Anthony Pettis is without a doubt one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. The owner of the infamous "Showtime Kick" has a bevy of highlight-reel moments in his career resume.
I was in Milwaukee at UFC 164 when Pettis defeated his nemesis Benson Henderson for the UFC lightweight strap. The roof nearly came off the building as Pettis began to celebrate his victory. When I left the arena, it felt as if the city was on the verge of a riot to honor its hometown boy winning UFC gold.
There already was a huge party in Milwaukee that day with the Harley Davidson rally going on. Pettis' championship win in his hometown only amplified the celebrations.
I was just as excited to see Pettis become champion. You could count me among the fans who had grown jaded of Henderson's smooth (see what I did there?) fighting style. I can appreciate that he fought tactically, but appreciation and enjoyment are two different feelings.
Seeing Pettis dismantle Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone with devastating kicks cemented his place as one of the most exciting fighters in the Octagon. His submission win over Henderson showed that he's one of the most complete fighters in the UFC as well.
Although it's easy to sing his praises, it would be egregious to ignore the main fault with the UFC champion: his health.
Pettis was scheduled to face Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 9 with the lightweight title on the line, but those plans have been scrapped. Pettis is out four to six months or possibly up to eight, if you believe Dana White.
Injuries have become a common theme for Pettis during his MMA career.
In 2012, the Roufusport product underwent a "minor" shoulder surgery that shelved him. The UFC lightweight champ was originally scheduled to face Jose Aldo at UFC 163, but a knee injury forced him to postpone his Octagon appearance. He also competed against Henderson only a few weeks removed from separating his shoulder.
Now he'll need a knee surgery, and we've seen fighters struggle after undergoing those kinds of operations. Dominick Cruz hasn't fought in more than two years due to complications with his surgeries (although luckily Pettis was able to avoid injuring his ACL).
A large group of fans and experts—no doubt the UFC president among them—were excited to have a fighter like Pettis wearing UFC gold. But is his role as lightweight champion actually a bad thing for the promotion?
We've already explored the injury bug factor and have seen the complications it can present (see Brock Lesnar, Cruz). Also, if Henderson was still champion, you can bet the UFC would be pushing him across Asia in an attempt to grow its global influence overseas.
Once Pettis steps back into the cage, all this talk will be mute, but there's no guarantee we will see him in the cage anytime soon. Even if he does come back, how can we be sure he'll be the same fighter?
Pettis is dependent upon having a sturdy base beneath him to throw all those flashy combinations. Without the explosive backing of healthy knees, will he be able to sustain the high level of striking prowess we've seen him display?
A lot of questions surround Pettis, and unfortunately we won't have the answers for quite some time.
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