Anthony Pettis & the Showtime Kick: Reliving One of MMA's Greatest In-Cage Moves

Mike Wellman@@mikewellman88Contributor IIIMarch 11, 2015

Shane Roller, left, and Anthony Pettis battle during their WEC lightweight mixed martial art match Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, in Las Vegas. Pettis defeated Roller with a third round submission. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Eric Jamison/Associated Press

December 16, 2010. WEC 53. The blue cage would see its final night under the bright lights. The UFC was absorbing the lighter weight classes into its ranks, and the winner of the night’s main event between Benson Henderson and Anthony “Showtime” Pettis would be the final WEC lightweight champion and earn a unification fight with the UFC lightweight champion.  

While the MMA world was looking ahead to a 2011 where the WEC fighters would finally get their shot in the UFC, Henderson and Pettis were gearing up to remind us that the show wasn’t over just yet.

The night was already historic in that it was the only time a UFC championship would be decided outside of the Octagon. Dominick Cruz became the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion when he successfully defended his WEC title against Scott Jorgensen that night in Glendale, Arizona.

Stephan Bonnar and Todd Harris were on commentary at WEC 53, and in the pre-fight highlight video, Harris told us that, “The WEC has saved the best for last.” Neither Harris nor anyone else knew just how true that statement was.  

With the stage set, the two lightweights made their walk to the cage. The on-screen bullet points described Pettis as a “creative striker.” This description was about to take on an entirely new meaning.

It was a close and fun fight and was effectively tied heading into the fifth frame. It was the final round of the final fight in the WEC, and it was about to become legend.

With one minute and four seconds left on the clock, Pettis ran up the side of the cage and uncorked a right head kick that floored the champion. The MMA world collectively stood in shock. Bonnar called the action as he saw it, saying, “He ran up the wall like a ninja! I’ve never seen anything like it.” The crowd in attendance can be seen through the cage walls marveling at the feat.

The move sent shockwaves through the MMA landscape that reverberated through the mainstream sports world. Pettis won a unanimous decision and left as the final WEC lightweight champion. The “Showtime Kick” was ESPN’s No. 2 play of the day following the event and has spawned endless breakdown videos.

Others have tried and failed, epicly in fact, to reproduce the thunderous kick since we first saw it in December 2010. Pettis himself has shown similar moves, like the “Showtime Knee” against Donald Cerrone, but nothing will ever replicate the authenticity of the original Showtime Kick.

It wasn’t just the uniqueness of the kick that made it so special. It was something we hadn’t seen anyone attempt before that night, and Pettis landed the move with pinpoint accuracy. It was even more impressive because he did this one-of-a-kind move after fighting one of the best lightweights in the world for nearly 24 minutes.

The kick set the bar high for Pettis when he made his way into the UFC. After coming up short against Clay Guida in his Octagon debut, he has rattled off five impressive victories in a row and won the UFC lightweight title from his WEC adversary Henderson at UFC 164.

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Pettis is on his way to becoming the greatest lightweight of all time, and the Showtime Kick helped etch his name into the MMA history books. Pettis recently became the first MMA athlete to be featured on a Wheaties box, a new height for mixed martial arts.

The evolution of mixed martial arts was on full display when Pettis landed the famous Showtime Kick. Nothing like it had ever been achieved in the MMA cage, and we haven’t seen anything like it since.