UFC Lightweight title contender Anthony Pettis is no stranger to his opponent at this weekend’s upcoming UFC 164 title fight from BMO Bradley Harris Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having already defeated UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson once back at WEC 53, “Showtime” knows what it takes to defeat “Smooth,” and believes his time is now.
After a bit of a rocky start to his UFC tenure after a loss to Clay Guida and a lackluster win over Jeremy Stephens, Pettis had people wondering if his considerable amount of hype was justified. He came back strong, knocking out Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone in his last two bouts, to earn the title shot in the fight that everyone’s been waiting for. Pettis spoke up to ESPN this week, detailing how he intends to let the fight flow in order to best utilize his strengths:
“There’s no more holding back for me. When I go out there, I’m letting loose. When I hold back, I’m thinking about the other fighter, what’s the game plan and what he’s trying to do and how I’m going to finish him. I just need go out there and be myself. When I’m being myself, I’m dangerous. And everybody knows it. That’s why I’ve done so well in my last two fights.”
Indeed Pettis has some of the best striking in all of MMA, and those skills may be best implemented when he uses an improvisational style. After a back-and-forth saga that saw Pettis removed from his previously scheduled Featherweight title fight versus Jose Aldo at UFC 163, campaign unsuccessfully to replace TJ Grant against Henderson, and then finally lock up a spot in the UFC 164 main event in his hometown, it’s been an eventful summer for Pettis.
Now all that’s left is to take care of business. Pettis has a ton of respect for Henderson, the man who he wrested the WEC championship bout from in the promotion’s last bout ever. Regardless of respect, though, Pettis knows he’s in for a fight, but it’s a fight he knows he can win again. He continued:
“Ben’s an amazing fighter; he’s the champ for a reason,” Pettis said. “But I never had my sights set on fighting Ben Henderson again. Once he won that belt, that’s when I said I want to fight him again. I beat him once already, so it wasn’t my place to call for a rematch. Since he’s the champ, that’s the key for me. I want to be the champion, so whoever has the belt at this time, and it happens to be Ben Henderson, that’s who I’m going after.”
All the calling out and talk is over and done with. The Lightweight title will be on the line when “Showtime” steps into the Octagon this Saturday to face Henderson for a second time, this time in his hometown. Will he come out with the gold after handing “Smooth” his first UFC loss, or has the dominant champion evolved enough to avenge his previous loss?