Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson should be more popular. Both men are young, personable, exciting. Two of the best 155 pounders on the planet. Their prior fight was astonishing and a fitting swansong for the always-stellar World Extreme Cagefighting. Why don’t people like them more?
Head-kicker, cage-jumper. Violent and crazy creative and crowd pleasing, albeit with some caveats. Was on MTV and those who watched it (I haven’t for a while. The Maxx still on?) remarked on his natural charisma. Teenage girls were apparently big fans. Proud owner of one of the few moments in mma which transcend the sport.
¿por qué no le gusta, google translate?
After beating Henderson, he fought Clay Guida. Most expected him to curb stomp Guida, given that he’d beaten strong wrestlers (Roller, Henderson). He didn’t. A useful lesson for him- in the rock-paper-scissors game of mma, some will employ the Bart Simpson method, and then force "rock" through as hard as possible. Footwork-based TDD and a countering style got shut down by relentless takedowns. It happens. Crushed most of his hype and did a lot to reinforce an image of WEC fighters as second rate.
Next fight against Jeremy Stephens was tepid. When Stephens attempted to Guida him, Pettis used his own wrestling to win the decision.
Since then, has alternated shocking blowouts of quality fighters with just being injured a lot. A LOT. No matter how good you are, you need to fight regularly to keep people excited about watching you. In addition, makes it harder to escape past failures – Guida fight is inescapably relevant because he’s only had a few fights since then, despite being 10 years ago, when he was… 12 or some shit.
After waxing Donald Cerrone with a liver kick, was set to fight Henderson for the title. Gil Melendez got there first. Instead of waiting for the next shot, he asked the boss if he could go down, fight Jose Aldo. Despite (because of?) the logjam at featherweight, Zuffa said sure. Pettis got injured, as is his wont. Fight was off.
He asked the UFC if he could go back to 155 and take TJ Grant’s title shot, which was widely perceived as a dick move. "First he tried to steal the shot from KZ / Lamas, then he tried to steal TJ’s." Some blame rests with Zuffa, who imprinted on the plasticity of a young brain that if he asked for nonsensical title shots, he would actually get them.
Was probably going to face Josh Thomson, but Grant got injured, and now Pettis faces Henderson. Somewhere Fortuna the Goddess of Chance laughs at her own whimsy- Thomson and Pettis were going to fight, and the matchup got killed because someone else got injured. Ha ha ha.
PETTIS BETTER NOW THAN BEFORE IN WEC? HOW BETTER?
Not a technique guy, and even if I was Connor, Jacques Slacques, kenshin and a guy would break it down infinitely better than I. But Pettis is essentially a superior version of his earlier self. Is displaying even more precision and power than before. Although Stephens is no Guida, Pettis demonstrated willingness to wrestle and fight ugly and disciplined. This is underratedly important. Underratedly. Improvements can be considered gravy, because he was good enough to beat Henderson last time. Attends Roufusport, thus adept at grappling with scramble-heavy wrestlers with big hair.
Toothpick chewer, god-botherer. Wild and woolly in the cage, takes the fight wherever he can, near-fearless (caveats, sorta). Not-proud recipient of one of the few moments in mma to transcend the sport. Champion with consecutive defences in a brutally deep and talented weight class. Can generate megawatt puppydog likability as well as thrilling violence.
¿por qué no le gusta, google translate?
Some get vexed by his "CAN I GET AN AMEN" extreme religiosity, and his tendency to make a vagina shape with his hands before he fights. Vulgar.
Decisions! Henderson has a lot in a row now. These guys are tough. Worse, four of his decisions were very close. This order represents how close the people thought they were, from "prolly lost" to "prolly won."
Edgar II ----- Cerrone I -------- Melendez -------- Edgar I
The Melendez scuff in particular was a bizarrely perfect split between fans, media, etc as to who was the victor. So basically close to a draw. Regardless, he won all those decisions. Worth pointing out- none of those them, even Edgar II, are a "robbery".
Two reasons compound why this annoys people- He’s a titanic 155er. Tree trunk legs. It sits ill with the David and Goliath reflex. No-one roots for the big guy. Secondly- how did those fights go down?
Despite being super aggressive a lot of the time, Benson can resort to circling out and kicking. Why does he do this? I don’t think it’s due to getting gassed, beat up, or even specifically discouraged. He still looks confident, largely unscathed (Cerrone I – exception) and full of energy late. 2 reasons, for me.
- Fundamentally he isn't the greatest defensive fighter, and his kicks are the least risky strike he can throw without getting hit in the snout.Risk mitigation is generally a fairly essential part of being a champion.See also: underratedly.
- His optimal offensive fight style is to throw the kitchen sink. Grappling, kicks, punches. I feel that when he gets countered on a strike or technique, he tosses it out of the window, regardless of actual efficacy-to-negative consequences ratio. "Better not do that again!" Eg: the low kicks in the second Edgar fight.
Over 5 rounds, this means techniques basically get stripped from him as the fight goes on, and he’s often left with a limited skill set which doesn’t suit his style at all late.
People don’t like this. Fights are still considered proxies for, well, fights, and it leaves a nasty sense of "Frankie Cerrone was starting to pull away late, if it had gone further ellipsis". On the plus side, the Melendez fight was something of an exception, which shows improvement.
BENDO BETTER NOW THAN BEFORE IN WEC? HOW BETTER
Just a shit ton more offensively capable. Back in early WEC much of his attack was based around getting them to the ground and stacking them for GNP, or going for that nasty guillotine. Now clinch knees, tightened up overall striking, ground and pound from strange angles, whopping leg and body kicks etc etc.
WHO WIN? PHIL PICK
Think Pettis wins again. While Bendo has upped offense, is still defensively liable. Pettis looked near unhittable against Cerrone and Lauzon and needed shockingly little to put either one away. I think he counters Bendo hard once or twice, backs him up, then stalks him (read Jack Slack for great breakdowns on how Pettis corrals his enemies with his tendency to move ‘em on (hit ‘em up), hit ‘em up (move ‘em on), move ‘em on (hit ‘em up), rawhide) up against the cage and beats him up as Bendo circles.
Bendo’s best plan to go for berserker Cain / Sonnen takedown / strike frenzy to keep Pettis on the back foot because a careful counter game is Wheelhouse Tony, but I think Pettis knows that and has fundamentally better hurting ability to boot. Guida success was predicated on being a control fighter, and this Bendo is emphatically not in any way. Regardless, Bendo kicks ass if he gets rolling. Extremely creative in his own right, hits hard, kicks hard, ground and pounds HARD and don’t let him grab your neck if your brain enjoys oxygenated blood.
Bendo has advantage in strength of schedule and the fact that he actually fights more than once a leap year
I hope people can get really excited. Let go of bitterness. Whether Bendo won a favourable decision or two has no bearing on how good this fight might be. Sure, TJ Grant deserved the shot, but he ain’t fighting. No-one really cares about other people’s religious tendencies except Hitchens / Dawkins-esque nutters. These two seem fundamentally good guys, more importantly great fighters.
Let’s all come together, and celebrate what we all, truly, really love doing:
Posting angry/sad/disappointed gifs when Pettis inevitably gets injured and pulls out of the fight.
Somewhere right now, he unpacks the Shouldersmasher/Kneeraper 4000 from its box, looking at it like Rumble Johnson looks at a deep-fried triple-bacon-wrapped cheesesteak. Thought I’d better get in there and write this as quick as possible.
Ben Askren has never pulled out of a Bellator match due to injury.