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Paddy Power's UFC 164 Preview

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Injuries and Edgar-Maynard rematches blighted Anthony Pettis’ early UFC career, but a combination of impressive performances and equally impressive self-promotion have kept him in the title conversations. After finally earning a shot at the lightweight title with a KO of the Night against Donald Cerrone in January, Pettis decided not to wait for that matchup and dropped down to featherweight to take on that division’s champion, Jose Aldo.

He had to pull out of that fight with injury and, due to an injury to TJ Grant, at UFC 164 he will now get his long-overdue title shot in the form of a rematch against Benson Henderson. The universe finally got there in the end.

This is an exciting matchup for several reasons. In 2010 Pettis took Henderson’s WEC lightweight title in one the fights of the year, in the organisation’s final event before merging with the UFC.

While Henderson has methodically decisioned and dominated his way through the 155-pound division, Pettis has thrilled with his unpredictable and inventive striking, earning Knockout of the Night in his last two wins over quality opponents Cerrone and Joe Lauzon.

Having beaten Henderson already, Pettis will feel confident he can earn a repeat result. However, since they last met, Henderson has fought and won seven times against the best in the UFC lightweight division. Pettis lost his UFC debut to Clay Guida and followed that up with a split win over Jeremy Stephens. He has caught the eyes with his finishes of Cerrone and Lauzon but of late Henderson has fought more often and at a higher level.

Their first fight was a back-and-forth affair in which both fighters looked on the verge of being stopped at different points. Pettis’ ninja-kick off the fence in the final round was one of the most spectacular moments in MMA history and arguably edged the fight in his favour.

If Pettis is to win it will be because he is unpredictable. Henderson is so well-ounded that he’s unlikely to be outdone in any one area. However it’s near impossible to prepare yourself for Pettis’ wild offence.

In the betting, Henderson is a marginal favourite at 5/6, his previous loss to Pettis playing a big part in the pricing of this fight. Henderson’s most likely method of victory is by points, which can be backed at 7/4. However he did come close to sinking in a rear-naked choke on Pettis in the first fight, and the champion owns eight submission victories. Henderson to win by submission is a more profitable 13/2.

After his recent spectacular wins there will be a healthy amount of betting interest in Pettis winning by KO at 4/1, a solid bet given his wild attacking style. However, Henderson has never been knocked out and has only been stopped once, via submission in his third professional fight. If Pettis is to take Henderson’s belt again then he’s probably going to have to battle through a five-round war to win on points at 13/5.

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