UFC heads to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin tonight as Benson Henderson is set to avenge his loss to Anthony Pettis and retain his UFC lightweight title. The fight will take place in the backyard of Pettis, who will be fighting in his hometown.
The first fight took place in the now defunct WEC three years ago. Since the loss to Pettis the first time around Henderson has not lost, stringing together 7 straight UFC wins. The loss has been eating away at him since, and Henderson finally has an opportunity to score some revenge.
Listening him talk to Ariel Helwani after the UFC 164 weigh ins, it is easy to tell Henderson is jacked up to fight Pettis. “Revenge, whatever you want to call it. However you want to word it. It is what it is. I’ve been waiting a while to get my hands on him. That’s all I want is getting my hands on him,” the champion said.
The first time around, Pettis dominated the stand up game en route to victory. At the end of the fight, he famously used the cage to propel himself for a devastating head kick that has since been named in his honor.
In case you somehow forgot how incredible that kick actually was, watch it again below.
The rematch has been several years in the making, but has been postponed due to Pettis spending much of his UFC tenure injured and unable to fight. It’s hard not to be excited for the fireworks that are sure to go off when the bell dings sounding the start of the main event tonight.
Improvements in just about every facet of the game make Henderson the favorite despite the fact that he lost to Pettis the first time around. Although many now believe Benson to be nothing more than a point fighter, who wins via decision instead of risking exposing himself to score a finish, he has the ability to shut down any opponent. Just look at his resume.
Pettis seems hungry heading into this fight, and will be hoping to earn another spot on the MMA all-time highlight reel with a devastating knockout. However Benson has grown into a fighter that will be able to stifle his opponents attacks and instill his will throughout the match.
Wrestling is the clearest advantage the champion has, and Benson should be able to counter the striking of Pettis with grappling. That has been a weakness of the hometown challenger in the past, and unless he has drastically improved could be the difference in this fight.
Benson Henderson also possesses some of the most powerful kicks around, and will use them early and often. If able to land these strikes, Pettis might lose a step and be unable to pull off a crazy strike like he did at the end of the first fight.
Conditioning is always an advantage for the champion, who seems to be in peak physical shape every time he steps into the octagon. At the end of the fifth round he often looks as if he could fight another three rounds before he would gas out. Pettis, who has impressive conditioning himself, better be ready to fight at a furious pace for 25 minutes tonight.
A knack for scraping out a victory in a tight match up is something Henderson has had since joining the UFC. It’s uncanny. No matter how back and forth a bout is, he finds a way to win.
Put all of those factors together and the champion Benson Henderson will defeat Anthony Pettis in his hometown and defend the lightweight title at UFC 164 with a unanimous decision.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express