One thing is pretty clear heading into UFC 164, Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson aren't too fond of one another. Pettis continued the verbal barrage heading into UFC 164 by downplaying Henderson's fighting style.
Speaking to MMA Junkie, Pettis explained that he's not exactly a fan of how Henderson fights.
"I'm not a fan of that style," Pettis said. "I wouldn't even try doing that. That's just manipulating the rules of the game to keep your title...He's going to come out, do just enough to win the rounds, and keep his belt. That's his game plan, and that's never my game plan. I'm always looking to finish."
Pettis and his coach, Duke Roufus, believe the difference in strategies will play into the challenger's favor on Aug. 31 when the two men face one another again.
Honestly, I think it plays right into Anthony's style. I think Ben's been doing an incredible job of protecting his championship, and I think Anthony's been doing a fantastic job of attacking to win. There's two strategies out there. You can protect to win, which then you're going to win a lot of close fights or fights that are considered controversial, or you can take it out of the judges' hands by finishing fights, which Anthony has been looking to do.
It is true that we've seen Henderson become more conservative, and the UFC champ has yet to finish a fight inside the Octagon. In fact, you'd have to go all the way back to April of 2010 for the last time Henderson finished a fight before the final bell.
Although Pettis and his team believe Henderson's safe strategy plays into their game plan, it also helps out the champion. We've seen Pettis' flashy offense be stifled by top-heavy wrestling and despite Pettis' claims of never getting "Clay Guida-ed" again, the champion has the skills to use Pettis' over-aggression against him.
The one area where Pettis has perhaps the greatest advantage is the mental game. The Milwaukee native is the last man to defeat the UFC champ and did so in grand fashion by landing the "Showtime Kick."
Are you worried about getting kneed again, like Anthony kneed him? Are you worried about getting 'Showtime Kicked' in front of God and everybody? Are you worried about getting kicked upside the head? That's a big added advantage for Anthony, but he's working very hard to make sure he's not resting on the laurels of that last victory. It's very tough to beat someone twice, and Ben's been on the bad end of the highlight reel ever since that. He's got to be emotionally connected to that and he's going to come in very well-prepared. The (MMA) Lab and his coaches are very good strategists, and they're going to try and come up with the safest way to beat Anthony.
The safest way undoubtedly is for Henderson to use his grappling to keep Pettis from using his vast array of strikes. Pettis will threaten off his back with submissions, but he'll need more than that to take the belt from Henderson. He'll also likely look to avoid going five rounds because as we've seen, Henderson has a knack for winning close decisions on the judges' scorecards.
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