The career-boosting capabilities of one highlight-reel, cage-walking kick was evinced by Anthony Pettis (14-2) when he dethroned UFC 144 main-eventer Ben Henderson in the WEC promotion's farewell event. Pettis swallowed the blue pill and spat in the face of Sir Isaac Newton's equation by levitating off the fence wall and flattening Bendo with an unforgettably creative flying roundhouse kick.
Pettis earned the 155-pound strap just as the promotion's doors closed. Ending on a four-fight roll, Pettis forged five wins in six turns in the WEC and finished all victories excluding Henderson (Mike Campbell, Alex Karalexis and Shane Roller by submission, Danny Castillo by head-kick TKO). His lone blemish was a competitive split decision against another UFC 144 cast member in Bart Palaszewski.
Initially slated to challenge for the UFC lightweight belt after crossing over from the WEC, the draw resulting from the second Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard affair delayed his title aspirations. Admirably opting to challenge a top contender rather than stay idle awaiting his title shot, Pettis tangled with Clay Guida but had no recourse for his voluminous mop and boundlessly tenacious wrestling. The loss was the second of Pettis' career and inevitably deflated the lofty aura he soared in on.
More UFC 144 Dissections
Bostonian Joe Lauzon (21-6) reinforced his propensity to pull off shocking upsets in his last foray by blasting an overconfident Melvin Guillard with a meathook in the first round. The stiff blow staggered Guillard just long enough for Lauzon to attach himself and encircle the throat for a dramatic rear-naked choke victory in the first.
Lauzon flaunted his party-pooper costume in his UFC debut as well. He burst onto the big stage by unleashing an ungodly barrage of leather that separated former champion Jens Pulver from consciousness in less than a minute at UFC 63. He then signed up for TUF 5 and advanced to the semis with wins over Brian Geraghty and Cole Miller, but was scratched from the brackets by brawling Judoka Manny Gamburyan.
"J-Lau" capitalized on two less than illustrious opponents by snaring submissions on Brandon Melendez and Jason Reinhardt before dipping into the upper-echelon of the division with mixed results. Lauzon split his next six with losses to Kenny Florian (TKO), Sam Stout (decision) and George Sotiropoulos (submission) and defeats over Kyle Bradley (TKO), Jeremy Stephens and Gabe Ruediger (submissions). He's pieced together consecutive sub-wins with an elaborate "Trimura" catch on Curt Warburton and the aforementioned Guillard choke.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Both Pettis and Lauzon are among the more innovative lightweights in the UFC, they just use different canvases for their artwork -- Pettis on the feet, as depicted to the right, while Lauzon is a mat-moster with submission complexity.
Pettis' dynamic striking is rooted in Taekwondo where he's billed as a third-degree black belt, and the tutelage of kickboxing swami Duke Roufus has fortified his stand up into a dangerously unorthodox arsenal. Pettis has fast and precise boxing and uncorks high kicks seamlessly with no set up or forewarning.
TKD is not the only traditional martial art that sparkles in his striking acumen, as Pettis has consistently executed a surprisingly wide array of Capoeira kicks as well. His use of the Au Batido and Martelo techniques warranted a Kid Nate Judo Chop that's well worth revisiting. His guard is also smooth and diverse and it's not quite as formidable as his striking, though perfectly adequate as a secondary aspect. Wrestling is the only facet Pettis doesn't excel in, yet he's shown excellent composure and technique in repelling takedowns and getting back to his feet.
Lauzon has an applause-worthy approach against superior strikers, which is merely to squeeze the trigger with conviction and unload a ferocious volley of punches. Defensively, he protects his chin well and isn't overly concerned with being susceptible to takedowns as it only puts him in his preferred phase of combat. Like Pettis, Lauzon isn't a credentialed wrestler but his willpower, aggression and determination makes him a legit takedown threat. Complementing his attempts well with his hands, Lauzon will rifle for doubles from outside or swallow up space and lock horns in the clinch to work from there.
Here Lauzon unveils his dual-pronged assault of blazing the cannons on the feet, once again scoring with his trusty left hook, and treacherous submission grappling. After crushing him with a hell-fire combination, Lauzon craftily snatches a kimura when Warburton is in the process of placing his back on the fence to regain his footing. If there was such a thing as wild and risky brawling with submissions, that'd be Lauzon's calling card. He pounces on every opportunity and maliciously wrenches holds with reckless abandon.
Lauzon has a solid guard but he's especially fearsome from the top, where he power-passes to half-guard and side control while thwacking heavy punches and elbows and hunting for kimuras and chokes. Lauzon's assertive ground tactics are subtly unique and difficult to prepare for.
Pettis has to assume the role of the polished technician and employ intelligent footwork to stay in open space and knife clean counter-shots while Lauzon's in hot pursuit. He can still look to land the knockout or drench Lauzon with a stylish kick, but must do so sparingly and pick his spots with caution. Pettis has never been finished, has a beefy chin and should have the grappling awareness to survive his fair share of sequences on the ground -- though he's in trouble if Lauzon can get on top and limit his escape routes by stuffing him against the cage.
My Prediction: Anthony Pettis by late TKO.
All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com