UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis II Preview

In 2001 Scott Adams and Reed Harris joined forced to form World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). Acquiring known MMA talent such as Dan Severn, Travis Fulton, and Gan McGee; the promotion started with high hopes.UFC 164 Poster #2

Averaging less than 4 cards a year and operating on limited resources, the WEC was purchased by ZUFFA in 2006; 5 years after their high stakes gamble on the soon to be bankrupt Ultimate Fighting Championships.

Now with proper management and structure, the WEC became a mainstay for MMA fans of the time. Well known for it’s lighter weight classes and talent scouting; fighters such as Uriah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, and Carlos Condit (the list goes on and on and on) all had their big break in the WEC cage.

On December 16th 2010, the WEC had it 53rd and final event. The card featured 2 title fights, with the main event staring lightweight champion Benson Henderson defending his title against Anthony Pettis. After four rounds, it seemed any ones fight. Midway through the final round Pettis charged Henderson, who wisely (or so he thought) circled away from his attacker. Without breaking stride, Pettis became the first MMA fighter in history to utilize his environment for his attack.

Taking two steps up the cage and transitioning to a roundhouse kick, the “Showtime Kick” was born. Pettis’ strike landed cleanly on the check of the champion, sending him to the mat. Though to his credit, Henderson practically recovered instantly, the damage was already done; and Pettis would go on to defeat Henderson via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-48, 48-47). Fast forward, August 31st 2013, UFC 164 will feature the long awaited rematch.

Benson Henderson (19-2) vs. Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (16-2)
Being only one win from breaking BJ Penn’s lightweight title defense record, it’s no surprise Benson Henderson is considered by all major publications to be the best lightweight in the world today. Though he has received much flack from fans for questionable decisions and a lack of killer instinct; there is no denying his pure athleticism, technique, and fight IQ are off the charts. The former WEC champion has been turning heads since his WEC debut back in 2009.

The sole blemish in his Zuffa owned promotional record being a unanimous decision lose to “Showtime” himself. This was not only a bout for the WEC lightweight title, but the last fight in World Extreme Cagefighting history. Since that loss he has gone on to win seven decisions in a row, including 4 title fights against a who’s who list of opponents. It would seem a type of poetic justice should “Bendo” earn the UFC record, against the very man that defeated him last.

Pettis was on top of the world at the start of 2011. He had won a world title and signed with the largest MMA promotion in the game. At the time, he was guaranteed a title shot between the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 2; but when the bout ended in a draw and a rematch was set, it seemed Pettis would have to wait another 5 months at least before fighting again. After some thought he opted to fight again to keep focused and in shape. On June 4, 2011 he faced Clay Guida, losing to unanimous decision.

With title shot hope dashed, he returned to the Octagon 4 months later to defeat Jeremy Stephens via unanimous decision. Taking a step up in competition, “Showtime” next faced Joe Lauzon. At the 1:20 mark of the first round Pettis landed a clean head kick rendering Joe unconscious. Unfortunately Pettis would spend the rest of 2012 out with injuries. Making a strong return in 2013 to defeat Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. The win granted him another title shot, but yet again he would have to wait. After being briefly linked to a fight with featherweight champion Jose Aldo, injuries sidelined him yet again. Now replacing an injured TJ Grant, Pettis looks to repeat the magic he cast on Bendo only 3 years ago.

Frank Mir (16-7) vs. Josh Barnett (32-6)
Two time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir needs little introduction. The fact he fought for the title only last year is amazing, considering his tenure with the UFC. Mir holds the record for most subs, wins, and total fights in UFC heavyweight history. Coming off his loses to Junior Dos Santos and Daniel Cormier, Mir has now lost two in a row for the first time in his career. In a long over due bout between former champions, he faces Josh Barnett at UFC 164.

Few MMA veterans can boast the experience of the man once known as the “Baby Faced Assassin”. Having fought in the UFC, Pancrase, PRIDE, Sengoku, Affliction, DREAM, and Strikeforce he has truly been around the block and back. Now the former UFC champion makes his return to the promotion. He has only lost once since 2007, being to Daniel Cormier, whom just defeated Frank Mir. This bout is years in the making to say the least.

Chad Mendes (14-1) vs. Clay Guida (30-13)
Arguably the greatest featherweight not named Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes has improved leaps and bounds since his lose to the champ. The welcome addition of Duane Ludwig as head coach, and the continued services of master Thong have made Mendes’ home of Team Alpha Male a premier camp in the sport. Once thought as a pure wrestler, his last 3 wins have come by first round knockout. If he can add a win over Clay Guida, a title shot may be in his near future.

Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Clay Guida had been a victim of fan scrutiny as of late. Claims of fleeing his opponent and lack of trying to finish the fight; this was especially the case in his bouts with former number one contender Gray Maynard and former number two ranked featherweight Hatsu Hioki. Looking back its hard to make such claims stick. Guida has been on the UFC roster for seven years, earned three SOTN awards, five FOTN awards, and two nominations for fight of the year. With a strong wrestling base and a solid chin he is a threat to anyone, and a win here could arguably put him in title contention.

Ben Rothwell (32-9) vs. Brandon Vera (12-6, 1NC)
International Fight League vet Ben Rothwell has not had the easiest run in UFC history. His debut being against current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. With a record for 2-3, “Big” Ben has yet to win two in a row in the promotion. Though his cardio is questionable, his one shot KO power must be respected by all who face him.

Brandon Vera made his UFC debut in 2005 at UFN 2 against Mike Whitehead in heavyweight bout, winning via doctor stoppage early in the second round. After two more wins, he squared off against Frank Mir, knocking out the former champion in a little over a minute. “The Truth” would even go on to boast he would hold the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight belts simultaneously. This was the first and last we heard of this claim, as he lost back to back fights against the much larger Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum. After losing via TKO to Werdum in the first round, Vera publicly announced his permanent move to light heavyweight. Through various ups and downs, including getting cut and resigned in less than a months time, Vera went 4-4-1 at LHW. Now 5 years later, Vera will be returning to heavyweight, whether a permanent switch or not is anyone’s guess.

Erik Koch (13-2) vs. Dustin Poirier (13-3)
Former WEC standout Erik Koch has had more issues with the “injury bug” than most will ever come to understand. Between September 2011 and January 2013, injuries to himself or his opponent kept him out of competition. This included two chances to fight Jose Aldo for the featherweight belt. The well rounded Team Roufusport member rode a four fight win streak into his 18 month layoff, before losing a second round TKO to featherweight phenom Ricardo Lamas in January.

“The Diamond” flew under the radar of most casual MMA fans during his short stint in the WEC. Even after going 4-0 in the UFC, he remained relatively unknown till his 5 round main event losing effort against the Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung. Since he has gone 1-1, most recently defeating Jonathan Brookins via his signature D’arce choke and losing a unanimous decision to fellow WEC vet Cub Swanson.