If you believe that hunger and desire make a difference in combat sports, then Anthony Pettis appears to be on track to defeat Benson Henderson Saturday night at UFC 164.
Pettis really wants it bad. Henderson really believes he’s the best fighter in the world and that he deserves it. At UFC 164, it’s desire vs. entitlement.
Pettis is coming off a spectacular KO victory over Donald Cerrone (nobody knocks Cerrone out). He wanted the fight with Henderson. Pettis is a fighter with a desire to be a champion, who was willing to drop down to featherweight to fight Jose Aldo for the title when he wasn’t in line for a shot against Henderson. That’s Chael Sonnen-level intensity.
When TJ Grant got injured, UFC President Dana White asked Pettis to step in and now we are about to see what potentially could be the Fight of the Year. Pettis already holds a close-decision victory over Henderson back in their WEC days.
Henderson’s camp says their fighter has improved dramatically since the 2010 fight. Even though Henderson has dominated the lightweight division since winning the title more than a year ago, he hasn’t looked unbeatable. In at least two of those fights, against Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez, the decision could have gone either way. Henderson has won seven straight fights, but hasn’t finished a fighter in more than three years. He’s fallen into the Georges St-Pierre trap of looking good in fights, but not taking the risks and chances necessary to look unstoppable.
Henderson and Pettis match up well. In close fights among fighters whose skills are at the same level, the guy with the most desire, hunger and will usually prevails. Pettis knows what it takes to beat Henderson. Can he do it again? For Henderson, he shouldn’t expect to win another close decision. At some point, he’s going to have to step out of the box again and go for a finish if he expects to defend his championship.