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Judo Chop: Anthony Pettis and Ben Henderson Put on a Classic

Wanted this post to get a little more attention since we posted it shamefully late on Saturday. Pettis may have lost his UFC debut to Clay Guida, but the final WEC fight remains an all-time classic. Nate

This Judo Chop is a collaboration between Kid Nate and KJ Gould. Nate wrote the intro and Gould wrote the analysis.

Anthony Pettis beat Ben Henderson at WEC 53 last December to take the WEC lightweight title. With the absorption of that promotion into the UFC, Pettis is making his UFC debut tonight against Clay Guida at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale: Pettis vs Guida.

But before we move on to the big test for Anthony Pettis, I wanted to revisit the Pettis-Henderson bout which was an absolute classic that showed everything that is great about MMA. An evenly-matched, high-paced, hard-fought five round war, the bout showed incredible heart and skill on the part of both fighters.

But ultimately it was decided by Pettis' incredible "showtime kick" which entailed literally bouncing off the cage to leap and kick Henderson in the head. Head Kick Legend's Matthew Roth spoke to Pettis' coach Duke Roufus about the technique:

Matt: Your gym has pretty much been the place where striking has evolved beyond the 1-2 combo or head-body-head and then a kick, what kind of training do you guys do there? Do you really try and push the limits on what you can do in a cage?

Duke: Yeah definitely. The thing is that efense is completely different when you use MMA gloves, so if you even the difference between K-1 and Dutch Kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts gloves are very unforgiving, so you have to train day in and day out on getting hit. Defense is the most important part of MMA striking if you ask me. There's a lot of subtlety that's changed, their footwork, being aware of takedowns, how to set up for's fun actually. It's been real motivating coming up with these new techniques. Not just cage techniques trying to work different things off the cage, it's a lot of fun. Being creative and finding new ways to make old techniques work.

Matt: Yeah, it first came out when Allan Belcher did the Superman Punch off the cage against Akiyama and then obviously, I'm sure you've been asked this question regarding the Anthony Pettis kick where I'm sure you're sick of talking about it, are you amazed at what these guys are able to do?

Duke: Not at all, not sick of it at all. I think it's awesome. I'm disgusted by Gray Maynard's comment that it was lucky. That's not luck, that's high skill.

Matt: With your guys like Anthony Pettis, Pat Barry, and Erik Koch, do you think that they will be able to push the boundaries, maybe not with flying kicks off the cage but at least with things that people have never seen like the crane kick from Machida?

Duke: The funny thing about that kick that Machida did is that you don't get knocked out by that in kickboxing. It just goes to show you that some guys need to work on their defense more than their offense. That's the thing about MMA, I'm not putting anyone down, it's just that there's so much to learn. These young kids are able to train Mixed Martial Arts as a whole are at a bigger advantage than lets say an older guy who is coming from wrestling, kickboxing, or jiu jitsu. You definitely are gonna see these young guys doing different things. One of the reasons why you see guys like Erik or Allan Belcher do so well is because they have no fear of being taken down because they'll submit you if you hit the mat. So therefore they can attack as much as they want. I think that's the key of getting really good at mixed martial arts striking is to get really good at jiu jitsu so that you have no fear. One of the first guys that I really liked was the guys outta Curitiba, Brazil. The way Shogun fought and Wanderlei, they would get in and attack because they didn't care about going to the ground. That's my biggest advice: if you want to be the best striker, get equally as strong on the mat so it's a lot easier to game plan. You can't do crazy moves or fun moves if you're afraid to go to your back.

In the full entry BE grappling editor K.J. Gould breaks down the whole fight with a ton of animated gifs.

More Anthony Pettis Judo Chop/Ultimate Submission action:

Gifs by BE reader Grappo.

Round 1


Pettis is trying to pummel in and defend Henderson's advantage in the clinch, but Henderson has the head position advantage throughout so he can drive into Pettis and off balance him assisted with an inside leg trip. If you watch closely Henderson starts pressing into him before Pettis has a chance to complete the pummel; it's an interesting moment of Henderson reacting on the fly when sensing he might be losing control. It's more than likely Guida has the same ability and should Pettis find himself in a similar situation my advice would be to over-hook one arm while using his other arm to create space with a cross-face / forearm post and fight for head placement to enable a more stable base before looking to pummel in. You can never effectively pummel if you're already off-balance, and I'm sure it's something Ben Askren has been helping him with among many other finer points of defensive wrestling..


Although the exchange is short it shows Pettis can throw a punch when on the back foot which would suggest he doesn't have the Muay Thai footwork issues someone like Thiago Alves has as seen in the recent Footwork Judo Chop. This could be because of Pettis' Tae Kwon Do background or because of training under Duke Roufus who has incorporated a more western slant on Thai influenced Kickboxing.

Round 2


Pettis drops Henderson with a 2 punch combo but doesn't go nuts by trying to jump on him straight away. Instead he waits to see how Henderson reacts which allows him to easily sprawl out and circle to his back when Henderson desperately reaches for a single-leg.


This is a pretty cool piece of problem solving by Pettis. Henderson has a Double Wrist Lock grip standing most likely looking to 'Kimura' Pettis or at the very least use it to break his grip to trip or throw him. Pettis is hanging on to the double-leg with a finger grip but the best he can hope for staying here would be a stalemate. He stays in close to deny Henderson the leverage to break his grip, and by keeping his hips close to Henderson's (known as marrying the hips) he is able to buck Henderson and take him down in a way that allows him to easily pass to his side, negating a lot of the control Henderson would have with a half-guard or guard locked up. Should Henderson maintain his grip there's the famous armbar counter Pettis could try for ala Matt Hughes vs Georges St. Pierre 1.

Round 3


This take down is a combination of luck and Henderson making a mistake. Both fighters are trading and Pettis manages to clinch up and turn Henderson and scores an outside trip. Henderson though when he is turned tries to throw a knee while Pettis is driving into him with his head on his chest (ergo underneath Henderson's head) meaning Henderson is throwing a knee when he's not stable to begin with. The attempted knee was more than likely in the heat of the moment and on instinct but it cost Henderson and could be a bad habit that can be exploited by future opponents.


As mentioned, that knee cost Henderson and he lands in such a way where Pettis is able to keep close and be outside Henderson's arms. Pettis essentially has Henderson's back since Henderson is trapped on his side and unable to turn into a defensive half-guard. He barely has Pettis' inside-leg trapped and as Henderson tries to move to improve his situation allows Pettis to easily press down and clear his legs to finish going to his back.


This is a pretty odd situation to say the least. Pettis has Henderson's back standing and locks on a body triangle. Henderson posts in an attempt to shake Pettis off and Pettis, likely improvising, hugs Henderson's leg from around Henderson's upper body to keep himself on tight and to prevent Henderson from being in a position to dive forward and spike Pettis on his head. When fighters end up in a position like this it comes down to who is willing to give up their a hold first. Either Pettis is willing to let go and possibly be shaken off or Henderson allows himself to be rolled with Pettis still on his back and a quasi-cradle. It may be possible to turn this odd position into a potential submission called a Country Hold, a largely forgotten piece of Catch Wrestling where the Wrestlers of Vermont were known to modify a Split-Scissors (Banana Splits) to include holding a leg with the opponent's head to get a tap or pin. Pettis transitioning from the body triangle to control of the free leg while maintaining his grip on Henderson's other leg would have been difficult bordering on impossible though (plus it's not like it's a position that gets taught widely).

Round 4

Hendpet8_medium Hendpet8b_medium

Henderson charges in with a wild 2 punch and a kick combo as a means of setting up a take down. Pettis has Henderson's head and briefly the leg from the kick Henderson threw. Pettis tries to lock up a guillotine and looks to go to his back for a quick kill but Henderson is able to roll out of it. This is going to sound more like an editorial than an analysis but I'm really not a fan of willingly going to your back when you have an opponent's head from the guillotine choke position. Even if you're nasty with guillotine chokes like Marcelo Garcia and have somewhat control of the opponent using your forearm to post on their shoulder and block their arm coming over for me it's not the most optimum of control when you're both standing (when it's already on the ground and he's in your guard then it's a different matter). Pettis falling to his back allowed opportunity for a scramble and it's a shame he wasn't able to keep hold of Henderson's leg and ankle pick him to the mat where keeping a hold of his head from on top side control (basically a Half Nelson in Wrestling) would have kept himself on top of Henderson and flatten him out before either neck cranking, looking to mount and have a mounted guillotine choke, or possible even moving to North South to work on a choke from there. Should he try to guillotine and fall to his back with Guida on top of him he could end up stuck on bottom for the rest of that round and we know MMA judging isn't kind to that position no matter how active and threatening you are.


As we can see because of the scramble that ensued from Pettis trying to drop to his back for a guillotine, Pettis is now on top standing over Pettis and has complete control of his hips. If there's any grapplers out there reading this, pay attention: elevating the opponent's hips is a key principle in both pinning and types of passing. Pettis' hips are off the mat with Henderson hipping into him so all of Pettis' own bodyweight is transferred to his neck and shoulders. Henderson could have tried to land some standing Ground'n'Pound ala Kazushi Sakuraba vs Royce Gracie 1, though Sakuraba had the benefit of being able to grab the waistband of Royce's gi pants when he did so. Both of Henderson's harms are outside of Pettis' legs and using his hips allows him to turn Pettis over so they're head to head before moving to take his back. This type of pass to get the back is similar to something Robert Drysdale likes to do and shows in his Nth Dimension series.


Henderson has a Body Triangle from the back though his hanging leg isn't hidden, but Pettis is focused on fighting off the choke first and foremost. Pettis is game and does all that he can to fight for wrist control of Henderson to get himself out of the immediate danger before thinking about doing anything else like countering the Body Triangle.


It's hard to know what Henderson was thinking here. He had over-under lasso control and perhaps let his guard down as he looks to be working a leg underneath Pettis for some reason (maybe to try and setup a Twister, who knows?) but his over-under is otherwise loose and Pettis is able to easily clear the arms over his head and spin into Henderson's guard. A combination of a mental lapse and an error in judgment from Henderson but lets not forget this is the 4th round where both fighters have been fighting hard the whole time. If Henderson ever looks back at this portion of the fight I wonder if he has any regrets, especially as there was over 2 minutes left in the round. I can't see Guida making this same mistake though should he get Pettis' back (especially if Pettis drops for a Guillotine).


Henderson makes a classic mistake found in a lot of striking arts. He throws a kick while swinging his arm back to counter-balance which in itself is right, but he does it in a way that leaves him wide open to a Pettis right hand counter. The trick is to counter-balance while still protecting your head which ironically enough I believe Duke Roufus has covered in his Kick Boxing video tape series and no doubt drills into his fighters like Pettis at his gym in Milwaukee.

Round 5


This quick exchange is a little difficult to see what's happening due to the speed, but basically Henderson throws a body kick that Pettis blocks with his arm (it almost looks like he goes to double-block but doesn't) and before Henderson has a chance to follow up with his punches Pettis throws and lands his first as Henderson is pulling his leg back. Combination of technique but also Pettis showing a really fast reaction time to land two shots down the pipe as quickly as he did.


Pettis' reaction time is again on display as Henderson shoots in slightly too far out - though he's almost within arms reach - and Pettis counters with a jumping knee that lands on target. A bit more vertical and it's the sort of knee that could easily split the head and face wide open.


Henderson looks to be in tight with a single-leg before switching to a double-leg. Pettis hips in and pushes Henderson's head down but its not enough to create space. Henderson is hugging tight and keeping his head in making it difficult to crossface. Pettis could have tried to flare Henderson's right arm at the elbow to pummel in and attempt to bring him up to a standing clinch but instead made the mistake of going for Henderson's wrist which does nothing to stop Henderson keep a tight grip and his arms tucked where he's in a strong position to lift and eventually take Pettis down.


Henderson has Pettis' back with an over-under and one hook in. What could possible go wrong? Well, Pettis still has good posture even if he's in a typically bad position in MMA and BJJ and Henderson isn't as heavy as he could be when attacking Pettis' back. It's pretty common for BJJ players to try to get their second hook in this way but it's at the cost of being able to hip into them and really make the guy on bottom carry your weight like in Wrestling. In Wrestling you'd ride and look to break down their base and turn them over to pin but if you're submission minded a lot of the time it may be better to try and break them down and flatten them out with one hook in rather than give up your center of mass trying to get the second hook in. Because of this lack of weight and pressure form Henderson Pettis is able to side roll and clear the over-under from his head similar to how he escaped Henderson's back control from earlier in the fight. One way to stop the roll, at the very least temporarily, is if Henderson used his over-arm to crossface but it's likely Pettis had a grip on his arms from the bottom which would have prevented Henderson from doing so.


Ah yes. That kick. The Showtime Kick. The Kick a lot of you have been waiting to see yet again in gif form. I had to break this gif down frame by frame to appreciate the brilliance of this. Pettis had remarked since this fight he noticed Henderson in previous fights circles out and away when against the fence and would otherwise be moving away from Pettis' power-side. Pettis doesn't just move towards the fence to bounce off it like a ninja. He sets it up by feinting just enough with his lead left hand to distract while beginning the process of vaulting off the cage. The left hand feint captures Henderson's attention and raises his arms to block but as it never lands and Henderson is still moving back and away from Pettis' power-side, Henderson's been lulled into the false sense of security that he's far enough away from harm and lets his guard down. Oops.


Normally there's a strong possibility Henderson would be out of range from an outside kick from Pettis, or even an inside kick or a lead punch after the first left feint distracts. What Henderson didn't know, what nobody knew, is Pettis being able to clear a few feet of ground by using the fence to springboard forward extending his range enough to land that wonderful kick. Remarkable still is he kicks with the same leg he vaults off of displaying an uncanny level of athleticism to boot.