While many may think that UFC lightweight title challenger Anthony Pettis got lucky to slide into a championship bout with Benson Henderson at UFC 164, it is indeed a bout that has been almost three years in the making. Since his defeat of Henderson in late 2010, the line of events transpired has been a bit strange for Pettis.
His title shot was lost when Frankie Edgar became embroiled in a drawn-out rivalry with Gray Maynard throughout all of 2011, but that seems like ages ago now. A loss to Clay Guida also derailed his hype train for a moment, but he has rebounded nicely with some good finishes amidst a slew of nagging injuries. But now all the talk and speculation will come to close, as soon there will be nothing left to do for the two rivals but to fight.
And that’s music to Pettis’ ears, who admitted to MMA Junkie that even he was unsure of whether he would have his coveted title shot:
"I was just in this funk that I couldn't get out of. I questioned everything. I questioned my career choice, if I'm ever going to be a champion, if I'm supposed to be a champion. It was just like, every time I'm supposed to get a title shot something happens and I don't get it."
It has been a strange ride for Pettis, but ultimately all that matters is that he is where he is right now, and he has a chance to climb to the top of the mountain. Henderson, on the other hand, has created a smooth ride throughout his UFC tenure, remaining undefeated by defeating all seven of his foes via decision.
While it’s definitely a winning strategy, many have begun to deride Henderson for his lack of finishes, and at times, excitement. Not surprisingly, the always-flashy Pettis is among those detractors. He believes that Henderson is using the rulebook to eek out wins in all of his close contests:
"I'm not a fan of that style. I wouldn't even try doing that. That's just manipulating the rules of the game to keep your title. If you're truly the best, I mean, look at Anderson Silva. He got knocked out in his last fight, but I think he's truly the best because he's finished some top guys, and he does it impressively. He's not trying to grind it out and stay on top of you to win the rounds. He's out there fighting fights. That's what I respect, and that's who I want to be."
Some strong words from the title challenger, who has never been one to grind out a boring decision. His opponent, on the other hand, has been involved in many close contests that some feel could have gone either way, yet he somehow keeps winning. On the flipside, Henderson is ridiculously tough to finish, seemingly impervious to being knocked out or submitted.
We can bet that Anthony Pettis will try to do just that on August 31st in his hometown of Milwaukee. Will he be the one to pry the belt from ‘Smooth’s’ iron grip?
Outer Photo: USA Today Sports Images