimate Fighting Championship parent company Zuffa, outgrew its roots as a regional promotion based out of the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino and became the Western Hemisphere’s premier organization for the lighter weight classes. Few cards exemplified the wealth of talent more than WEC 34 “Faber vs. Pulver”, which took place in its Zuffa-era home base of Sacramento, California, on June 1, 2008.
While the title doubleheader at the top of the card featured fairly routine title defenses by the WEC’s two greatest champs in Faber and Miguel Torres, the undercard was a veritable gold mine of up-and-coming talent. Future UFC record book owner Donald Cerrone made his second WEC appearance, tapping out fellow future UFC lightweight Danny Castillo with a slick first-round armbar. The man who would become the first UFC 135-pound champion, Dominick Cruz, made his second appearance on the blue canvas as well, outboxing Charlie Valencia for three rounds, while the man who would soon unseat Faber from the featherweight throne, Mike Thomas Brown, muscled Jeff Curran around in his WEC debut.
Most notably, WEC 34 featured the promotional debut of a 21-year-old, promising but little-heralded featherweight from Brazil who would become one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport in a few short years. Jose Aldo, fighting in the United States for the first time in his young career, was nearly a 2-to-1 underdog to Alexandre Franca Nogueira, who was a former Shooto lightweight champion and was probably the most accomplished featherweight in the history of the sport to that point.
The matchup had likely been made in the expectation that “Pequeno” would provide a worthy foil to Faber, but Aldo and Brown—both of whom were betting underdogs at WEC 34—had other plans. Aldo outboxed the veteran Nogueira for a round and a half before blasting him with standing-to-ground punches and finishing him with elbows from half-guard. The stunning performance, in front of a largely unappreciative Arco Arena crowd, announced a momentous new arrival in the division.
Meanwhile, Brown would move on from his dominant win over Curran to knock out Faber in his next fight, then defend the featherweight title twice before he and Aldo finally met at WEC 44 in November 2009. With a second-round knockout of Brown, Aldo captured the belt that he would hand over in exchange for the inaugural UFC featherweight belt when the WEC was finally absorbed a year later. He would keep that one for another five full years.