UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan was a special night for fight fans. Thrilling comebacks from Vaughan Lee (vs. Kid Yamamoto) and Tim Boetsch (vs. Yushin Okami), exciting finishes (Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo and Issei Tamura vs. Tiequan Zhang), all capped off with an epic title fight between Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson, with Henderson the victor and new UFC Lightweight Champion. With any potential rematch between Bendo and Edgar put on hold, the last man to defeat Henderson, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, will get to rematch Henderson later in the year. Pettis opened up the pay-per-view broadcast against rising star Joe Lauzon, fresh off a stunning submission win over Melvin Guillard. With Pettis just 1-1 since the WEC was merged into the UFC, Showtime knew he needed a highlight reel finish and boy did he provide one.
The ultimate irony here is that Pettis beat Henderson at WEC 53 with his infamous off-the-cage kick in December 2010 to become the organization’s final lightweight champ. Pettis was to unify the belt against the winner of Edgar vs. Gray Maynard, but with that fight ending in a draw, Pettis had to wait his turn and fight Clay Guida last June. Guida outwrestled him for three straight rounds and Pettis found himself out of the title picture. Meanwhile, Ben Henderson proceeded to score impressive victories over Mark Bocek and Jim Miller to set himself up for a title shot eliminator against….you guessed it, Clay Guida! Henderson won by decision and now here he is defending the UFC Lightweight Championship belt against the man who took his WEC Lightweight Championship belt.
It should be an incredible fight, much like the first one was, and maybe this is the type of bout that should be showcased on one of the FOX cards.