One man is antsy to remove what he calls a "stain" from his record. The other is anxious to get his hands on a title belt he feels he deserves. For UFC fans, the second meeting between UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson and Anthony "Showtime" Pettis is one to look forward to, and it's about to unfold in the main event of UFC 164 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Saturday.
Their memorable first meeting took place in the WEC's swan song in December 2010. In a fight hailed by many as the best of the year, Pettis (16-2, 3-1 in the UFC) outlasted Henderson (19-2, 7-0 UFC) over five rounds to become the last WEC Lightweight Champion. He also made an indelible impression on the sport with his sensational jumping "Showtime" kick off the cage that has become a regular in MMA highlight packages ever since.
The normally calm Henderson gets a little more animated when discussing that fight and would clearly enjoy nothing more than avenging himself in the rematch. Vegas sportsbooks have made him the narrow favorite, but he has to know he's got his hands full with the dynamic striking ability that Pettis possesses. Henderson is no slouch with his stand-up either, but his chances of defending his title go down considerably if the action never goes to the mat.
His takedowns versus Pettis' takedown defense should be an intriguing case of strength versus strength. If Henderson comes out on top in that area, he should be in good shape. His gas tank is second to none, which he's proven by going the distance in each of his last four Octagon appearances. Yet Pettis is almost always in phenomenal shape himself, so this could easily go the full 25.
A Henderson KO would qualify as a surprise—he hasn't pulled one off since 2009—but every other outcome is on the table. Don't be surprises if the main event lives up to its billing and the combatants walk away with Fight of the Night bonus money.
Four other fights are being featured on the pay-per-view broadcast this Saturday:
Though both men are former UFC Heavyweight Champions, neither is knocking on the door of a title shot at the moment. Mir is on a rare losing streak, having lost to Junior dos Santos and Daniel Cormier in his last two outings, while Barnett is making his return to the UFC after fighting just about everywhere possible in his 11 years away.
Mir has improved his striking over time, but he's still probably at a disadvantage in that area against Barnett. The expectation is that Barnett will be the aggressor and that Mir will do everything possible to avoid being taken down—though he's one of the most capable heavyweights in the business from the bottom if he ends up there.
The biggest question will be how much either man has left in the tank. Mir and Barnett are both in their mid-30's and have been in plenty of grueling battles, and whoever shows less wear and tear is likely to come away with the win.
Mendes' first go-round with featherweight king Jose Aldo didn't even last one full round, but he feels he's done enough in winning three straight since then to merit another chance. If he manages to make it past the always game Guida, he may have a case.
Guida is making just his second appearance at featherweight after a (barely) successful debut against Hatsu Hioki in January. He'll have to have his motor running full speed to keep up with the elusive Mendes, who is a talented wrestler but should look to employ hit-and-run tactics with his striking. It's tough to see Guida pulling off the upset, but he's surprised people before.
Ben Rothwell (32-9, 2-3 UFC) vs. Brandon Vera (12-6, 8-6 UFC) - Heavyweight
Here are two guys who could really use a win. Rothwell hasn't found a great deal of success since migrating from the late IFL, with his knockout of Brendan Schaub perhaps the only reason he still has a UFC roster spot. Vera is giving heavyweight another shot after a valiant but futile effort against Shogun Rua a year ago.
Vera has always had tools, but his ability to put them together has been wildly inconsistent, to say the least. He's probably not going to want to stand and trade with the bigger Rothwell, but will he be able to stick and move for three rounds? If he can't, he'll soon be out of chances in the UFC.
Aside from the main event, this bout featuring two men looking to bounce back from defeats has what appears to be the best chance of ending up Fight of the Night. Koch and Poirier have plenty of physical similarities, and both finish a majority of their fights.
Though a mostly stand-up scrap is what's expected, neither man would be uncomfortable on the mat either. Poirier is likely to be the aggressor, which could help him if it ends up in the hands of the judges. Just don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
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