Naturally, there’s a sequel. Isn’t that the way it always is with those cartoon superhero movies?
That’s what the first meeting of Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis three years ago turned into, suddenly and stunningly, around 24 minutes into a 25-minute bout. With Henderson’s WEC lightweight championship on the line for the final time -- the promotion was about to be absorbed by its Zuffa corporate cousin, the UFC -- each man had won two rounds and the deciding fifth was up for grabs. Or up for something.
It was at that moment of go-for-it creativity that Pettis, seeing Henderson lazily circle away from the cage, went directly at the fence, leaped up against it and, as his right foot pressed into the chain links, torqued his body and sprung toward his unsuspecting opponent. (Who would expect this?) Pettis’s swinging right foot clipped Henderson in the left temple. Floored him.
The fight wasn’t over. Henderson scurried to grab a leg of the pouncing Pettis, trying in vain to turn the final scramble his way. No way. Pettis maintained a winning position over the fight’s final minute as the crowd buzzed, the Internet orgasmed and the cageside judges stuck an exclamation point beside the “10” they wrote next to the soon-to-be champion’s name on their scorecards.
Nearly three years later, we’re about to see a sequel, which Henderson hopes won’t be given the title Showtime 2.
The starring performers are the same for Saturday night’s main event of UFC 164 in Milwaukee (10 p.m. ET, PPV, $54.99), but their marquee billing has shifted. Pettis was promised a UFC title shot following his superhero performance, but it never happened. Then-champ Frankie Edgar was engaged in a dramatic miniseries with Gray Maynard, and while awaiting his turn Pettis took a fight with Clay Guida … and lost. Meanwhile, Henderson picked himself up and worked his way up, eventually dethroning Edgar in February of last year.
The 29-year-old Henderson (19-2, 7-0 in the UFC and 5-1 in the WEC) is No. 7 in the SI.com pound-for-pound rankings, and naturally he’s No. 1 at lightweight. He’s defended the 155-pound belt three times, most recently in a split-decision victory over former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez in April. Two of his last three wins have split the judges, in fact, the other being last summer’s rematch with Edgar.
Pettis (16-2, 3-1 in the UFC, 5-1 in the WEC), on the other hand, has left nothing to the judges in his most recent fights. In January he knocked out Donald Cerrone midway through the first round. The previous February he TKO’d Joe Lauzon in less than a minute and a half. At 26, he’s No. 3 among lightweights in the SI.com rankings.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET) and three will stream on the UFC’s Facebook page (6:30).