UFC 144 Morning After: Time for Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis Rematch
Feb 26, 2012 - When Anthony Pettis unveiled his famous "Showtime Kick" to seal a victory over Ben Henderson for the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight title in 2010, we knew we had witnessed a great fight.
As it turns out, the fight was even greater than we realized.
At the time, we knew Pettis vs. Henderson was wildly entertaining, but we didn't know just how good those two guys were. The WEC's lightweight division was widely regarded as second-rate, and few MMA fans thought the lightweights in the WEC could compete at the upper levels of the UFC. Now we know better, as Henderson just beat Frankie Edgar for the UFC lightweight belt at UFC 144, and Pettis got the pay-per-view show started with a sensational knockout of Joe Lauzon.
Now it's time to book a Henderson-Pettis rematch for the UFC lightweight title.
Some will say Pettis doesn't deserve a UFC lightweight title shot because he was already declared the No. 1 contender once before, and lost that status when he lost to Clay Guida. But Pettis got a bad break when he didn't get the title shot that was promised to him upon his entry to the UFC, and there's no better time than now to rectify that.
UFC President Dana White said after Saturday night's fights that he plans to give Pettis the first crack at Henderson's belt, and I believe that's the right call. The first Pettis-Henderson bout was sensational, and if we get 25 more minutes of that kind of action, no fan will complain.
The rapidly changing face of the UFC lightweight division could be perilous for the promotion, as neither Henderson nor Pettis has proven to be a pay-per-view draw. I'd love to see the UFC put the Henderson-Pettis title fight on FOX in August, as a way to give major exposure to its two young lightweights who have the potential to develop into stars, but Henderson-Pettis 2 is a fight that's certainly worthy of pay-per-view. This fight is going to be great.
UFC 144 Notes
-- Memo to every fighter who ever falls behind two rounds to none: What Tim Boetsch did at the start of the third round against Yushin Okami is exactly what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to go for broke and come out swinging. Too many fighters who know they're down 2-0 at the start of the third round don't go for a finish. Boetsch knew he had to finish the fight, and that's exactly what he did.
-- Rampage Jackson looked as bad as he's ever looked against Ryan Bader, and he hasn't really looked good in a fight since he knocked out Wanderlei Silva in 2008. His wins since then were decisions against Keith Jardine, Lyoto Machida and Matt Hamill, none of which was particularly impressive. Rampage says a knee injury was to blame for his lackluster performance, but even if he returns to 100 percent health, I don't think we're ever going to see Rampage as a light heavyweight title contender again.
-- The UFC's one-minute introduction to its pay-per-view broadcast, a tribute to martial arts in Japan, was great. Much, much better than the longtime gladiator opening. I also like the way the UFC is incorporating more statistics into its broadcast, but it's important for Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg to remind viewers that simply landing more strikes isn't the way to win a fight. Effective striking is more important than high-volume striking.
-- A lot of people disagreed with the judges who gave Chris Cariaso a unanimous decision victory over Takeya Mizugaki, but one thing that must be said for Cariaso is that he's a prime candidate to move down from bantamweight to flyweight, now that the UFC has started up a 125-pound class. Cariaso was giving up four inches of height to Mizugaki, and at flyweight he won't be at such a disadvantage. If he does move down to 125, he's a fighter worth keeping an eye on.
UFC 144 Quotes
-- "It's a dream come true. Being in the UFC is a dream come true. Fighting in Japan, fighting one of my favorite fighters of all time, Kid Yamamoto, a legend, I'm just the happiest person in the world right now."--Vaughan Lee after beating Kid Yamamoto.
-- "All I can say is I am disappointed. I really, really wanted to win in Japan."--Kid Yamamoto after losing to Vaughan Lee.
-- "I knew less than a knockout or finish would win that fight for me. Yushin was beating me up for two rounds. But my heart was in it, I knew I could take him out if I just stuck with what I train to do. You see what happens if you do what you train to do."--Tim Boetsch after his great comeback win.
--"You've got to win this last round for sure. I think you won that round."--Gilbert Melendez, telling Jake Shields in his corner that the fight was tied heading into the third round. In reality, Shields had won the first two rounds and would also win the third, but Melendez did the right thing. It's better for a cornerman to tell a fighter he needs to win the round than to tell him to coast.
Although it looked a little awkward, referee Marc Goddard handled it exactly right when Yoshihiro Akiyama's mouthpiece came out against Jake Shields. Goddard stepped between the fighters quickly and handed Akiyama his mouthpiece back, but didn't take the time to rinse the mouthpiece off, which could have given Akiyama an unfair advantage by giving him extra time. Akiyama fumbled his mouthpiece briefly and it took a few seconds longer to get the fight restarted, but Goddard handled the situation appropriately.
It only took referee Herb Dean a couple of minutes into the first round of the first fight to make a bad call, standing up Issei Tamura even though he had a dominant position and was hammering Zhang Tiequan with punches on the ground. Dean's stand-up was totally unnecessary and continued a rough run for Dean, who has made far too many bad calls recently.
Riki Fukuda returned to the Octagon after a year off following his close decision loss to Nick Ring in his UFC debut, and he looked great in beating Steve Cantwell. I love Fukuda's punching combinations, the way he changes levels and mixes in uppercuts -- Cantwell had no answer for it.
Zhang Tiequan is the only Chinese fighter Zuffa has ever signed, and the company carefully brought him along in the hopes that he could win some fights and grow the promotion's presence in Asia. But it just isn't happening. Zhang didn't look good at all in his second-round knockout loss to Issei Tamura. If Zhang keeps his job in the UFC it will solely be because of the importance of the Chinese market, and not because Zhang is good enough. He's not.
Fight I Want to See Next
Anthony Pettis vs. Ben Henderson. Let's do this.