Anthony Pettis celebrates a huge win over Joe Lauzon at UFC 144. Should a rematch with Ben Henderson be next? Photo by Esther Lin via SBnation.com.
"Who’s got next?"
Timing is everything in deciding who gets the next title shot, and in the case of Anthony Pettis, his couldn’t have been better. And despite recent history, Edgar won’t be getting it, even though he granted B.J. Penn an immediate rematch after winning the belt.
With a rousing knockout win over Joe Lauzon on the card, Pettis set the stage perfectly for a rematch of his epic decision over Henderson in Dec. 2010. That bout, the last in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) before the organization was folded into the Zuffa umbrella, was a five-round battle worthy of all the superlatives assigned it.
Even without Pettis' dervish-like bounce-off-the-cage-and-kick-Henderson-in-the-face closing maneuver, it was one hell of a fight. With it, Pettis-Henderson became the stuff of legend, the perfect send-off for them and the WEC into their current home.
Pettis displayed that kind of magnetism in dispatching Lauzon, with a bone-jarring kick to the head, which was prefaced by his quick hands on display prior to the finish.
Ironically, if there’s anyone who deserves to cut in line to deny Edgar an immediate rematch, it’s Pettis. That’s because the former WEC champ was slotted to fight the winner of Edgar’s second fight with Gray Maynard in Jan. 2011, but since the pair fought to a draw, Pettis, unwilling to sit on the shelf for months, opted to debut in the UFC against the ever-tough Clay Guida.
Held down and largely nullified en route to a decision loss, Pettis’ start in the organization wasn’t the title shot he’d been promised. Stuff happens that you can’t plan for, and he deserved a lot of credit for willingly stepping in against Guida, a fight with very little reward and a lot of risk.
There was also the reasonable line of thought that if Pettis wasn’t good enough to best Guida, then he didn’t deserve a title shot to begin with, which is a standard that should applied to any fighter complaining about a shot that fell through because of injury or unforeseen circumstances (hereby known as "The Guida Rule").
But in mixed martial arts (MMA), you’re often only as good or bad as your last fight. And being in the right place at the right time means being positioned to take advantage of an opportunity. After Henderson’s outstanding showing in a terrific battle against Edgar, a rematch with Pettis is a natural. Edgar and his many fans may find it unsettling that Pettis -- a mere 2-1 in the UFC -- scoots ahead of the former champ, but there’s no reason he can’t keep busy against a solid contender himself.
The Guida Rule applies there, too.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.