For Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis was just the nightmare that wouldn’t go away.
Sure, there will always be room for excuses. Henderson may have defeated Pettis in the first bout if he never got caught with the “Showtime” kick. There is also the chance the rematch could have been a much different outcome if Pettis didn’t pull off the surprising first round submission.
Luckily, Henderson has always been a humble champion who never makes excuses. There has been nothing “lucky” about Pettis’ wins. Fans have watched the 26-year-old evolve before their eyes in the greatest of moments, and unfortunately for Henderson, both of those moments were against him.
“Anthony is a tough dude. He proved to be the number one contender and the champion. He got my arm, and he did a good job of twisting it in the right direction. That’s a high-level armbar right there. Most guys might miss the technique behind it,” Henderson told UFC commentator Joe Rogan after the bout.
Pettis is already the most feared striker in the lightweight division.
Before the fight with Henderson, many believed the blueprint to defeating Pettis was takedowns and top control. Skeptics crept in regarding his ground game after he was dominated in the wrestling department by Clay Guida nearly two years ago.
Since then, Pettis has apparently made serious improvements on the ground. Henderson is one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artists at 155-pounds, and Pettis still managed to control his posture and lockup a quick submission.
Pettis is still improving as a fighter, which is a scary thought for every UFC lightweight. There is still plenty to be seen from the young champ before the MMA world goes off the reservoir when making pound-for-pound debates. A true champion defends his title, which is something Henderson has done incredibly well over the last year.
Will Pettis be able to uphold the same standard?
If his ground game continues to evolve to the level of his striking, MMA fans may be witnessing a future all-time great.