If there’s anything UFC lightweight Anthony Pettis is known for, it’s the “Showtime Kick,” and if there’s one place where Pettis’ star shines the brightest, it’s in his native Milwaukee. The former came in a “Fight of the Year” performance at the final event in WEC history against current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. The latter will play host to the pair’s rematch at UFC 164. Fighting in his own backyard and already owning a victory over the champion, Pettis could be under more pressure to perform than his rival, Henderson.

UFC 164 takes place in Milwaukee and features hometown hero Pettis in the main event. After initially being scheduled to face Jose Aldo in a featherweight title fight at UFC 163, an injury left Pettis sitting on the sidelines. It wouldn’t be for long, however, as Henderson’s original opponent, T.J. Grant, pulled out of UFC 164 with an injury of his own. Now, Pettis and Henderson will fight once more with no love lost between the men.

Rewind the clock to 2010 and WEC 53, where the two faced off in another title match. Henderson was the champion, just like he will be at UFC 164, and had been dominant in the WEC lightweight division since forcing Jamie Varner to tap. Henderson and Pettis engaged in a very close fight that could’ve been scored for either man and saw the ultimate highlight-reel kick from Pettis in the waning moments of the bout. The move usually appears any time someone looks up anything related to MMA.

Now, with the two men jabbing at one another through the media, the stage is set for these two rivals to leave it all in the cage once more. Both men are totally different fighters than the ones that met on that December night in Arizona. Pettis entered the UFC with much fanfare, but the hype train came off the tracks after a lackluster performance against Clay Guida in his debut. Henderson, meanwhile, has ran through the UFC’s lightweight division, having yet to lose inside the Octagon en route to becoming champion.

With both men entering UFC 164 with a ton of momentum behind them, who’s under the most pressure to perform well?

First, let’s look at the challenger. Pettis is riding a three-fight winning streak and has won back-to-back “Knockout of the Night” bonuses. In his victory over Jeremy Stephens, Pettis demonstrated that he can use a game plan that involves more than flashy kicks. He’s also shown to have devastating knockout power, evident by his recent two knockout victories.

Outside of how impressive Pettis has looked since the Guida loss, he also faces the pressure of fighting in his hometown. Having the home-field advantage is always looked at as a positive in the sports world, but it does carry the responsibility of putting on a good show (at minimum) and winning. There’s also the fact, as stated before, that Pettis already holds a victory over the champion. If he beat him once, why can’t he do it again? As anyone in sports will tell you, it’s incredibly hard to beat the same team (or in this case, fighter) twice.

That doesn’t mean Henderson’s shoulders aren’t heavy as well. He carries the UFC title and with it a sense of the ability to exceed expectations. However, that seems to be a troubling point for the champion. Henderson was at one point one of the most popular fighters in the division, but has since seen his popularity fall with what fans are calling “point fighting” and his inability to finish an opponent since WEC 48 in April of 2010. There’s also Henderson’s pride factor. He wants to avenge his prior loss to Pettis. Henderson and his camp believe they’ve passed Pettis’ talent level, and UFC 164 will be their proving ground.

Both guys are coming into UFC 164 with not only momentum, but also quite a bit of pressure to succeed. In the end, Pettis is the one with the most pressure to perform. Pettis enters the contest fighting in his backyard and has been campaigning for the chance to fight Henderson seemingly since both men entered the UFC title picture. With all the talk coming from Pettis’ camp and the fighter himself, it will be, to borrow a phrase from Woody Harrelson, time to nut up or shut up.

Photo: “Showtime” will look to defeat Henderson for the second time in a lightweight title fight at UFC 164 (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.