Former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis has been on a rollercoaster ride ever since he obtained that belt from Benson Henderson in the promotion’s last bout ever. While he was guaranteed a UFC title shot with that win, a long, drawn-out rivalry between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard and a subsequent loss to Clay Guida put that on hold.
Pettis paid his dues by winning his next three UFC bouts, putting an emphatic point on his last two with stunning knockouts of Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone. While he had earned the right to face Benson Henderson once again, he opted to move down to featherweight in order to face off with reigning champ Jose Aldo.
We all know how that worked out, as Pettis was injured rolling with light heavyweight Phil Davis. Ultimately, however, it worked out quite well for the Wisconsin native, as Henderson’s scheduled opponent TJ Grant was forced out with a concussion, prompting Pettis to challenge for the title in his hometown of Milwaukee.
The UFC 164 headliner is a fight that fans have wanted to watch again for almost three years now. Henderson has taken the UFC by storm, winning seven bouts in a row and defending his title three times, but he hasn’t finished anybody yet. Pettis knows that ‘Smooth’ has evolved as a fighter, but he’s eager to prove he has as well. He spoke up on “The MMA Hour” yesterday:
"[Henderson is] a whole new fighter, a way different fighter than he was in the WEC days. But I am, too. It's not like I'm the same Anthony Pettis you fought in Arizona. This is a totally different Anthony Pettis. It's funny because my last two fights, the world only got to see me perform for like two minutes, so no one really knows how much I've evolved as a fighter. I'm excited to get out there and show what I've been working on."
Pettis has a point when he brings up the fact that we haven’t had much of a chance to see him showcase all of his new skills, as he didn’t spend much time in the cage against Lauzon and Cerrone. In fact, he’s only been in the cage for 3 minutes and 56 seconds since the start of 2012. That’s not exactly enough time to prove that you have new skills, as he used his always-dangerous kicks to finish his opponents.
Part of that is due to injuries, something that has plagued Pettis in recent years and made him seem slightly snake bit. But now he’s on the mend from his minor knee injury, and is pumped up to finally fight for the UFC lightweight title. And he thinks Henderson is as well:
"All I know is that, if I lost to somebody and I'm the champ, I would want to avenge that loss. I think he's excited for the fight. He should be. It's my hometown now. He knows what I did to him in his hometown. Everybody saw what I did to him in his hometown. I'm sure he's going to bring it. All my fights before the WEC and UFC were in Milwaukee. I think it's time for me to have my homecoming."
The stakes are high for this rivalry title match at UFC 164. Will this be the time when the torch is passed at 155?