Some guys just have your number. That will prove to be the case when Anthony "Showtime" Pettis defeats UFC lightweight champion Benson "Smooth" Henderson on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 164.
The fight takes place at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis., which is Pettis' hometown. That may seem like an unfair advantage for the challenger, but Pettis does own a win over Henderson in their previous head-to-head meeting.
It came while both were in World Extreme Cagefighting in 2010. Anyone who is remotely interested in mixed martial arts has seen the "Showtime kick" Pettis landed in the fight. It seems almost obligatory with any mention, but for the 1,000,000th time, here is perhaps the single greatest kick in MMA history.
For as much love as the kick gets, what goes unnoticed is the fact that Pettis outfought Henderson for four rounds before he landed the famous kick.
Showtime is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the world. He's capable of pulling in submission of the night honors just as quickly as he could win KO of the night. Henderson is obviously no slouch. He's held the lightweight title since Feb. 2012. He has defended his title three times since dethroning future Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar.
But in those three defenses, Henderson has only won convincingly one time. He seems to be fighting passively and overly defensive since winning the title. How has he held on to the belt?
Henderson has used his athletic advantage to best opponents. This was on display primarily against an overmatched Nate Diaz in Dec. 2012. Because Henderson held such a clear edge in speed and explosiveness against Diaz, he was far more active and impressive.
He threw 259 strikes against Diaz compared to just 177 against Edgar in the rematch and 191 against Gilbert Melendez. Henderson eeked out the win in both instances, but the decisions were far from clear cut.
Pettis is even more athletic and dynamic than Edgar or Melendez. A lack of pace will keep Henderson on his heels throughout the night. Henderson will have to press the fight because waiting back will get him picked apart and leave him down early on the scorecards.
Rushing in will make him vulnerable to another spectacular strike, of which Pettis has plenty in his arsenal.
I give Henderson tons of credit. I don't see him getting stopped, but he doesn't have the length or quickness to outstrike Pettis. Henderson is the more powerfully-built fighter, but Pettis' wiry and flexible frame, combined with his skill on his back, makes him dangerous on the ground.
Get ready to crown a new lightweight champion.
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