Anthony Pettis defeats Benson Henderson to win the UFC lightweight championship

Credit: Esther Lin.

Credit: Esther Lin.

December 17, 2000.

Caol Uno stepped into the ring with fellow Shooto pillar Rumina Sato. Months earlier Uno, the 154 lbs. world champion, had been choked out cold by the debuting Marcio Barbosa.

The fight with Sato was going to be a rematch of a classic that took place a year earlier. At what Shooto billed as its “10th [Year] Anniversary Event”, Uno survived Sato’s back control to force the legendary grappler to tap out via rear-naked choke in the third frame. That first fight between the two is a strong contender for MMA (or NHB) “Fight of the Decade” (1990’s).

The rematch wasn’t a great fight. Uno, perhaps embarrassed by what had happened against Barbosa, started off strong. It was a short night for both men. One power punch by Uno ended the title tilt by KO at 2:21 of the very first round.

Uno soon vacated the Shooto title and headed off to the UFC. At the time, the newly created UFC title was known as the bantamweight championship. Uno faced off with top UFC contender Jens Pulver for that crown. Twenty-five minutes later, the three judges at ringside awarded Jens Pulver the bantamweight championship of the world. After May 4, 2001, the title was renamed — UFC lightweight championship.

December 16, 2010

Nine years, 364 days after Uno knocked out Sato.

The little blue cage.
Joe Martinez.
Todd Harris and Stephan Bonnar.
WEC lightweight championship.
UFC title eliminator.
Incumbent champion — Benson Henderson.
Challenger — Anthony Pettis.
“Fight of the Year” Contender.
La Patada….

August 31, 2013.

Their first time, it was a great, razor close fight between Henderson and Pettis. In the rematch, like Sato vs Uno II, we were served with a finish in the very first frame.

Henderson started the fight by pushing Pettis against the cage. In the clinch, Henderson tried to take Pettis to the mat. While Henderson sprinkled in a few, light strikes, nothing was truly significant.

Once they broke away from the clinch, Pettis landed a brutal body kick. Then another. Another. All together, five kicks appeared to connect on Henderson’s body. He was wincing; these weren’t Stan Lane kicks.

One cartwheel kick attempt by Pettis appeared to be a tactical mistake on his part. He was on the bottom, Henderson was now on top. “Ay que lastima,” is probably what Pettis’ fanbase thought. A few seconds later, Pettis uses his underrated guard to move in and secure an armbar on the champion. Then he let go. Confusion turned to elation when everyone realized that Henderson had verbally submitted and Pettis was our nuevo campeon de peso ligero.

Where does Anthony Pettis go from here? He challenged Jose Aldo afterwards and that would be a tremendous fight. Both men are reigning champions and the last time we saw a “Champion vs Champion” clash was when GSP took on BJ Penn many years ago. We also still have TJ Grant as the number one contender at lightweight. Aldo or Grant have to be the next fighter in line, no one else has an argument.

At some point, Gilbert Melendez will get another crack at the strap, while Josh Thomson is still up there in contention. The fight that I would be most intrigued by is a showdown between Anthony Pettis and Bellator titlist Michael Chandler, Jr. Unfortunately, that will never happen. Or if it does, it will be after both fighters are past their prime and peak, à la Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva.

While he lost in such a definitive way, Henderson is still a top lightweight. I hope to see him fight talented fighters like Pat Healy and Rafael dos Anjos next.

A third fight between Pettis and Henderson doesn’t seem to be in the stars. But you never know with MMA and in the future, we might be clamoring for such a fight if both their paths lead to one another again.

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