The UFC is returning to Japan for the first time in over 10 years later this month, and to kick off the main card, former WEC lightweight champion Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (14-2) will be taking on Joe Lauzon (21-6) for a possible chance at a No. 1 contender's bout.
The Saitama Super Arena will host the event, and many fans are anticipating a flashback to the days of Pride. With fighters like Quinton Jackson, Mark Hunt and Takanori Gomi all being featured on the card, it will definitely be an event to remember and could be the best event of 2012.
"I'm a traditional martial artist," Pettis told The Score's Mauro Ranallo. "I've been doing martial arts my whole life. Everything comes from Japan and Pride."
In Pettis' last fight at UFC 136, he defeated Jeremy Stephens by split-decision. The hype of a striking battle fell short, but it did give Pettis a chance to showcase his wrestling ability.
"I wanted to stand with him," Pettis said of the Stephens fight. "That was the instinct that we were going to stand and bang, but he took me down in the first round, got a win in the first round, I think. So we played catchup. I had to take him down. I had to control him and show the judges I can wrestle too."
That victory followed a loss to Clay Guida, which was Pettis' UFC debut and first fight since defeating Benson Henderson at the final WEC event to win the lightweight championship.
"Coming from last year at this time, I'm on top of the world, guaranteed a title shot, top of the division," Pettis said. "I take a fight against Clay Guida, don't do as well as I planned on doing, and I'm right back in the mix."
In the main event, UFC lightweight champion Frankie "The Answer" Edgar will take on Henderson, who is coming off back-to-back wins over Jim Miller and Guida. Edgar has spent the better part of the last two years fighting in rematches with Gray Maynard and BJ Penn.
"I think a huge motivation is Ben Henderson," Pettis continued. "Henderson had a huge, huge year. I just came off the last guy to beat him, and he's killing. He looks like a whole new guy."
"I like Henderson (to win)," Pettis said. He is just looking like an animal. He's walking through guys, left and right, and he's just looking like a whole new person. When I fought him in the WEC, he looks like a completely different fighter in the UFC now."
UFC 144 will be available on pay-per-view and feature Edgar vs. Henderson, Pettis vs. Lauzon, Rampage vs. Ryan Bader, Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields and Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo.