Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis fought tonight in the final event in the history of the WEC knowing that a win would not only enable them to go down in history as the promotion’s last ever lightweight champion, but also entitle them to the No.1 contenders spot in the UFC’s 155lb weight class.
This was a remarkable way to end the WEC, with the two men becoming embroiled in a battle that ebbed and flowed throughout five rounds.
After a slow start by the two fighters it was Henderson who did enough to claim round one, using a nice combination of a leg kick followed by a flurry of punches to clinch up against the cage and the take Pettis down.
The second was very close but Pettis was starting to warm up just a little and perhaps did enough to seize it, but the best was still to come.
In the third Pettis surprised Henderson by taking him down and then seizing his back. Henderson rose to his feet but Pettis was not letting go and locked in the body triangle tight, forcing his opponent to bear his full weight for much of the round, though Henderson managed to fend off the threat of being submitted from this uncomfortable position standing against the fence.
In the fourth Henderson looked to return the favor and after some ground work found himself on Pettis back on the floor. He then sunk in a rear-naked choke, and with his arm under the chin it looked like it was all over. Pettis had other ideas though and somehow managed to peel his arm back off and before long had reversed the position.
And so it came down to the final round and it was Pettis who looked the most energized of the two, pressing forward and finally beginning to really loosen up with his strikes. That paid off as he started to tag Henderson with punches. Looking to change things up Henderson dives for a takedown and is met by a flying knee from Pettis which drops him to his knees but he’s still working and finally gets the challenger to the mat.
From here it looks as if Henderson is going to try to grind out the rest of the round from the top but Pettis again manages to reverse and escape, and they’re back to their feet with little time left on the clock.
Then comes one of the most remarkable moments ever seen in MMA. As Henderson circles out against the cage Pettis lives up to his ‘Showtime’ nickname by suddenly running up the cage and rebounding off it with a spinning kick that connects with his opponent head cleanly and floors him.
It would have been one of the best KO’s in combat sport’s history but remarkably Henderson is somehow still conscious though clearly hurt as he grimly hangs on and tries to ride out the final seconds, only to be caught with one final knee before the bell sounds.
What a great way to end the fight and we’re left with an extremely close fight to call.
The judges deliberate and come back with a unanimous decision victory (48-47 x2, 49-46), declaring the winner Anthony Pettis who becomes the WEC’s final champion and earns his title shot in the UFC’s lightweight division in 2011.