MMA Throwback Thursday: Ben Henderson vs Anthony Pettis I WEC 53 (December 16, 2010)

The MMA history series returns to the WEC to feature a full fight video of the first meeting of Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis in the last fight in the history of the blue cage and one of the best title matches in MMA history, capped off by the famous "Showtime Kick".

Rarely are finales perfect. That idyllic ride off into the sunset happens so rarely in sports, but the promotion World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) captured that perfect end in 2010. The WEC was a MMA promotion that rose up to briefly challenge the UFC with a roster full of talent and a television deal on HDNet channel, now known as AXS TV. From 2001 to 2006, the WEC operated as an independent promotion, but was then purchased by Zuffa, the owners of the UFC.

The WEC was downsized to a purely Lightweight and lower promotion, with the Lightweight divisions very much considered a minor league to the UFC's Lightweight division. The WEC moved to the Versus network, now NBC Sports, and continued to operate. but everyone knew it was just a matter of time until the WEC merged with the UFC. The blue caged promotion became beloved by MMA fans as the WEC became known for high paced, action fights and exciting, young fighters. On October 28, 2010, Dana White announced that the WEC would be folded into the UFC.

A final WEC card was planned featuring a Lightweight title fight, with the winner promised a shot against the winner of the New Year's UFC Lightweight Title fight between Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar. To drop the curtain on the WEC, the WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson, known for his dynamic and high output grappling, would face the high-flying and quickly improving prospect Anthony Pettis.

This fight promised nothing but fireworks and it did not disappoint. Fans were treated to a roller coaster of a fight as Henderson took the first round, but Pettis stormed back to claim the next two, including spending nearly a full round on the champion's back. Henderson responded in the fourth round, almost locking up a rear naked choke to take the fourth round.

Then came the fifth round, and as the minutes ticked down despite possibly being ahead in this last round, Henderson was getting tired, something not seen before. In the final moments of the WEC, Pettis was down and needed something drastic to pull out the final round. So, when a tired Henderson leaned against the fence, Pettis charged him and when Henderson circled away with his hands down Pettis leapt, planted his foot off the cage and landed a flying kick flush to the face of Henderson. The round ended before Pettis could finish Henderson, but the Showtime kick was enough to sway the judges.

Anthony Pettis became the final WEC Lightweight Champion, never to defend as the blue cage was packed up for good. Henderson would rebound from his loss very well, winning seven straight fights and becoming UFC Lightweight Champion and defending his strap three times.

Pettis on the other hand never got his promised UFC title shot. The Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard fight ended in a draw and a rematch was scheduled. Pettis waited months but decided to get back in the cage at the The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale against Clay Guida, which he would lose by decision. Since then Pettis has gone 3-0 in the UFC and after an aborted drop to Featherweight to fight Jose Aldo, Pettis is finally getting his UFC title shot in a rematch of one of the best MMA fights in the history of the sport.

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