The lightweight title is on the line when champion Ben Henderson defends his belt against an old adversary in Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. Let's break the betting odds down and find value for our UFC picks.
Anthony Pettis (16-2, 7 KO's, 6 Subs)
It’s been a year and a half since Anthony Pettis wrested the WEC lightweight strap from Ben Henderson but much has changed since the five-round battle that earned Fight of the Night and Fight of the Year honors. The WEC was cannibalized by the UFC, Pettis has been plagued by a series of injuries despite producing a 3-1 mark since his epic victory and Ben “Smooth” Henderson now rules the UFC lightweight division.
Pettis was poised to drop down to 145 lbs. to challenge featherweight king Jose Aldo on the UFC 163 card in early August but a knee injury torpedoed that match and Pettis was relegated to the sidelines while his ailing knee healed. Though the injury proved to be serious enough that the UFC doctors nixed his match with Aldo it was not debilitating enough to preclude his participation at UFC 164. When the number one lightweight contender TJ Grant was felled by a concussion during training, Pettis was immediately tapped to take his place and rekindle hostilities with an old adversary.
Pettis has a three-fight winning streak headed into this championship bout bolstered by reaping Knockout of the Night honors over Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone in his last two trips inside the Octagon. Many will be reminiscing about the night when Pettis was awarded a unanimous decision over Henderson in the champ’s backyard of Glendale, Arizona. This time Pettis will fight in front of his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and hope the results mirror those of their previous match where he was a +145 underdog in MMA betting odds.
Ben Henderson (19-2, 2 KO's 8 Subs)
Ben Henderson has had his hands full since his Fight of the Night clash with Frankie Edgar when he won the UFC Lightweight championship. Awarded a unanimous decision in that fight, UFC chief Dana White called for an immediate rematch. Once again the decision went to the judge’s table and Henderson eked out a split decision. He then secured a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz and in his last match outpointed Gilbert Melendez with another narrow split decision.
Though Henderson has beaten all comers he has not thoroughly dominated the competition. His last win by submission was a guillotine choke executed perfectly on Donald Cerrone back in 2010 and you would have to travel back to ’09 to find his last KO (1st round over Shane Roller at WEC 40). Henderson hopes to take the decision out of the hands of the judges and put Pettis on his back.
As we peruse the UFC odds for UFC 164 it’s somewhat surprising that the offshore bookmakers have Henderson as the slight favorite when considering that the challenger already has a victory over the champ and will be fighting in his hometown of Milwaukee , Wisconsin.
I refuse to overthink this one and believe that Pettis will repeat his past performance and may be even more convincing after reviewing the tape of his previous battle with Henderson. Pettis turned the judges’ heads when he ended the match with a cage-walk culminating in a stunning head kick that rocked Henderson.
Pettis is the more accomplished striker and matched Henderson fairly evenly on the mat in their last battle. While the champion may be more fluent when the fight hits the ground, Pettis is always a threat to exploit an opening for a choke or armbar. I will cast my lot with the challenger for my UFC picks in this lightweight championship tilt.