The Fight Horizon
In today’s Mixed Martial Arts, new fights are announced so often it’s difficult to keep track of all of them, let alone understand how they came about and what the implications are. Here at The Fight Horizon on Inside Fights, writer Daniel Sohn takes a quick, but in-depth look at newly announced match-ups to mark on your calendar.
Josh Thomson (20-5 overall, 3-1 in the UFC)
Strengths: Tough, crafty, skilled veteran, excellent striking and cardio
Weaknesses: Age, wear and tear
Anthony Pettis (17-2 overall, 4-1 in the UFC)
Strengths: Ultra dynamic, capable of finishing fights anytime, anywhere
Weaknesses: Slightly undersized at lightweight
The Date: December 14, 2013 at UFC on Fox 9
Weight Class: Lightweight
What led to it: Once again, T.J. Grant withdrew from a potential title fight against the lightweight champion. After Anthony Pettis won the title from Benson Henderson, whom Grant was originally supposed to fight, Pettis acknowledged and wanted to fight Grant next. Everything looked good until Grant posted some words about not being ready. Everyone else in the Top 5 is either tied up or lost recently, except for Josh Thomson, who was last seen finishing Nate Diaz (the first to do so) in spectacular fashion.
Why it matters: A big spotlight will be on Anthony Pettis to see how he follows up his performance against Benson Henderson. Let’s put this in perspective: Henderson was undefeated in the UFC. He hadn’t lost since 2010, in his last fight against…guess who? Anthony Pettis. Henderson has three losses in his entire career, one decision and two submission losses. The sole decision loss? Anthony Pettis. The first submission loss was six years ago. The second was against…Anthony Pettis. Get the picture?
Pettis didn’t just win the championship. He yanked it out of Benson Henderson’s grasp and told him to go sit in the corner, then strapped that thing around himself in glorious victory. He didn’t just beat Benson Henderson. He owned him with a stunning first round submission. It’s a tough act to top, but all eyes will be on Pettis to see how he fares in his first title defense.
Henderson was a stable champion for three consecutive title defenses, although some of those fights were razor thin decisions. Dominant champions are both good and bad for the sport, it gives a sense of excitement to see who can knock the top guy off, but it also creates matchup issues when the champion is too dominant, like a GSP or Jon Jones. Pettis is going to have a fresh start and the way he beat Benson Henderson, it would be hard to bet against Pettis holding on to that belt for some time to come.
Josh Thomson took the fast track to a title shot. When he joined the UFC from the WEC, he had a huge opportunity against Nate Diaz and he capitalized. Benson Henderson couldn’t finish Nate Diaz in five rounds. In fact, no one ever finished Diaz. Thomson did it in two. So he’s no cakewalk. He earned a shot. It also helped to be a little lucky with the withdrawal of T.J. Grant, and the lack of availability of someone like Gil Melendez. Thomson has a chance here to go from Strikeforce second fiddle, although many think he defeated Gil Melendez in their rubber match, to UFC Lightweight champion. It would be a hell of an accomplishment for Thomson, an accomplishment that once again is a mix of great skill with a bit of luck.
Thomson is going to be the underdog for this one, but he is very capable of winning this fight and no one is being thrown to the wolves here. We have a worthy challenger set to meet a very worthy champion. Both of these guys are aggressive, fast and dynamic in all aspects of their fight game. Put this one down in the month of December folks, it’s got wow-factor written all over it.
Tags: Anthony Pettis, Josh Thomson, TJ Grant, UFC on FOX 9