Benson Henderson has gone the distance in eight straight fights. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
One formidable obstacle stands between Benson Henderson and his becoming the first man to ever successfully defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown four times.
Henderson will put his 155-pound title on the line against Anthony Pettis, the last man to defeat him, in the UFC 164 main event on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Pettis outpointed Henderson under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner in December 2010, springing off the cage for his unforgettable “Showtime” kick and sealing a unanimous decision in the decisive fifth round.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 164 headliner:
Brock Jardine: This fight has “Fight of the Night” written all over it, even if it’s only half as good as their first meeting. With that being said, I see Benson winning the fight. Pettis will have to get a KO to win, in my opinion, and no one has done that to Henderson yet. I see Benson winning a unanimous decision, 48-47, but I’m sure the judges will throw out some crazy scores and say it’s a split decision, still for Henderson.
Daniel Downes: I was there when Anthony beat Henderson for the WEC title, and I’ll be there again when he wins the UFC one, too. Henderson has the power advantage, but he lacks Anthony’s explosiveness and could really use a haircut. It’ll start slow, but Pettis will pull away in the later rounds and take the unanimous decision win.
Jordan Mein: Pettis wins by decision. He will land better strikes and come up on top in the scrambles. Hell, he might take his back again and get a finish.
Tarec Saffiedine: I see Pettis winning by 360-degree flying spinning back kick jumping off the cage.
Cameron Diffley: Pettis-Henderson is a very exciting matchup. Recently, Henderson has been fighting outside, which I believe is Pettis’ strength in this matchup. I think Henderson will look to corner Pettis and put him on the ground, while Pettis will be looking to strike from the outside and use his strong triangle and ability to win scrambles and get to his feet. I am going with Pettis by decision, as I think his timing will make the difference in this fight.
Tom DeBlass: Henderson takes it by repeated takedowns. He’s much improved since their last fight.
Luke Barnatt: Pettis forces the title to change hands, even though I’m a huge Henderson fan. I just can’t see him stopping Anthony’s streak.
J.J. Ambrose: Pettis wins via kick he made up on the fly. I can’t wait to see this fight.
T.J. Waldburger: I see another great fight, most likely going the distance, with Benson’s hand being raised in the end. I would love to see a KO or sub, though.
Saad Awad: I’m going with Henderson in this one. He’s in his prime right now. I don’t see anyone beating him for a while.
Ricardo Liborio: Henderson takes this one by decision.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: In my opinion, Benson is just the better fighter. He should win nine out of 10 times. He’s bigger, stronger, more well-rounded and he has the Kryptonite to Pettis’ style, which is wrestling. Both guys improved a lot recently, but I believe Benson made greater gains. Pettis has to land a home run to win. Benson wins by unanimous decision, 50-45.
Robert Drysdale: Benson wins.
Nam Phan: Pettis wins by “Showtime” Kick.
Mark Bocek: Henderson wins by decision.
Travis Lutter: I have Benson in this one. Anthony is crazy good, but I think Benson has improved from the last time they fought.
John Gunderson: I believe Henderson is athletic enough and has the style to win a decision against Pettis, but Pettis is the most dynamic and exciting lightweight out there in today’s MMA circuit, so I'm hoping for Pettis.
Vinny Magalhaes: This is a tough one to pick. I think Pettis is the more creative of the two and he can definitely come up with some new tricks to end a fight, but I think he’ll also face a different Henderson than the one he faced in the WEC. I believe that Henderson has matured a lot as a fighter since and he’ll most likely win a decision.
Eric Prindle: Henderson wins.
Javier Vazquez: The first one between them was a classic -- tied two rounds apiece going into the fifth round and Pettis pulls off that incredible kick. I can’t wait for this fight. I see this fight being another back-and-forth war similar to the first. The thing that I think will make the biggest difference is the fact that Henderson has had many more fights since their last meeting. I think that Henderson’s recent fight experience will help him win a very close and competitive 49-48 decision.
John Howard: Pettis wins.
Travis Wiuff: I’m taking Henderson by close decision.
Jason Dent: I always pick a winner, but I’m torn on this one, honestly. I like Pettis’ style more, but with the injuries and the distractions he had cutting weight to fight Jose Aldo, I’m afraid it may affect his performance. Henderson has been getting better with each fight and has gone five hard rounds a couple times now already. If there is a finish in this fight, it will be for Pettis, and if it goes the distance, it will be in favor of Henderson.
Gabe Ruediger: I think Ben takes this. Anthony is as dynamic a fighter as there is, but I believe Ben has him figured out.
Joe Duarte: Henderson is the only human who can digest corn properly. I’m going with the winner because the winner is going to win the fight.
Benji Radach: I had the pleasure of scrapping with Benson; the kid is tough. I don’t doubt he will find the way to win.
Caros Fodor: I’m a big fan of Henderson, but I’m going with Pettis. Their first fight was good, but I think Pettis has developed more sense then. To put a guy like Cerrone down with a body shot is a big thing. Cerrone is a really tough dude and to make him quit with a body shot is very impressive. Pettis is a finisher and looks to have really improved his game in the last three years, so I’m going with him by KO or TKO.
Igor Araujo: Benson is going once again for a five-round battle; this will be the key to his victory. He will know when he should step in and out, and his cardio is just amazing. Benson has improved more than Pettis since their first fight. I see this dude in the top three pound-for-pound now, because he got the belt in the hardest weight class in the world. I have Henderson winning by decision.
Mitch Clarke: I’m picking Henderson by unanimous decision. I think he’s improved more than Pettis since their last fight and is hungry for vengeance. It should be an excellent fight.
Ray Elbe: No replay of the “Showtime” kick, as Henderson continues his reign as lightweight champion, bringing the belt back to Arizona.
Jason High: I’m going with Henderson. I think he’s motivated and found his stride as the UFC champ. Also, he won’t be surprised by any of Pettis’ tricky weapons. Benson wins by decision.
Simeon Thoresen: Henderson wins via TKO in round three.
Keith Berry: I like Anthony’s style. I’d like to see him win, mostly likely by decision.
Steven Siler: I think Henderson gets revenge on Pettis in Pettis’ hometown, like Pettis did to him.
Gilbert Smith: I have to go with Ben via no “Showtime” kick. I think Ben is on a roll and has been in bigger fights and always find a way to win.
Mike Wilkinson: Pettis has looked a beast in his last three fights, and Henderson, in my opinion, lost his second fight to Frankie Edgar, but like they say, you have to beat up a champ to take the belt. In this rematch, I think Pettis is going for the finish while Henderson will try and squeeze a decision. Henderson is still a warrior, and it’s going to take a lot to stop him. My pick is Pettis via decision.
Brian Melancon: I think Henderson has improved over where he was and feel like he will be ready for the flashy moves of Pettis. I think he will do enough to win a decision. I don’t see either fighter getting finished.
Zach Makovsky: Even though I think this fight could go either way, I’m leaning towards the champ. I see Pettis landing some serious strikes, but Benson is too resilient and mentally strong and will come out on top in an incredible fight.
Josh Samman: Henderson, for all of his undeniable talent and hard work, is not a fighter who excites me. We envision champions being unstoppable forces in their division, wreaking havoc on challengers with emphatic victories. Instead, with Henderson we are forced to watch a champion who gets by on the skin of his teeth, often winning with questionable decisions. I think Frankie beat him, I think Gilbert [Melendez] beat him and I’m hoping that Pettis decisively beats him. Pettis wins via unanimous decision.
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I think that both Henderson and Pettis have progressed as fighters and athletes since they last met. I ultimately think Henderson is more well-rounded and will take Pettis down and grind on him from the top to win a decision.
Colton Smith: This fight is a very intriguing one. I have the champ retaining his title by pressure, superior wrestling and control. I’m calling it now: submission by guillotine in round two.
Pros Picking Henderson: 26
Pros Picking Pettis: 12
No Pick: 3
Follow Mike Sloan at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.