UFC lightweight champion Benson "Smooth" Henderson will be looking to exercise the demons against Anthony "Showtime" Pettis at UFC 164, but the champion won't be successful in his attempt to do so.
It was back in December of 2010 when Pettis narrowly edged out a victory over Henderson at WEC 53, most notably thanks to an incredible kick that made all the highlight reels.
Since that loss, Henderson has won his last seven fights and has gained the respect of a champion, however none of his wins have been particularly impressive.
Henderson has gone the distance in each of his fights since the one with Pettis and hasn't really experienced what can be considered a convincing victory. It's pretty clear that Smooth has a problem finishing fights and that could be a big issue against Pettis.
While Smooth has been the aggressor in some of his previous matches against Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez, the pace will be quite different against Pettis. Showtime will likely push the pace against Smooth and that could immediately make things uncomfortable for the champ.
Pettis won't be overthrowing but rather he will keep moving forward all fight long as he attempts to knock off Henderson once again. Smooth will look to land his kicks, but it's Pettis who has proven to be able to pick his spots and counter those strikes with strikes of his own.
Not to mention, Pettis has definite knockout power, so a well-timed strike could end Henderson's title reign before it gets to a decision. Henderson, on the other hand, doesn't enjoy a similar ability as he hasn't knocked anyone out since WEC 40 against Shane Roller.
What will be most important thing for Pettis is keeping his distance from Henderson and not allowing this to get to the ground. Granted, Pettis can still hold his own in that position, but he stands a far better chance of winning the lightweight crown if both are upright and Pettis can utilize his kickboxing skills.
Henderson will get his chances on the canvas, but it's up to Pettis to take that out of the equation as much as possible and not allow prolonged periods of time to pass with Henderson on top of him.
If he can avoid such a scenario, Pettis will have ample opportunities to land combos on his opponent while scoring points en route to a victory. For Henderson, if he can't score points on take downs and his kicks are met with a fierce response from Pettis consistently, there are few avenues he can use to beat Showtime.
The first meeting between these two was no fluke. Pettis matches up well with Henderson in many aspects and, after a victory for Pettis against Henderson in the past, Showtime has more than just a physical edge against Smooth in this one.