UFC NEWS: TJ Grant Out, Anthony Pettis In Against Lightweight Champ Ben Henderson!

Anthony PettisThe UFC 164 card scheduled for August 31st in Milwaukee has a rebuilt main event for the Lightweight title between champion Ben Henderson and replacement Anthony Pettis. Henderson’s original opponent, Canadian TJ Grant was forced to pull out after suffering a concussion in training. Henderson was a -220 favorite over Grant, but I look for that line to tighten up as the Pettis hype bandwagon gets rolling. TJ Grant earned the title shot with 5 wins in a row as a Lightweight in the UFC, most recently a decimation of perennial top contender Gray Maynard. There was talk of slipping Pettis in over Grant for this fight since it takes place in Pettis’ home town, and Pettis had actively campaigned for the switch to be made. Grant called Pettis classless, and we had the makings of a future rivalry, however Grant’s injury freed the spot up for Pettis. The bottom line is that the UFC is left with a much more intriguing matchup with Pettis-Henderson II. Ben Henderson is a precocious talent, and ever since capturing the Lightweight title from Frankie Edgar, he has talked about creating a legacy, and he has expressed a desire to go down as one of the greatest fighters ever. After three successful title defenses (Edgar, Diaz, Melendez), Henderson is starting to extend his title reign. Though a win over TJ Grant would have been a solid addition to his resume (and it was no surety), Henderson is now in a must win fight if he wants to assure himself of a legacy. But the fight with Pettis is not without huge risks for Henderson. Henderson has a sparkling 19-2 record, with the only truly significant loss being to Anthony Pettis when they fought back in December 2010 for the now defunct WEC’s Lightweight title. Pettis took a five round Unanimous Decision over Henderson in a fight where Pettis used his Matrix like super kick to etch a highlight reel for the ages. Significantly, the two meet in another five round fight, and though that is usually to the champion’s advantage, Pettis’ win over Henderson in their first go around shows that he is not at a disadvantage to Henderson when it comes to winning a five rounder. For Henderson to really make a mark towards a ‘legacy’, he is going to need to take Pettis out. If Henderson leaves this fight to the cards, he will be taking on a great deal of risk to his legacy and his title reign. He won the title by beating Franie Edgar by Unanimous Decision in a bout that really could have gone either way. The rematch with Edgar turned into a split decision for Henderson, but a judge saw the fight for Edgar. Henderson did put on a dominating performance in a win over Nate Diaz, and then he won another split decision, this time over Gilbert Melendez. If Henderson takes it to Pettis for five rounds like he did Diaz, of course he will win, but a five rounder with Pettis is more likely to develop into a match where Pettis has his moments on offense. There are at least two judges out there who think Henderson lost some of his recent bouts, and in Pettis he has an opponent with a crowd pleasing style who the judges may like more. It will be intersting to see how much of a bandwagon Pettis does have, as this could be getting close to a pick ’em come fight time.

Written by Miguel

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