Another main event equals another rematch for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), as Lightweight champion Ben Henderson defends his title against hometown boy Anthony Pettis in a rematch from their epic World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 53 event -- the last one in company history - in which "Showtime" took the 155-pound title away from "Smooth" nearly three years ago.
The UFC 164 "Prelims," which can be seen on FOX Sports 1 and Facebook, have several exciting and noteworthy under card fights, but it is the headliner that is generating most of the buzz as former WEC Lightweight champion Jamie Varner battles UFC veteran Gleison Tibau in a pivotal fight for their respective careers.
These two fine mixed martial arts (MMA) match ups, which will take place at BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., this Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013), are among the most important fights to watch on the main card and the "Prelims."
Here is another installment of "The Top Two," UFC 164: "Henderson vs. Pettis 2" edition:
It will be a homecoming for Pettis, who fights in his backyard of Milwaukee for the first time since 2008. With the home crowd on his side, his work is definitely cut out for him as he meets a man he has beaten before, in champion Benson Henderson. "Showtime" already has a victory over "Smooth," as he was the last man to defeat him at WEC 53, winning the Lightweight title just under three years ago.
However, Pettis was not granted a championship in UFC, nor did he get a champion versus champion fight. Instead he received somewhat of a title eliminator fight with Clay Guida, who smothered him on the ground for three rounds and was accused of "playing it safe." Guida did not get a title shot either but instead, fought the man Pettis beat for the title five months later.
With a win over Guida, Henderson set up a fight with Frankie Edgar and three successful title defenses later, he finds himself sitting on the throne in the lightweight division. Pettis continued his winning ways but he was constantly being skipped and when the opportunity arose to challenge Jose Aldo in the featherweight division, "Showtime" had to bow out because of an injured knee.
This rematch is finally happening, almost three years in the making. Henderson has ameliorating himself greatly since then, and the different fighter we are used to seeing in the present day has some of the best cardio and endurance in the sport. His readiness alongside his to eagerness expand his fighting style has made him savvy in his profession -- mixing up with strikes with awkwardly picking body and leg shots along with takedowns coming from peculiar angles.
He needs to be listed as one of the best in the world if an outlet decides pound-for-pound rankings mean anything but his recent string of competition has many question the actual greatness of Henderson. Both his fights with Frankie Edgar were close, the second one being specifically notable when it comes to extremely close fights.
Henderson convincingly beat Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 5, but it was Diaz's teammate and close friend, Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu alumni and former Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, who gave Henderson one of the fights of his life, losing a split decision many feel like he may have won. Henderson has this ability to win rounds instead of fights, swaying the judges to score the bout in his direction more often than not, if they are following the 10-point scoring system.
"Smooth" is deserving of his place in the division and having the title to be wrapped around his waist, but he would like nothing more to convince the public that his elite status is earned if he can decisively beat "Showtime" and avenge his loss at the same time, making his UFC run perfect and his record untouchable.
Pettis may have landed the single-best legkick in MMA history with the "Showtime Kick" back at WEC 53, but he also excelled in something greater -- he defeated Henderson, withstanding the champion's takedowns and got the better of him on the feet as he won his first major world title. Pettis is the only man to defeat Henderson under the Zuffa banner and he will want to prove that although it was a few years ago, he has not lost any ground when it comes to a rematch with the champion.
Pettis has looked outstanding since his loss to Guida in the UFC, with stoppages over Donald Cerrone, Joe Lauzon and a split decision win over Jeremy Stephens, establishing himself as a true title threat and a man who may consider himself as the lineal champion in that division.
Pettis' psychological edge may be a factor in this fight as well, as Henderson will want to erase that loss from his memory and losing to someone can summon something different in the mental aspect of the game -- but how much will Pettis' hometown of Milwaukee play a role in this fight? Could the challenger be feeling hometown pressure that can work against him?
It was destiny for these men to meet again and although they have both gotten better and have improved their skillset in their respective careers, this fight is just as tough to call as the first and there is a good chance something memorable and even special will come out of this fight -- just like the last one.
Jamie Varner vs. Gleison Tibau
Edson Barboza at UFC 156 last year. He was riding a two-fight win streak in Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC), but after going winless (0-3-1) in WEC before his signing, it looked like the demons were catching up to Varner. His performance against Barboza was an inspiring one to say the least and although he fell to Joe Lauzon by way of submission shortly after, he edged Melvin Guillard in Dec. 2012, proving that he could still compete at the highest level of competition.career was almost over before he scored an upset of the year performance by stopping
Varner, a former WEC lightweight champion, could continue to do well in his career but he needs another impressive win sooner than later to convince the masses he can still be a force at 155 pounds. Varner faces a man who has been with the UFC since 2006 with two separate stints -- Gleison Tibau.
Having a whopping 19 fights in the promotion without ever getting a title shot, Tibau is not exactly a draw and has not shown in the past that he is deserving for a championship bout, plus some fans may not even be familiar with the American Top Team product. He has only been finished three times in his career, the last dating back to 2008 at the hands of Joe Stevenson.
The problem with Tibau is he loses the big fights that matter most. Sure, he can look impressive against the likes of John Cholish, Francisco Trinaldo and even Rafael dos Anjos (in a very close fight), but he needs a win over a relatively big name to assure his place is not being taken up in the lightweight division. Varner is not a huge name but he does have a following. A win over Varner can increase the chances of getting a big fight with another popular fighter, but it would be in Tibau's best interest to excite and deliver, maybe even look for a finish over former champion like Varner.
Tibau is not a bad striker but his staff of life is undoubtedly his takedowns, troubling opponents from the get-go with vicious brute strength. How he makes the 155-pound limit is a mystery, but his agility and his flexibility is also impressive when it comes to how the Brazilian utilizes his size.
It will be Varner's striking against Tibau's takedowns, but Varner has showed some lack of wrestling defense in the past when it comes to larger and more powerful opponents (although he looked good against a powerful Melvin Guillard in his last outing). Although the size difference may be nullified in this fight, he needs to be careful when it comes to Tibau's sheer power. As for Tibau, he may want to avoid Varner's stand up, which can catch him because of the speed and power Varner possesses in his shots. Either way, this matchup is an enthralling bout on the "Prelims" not only because of their different styles, but how the near future looks for the winner of this fight.
Remember, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 164 card on fight night (Sat., Aug. 31, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to being at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the Fox Sports 1-televised undercard bout at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to being at 10 p.m. ET.
For our complete coverage of UFC 164: "Henderson vs. Pettis 2" be sure to check out our event archive here.