Anthony Pettis Poised For International Stardom with UFC 144 WIn Over Joe Lauzon in Japan
Anthony Pettis has always had a knack for putting on his strongest performance on the grandest stage. Whether it was his headline grabbing wall-walk kick against Ben Henderson or simply showcasing his true character on MTV's World of Jenks reality series, "Showtime" routinely shines when the spotlight is at its brightest.
Now, with the Ultimate Fighting Championship set to make its return to Japan for the first time in over a decade, Pettis finds himself with yet another opportunity to appeal to a brand new audience when he faces off against fellow lightweight contender Joe Lauzon at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan at UFC 144.
After beginning his career with eight-straight victories within the local MMA scene, the attention of fight fans from his hometown of Milwaukee has been firmly fixed on the burgeoning star of Pettis. Then, after impressive stoppages of Mike Campbell, Danny Castillo, Alex Karalexis, and Shane Roller under the WEC banner, the rest of the country began to take notice.
But what happened to the popularity and lore of "Showtime" in the months leading up to and after his WEC title victory over Henderson was virtually incomprehensible and largely unpredictable.
First, Pettis was marketed to a brand new audience when filmmaker Andrew Jenks featured the young fighter on a 30-minute episode of his reality series that detailed Pettis' life and career in the days leading up to his headkick knockout victory over Castillo. The response was overwhelmingly positive and instantly transformed Pettis into a recognizable face for many people that had no prior knowledge of fighting. But the next chapter of Pettis' story will forever be remembered as one of the sport's greatest moments.
After impressively finishing three-straight opponents inside the WEC, Pettis was granted the opportunity to square off against the seemingly indestructible Henderson for the organization's lightweight title at WEC 53. Coupled with the fact that the promotion had announced that it would be folding into the UFC directly after the event allowed Pettis vs. Henderson to go down as one of the most watched cards in promotional history. The viewers were in for a treat.
Following four back-and-fourth rounds that could have been scored either way, Pettis unveiled the most electrifying and most original attack in combative sports history when he ran up the wall delivering a brutal kick to the face of Henderson. The kick earned Pettis the title as the last champion in WEC history, a nomination for ESPN's "Play of the Year" award, and an official proclamation from the City of Milwaukee announcing January 13 to be forever known as "Anthony Pettis Day" in Milwaukee.
Since his transition into the UFC, however, Pettis has had his share of ups and downs. After injuries and draws ultimately canceled his promised shot at the 155-pound title, the Milwaukee-native's grand UFC debut was downgraded to an Ultimate Fighter Finale card that saw him suffer a lackluster decision loss at the hands of Clay Guida. Most recently, "Showtime" earned his first victory within the UFC when he defeated Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136. But Pettis' greatest moment to date may be just around the corner.
Set to meet Lauzon on Saturday at UFC 144, Pettis once again finds himself on the doorstep of vastly increased popularity. Scheduled to take place in the famed Saitama Super Arena, a venue known for launching many great careers within the historic Pride Fighting Championships, another brand new audience awaits Pettis and his abilities.
A strong display from "Showtime", particularly one including another highlight reel moment, could result in Pettis becoming one of the new hot ticket items for Japanese MMA fans as well as putting him directly in the middle of the UFC title picture once again.
With a career that has already been filled with unbelievable moments and impressive highlights, Pettis vs. Lauzon has all the makings of a spectacular fight. And if history repeats itself, expect Wisconsin's most notable fighter to increase his already formidable fan base.
If you've read this far into the article I'm going to just go ahead and assume you're a fan of Wisconsin's Mixed Martial Arts scene. Stay up-to-date with all of the area's breaking news, interviews, and recaps from Paul Fladten at US Combat Sports (uscombatsports.com) and make sure to follow us on Twitter at @paul_fladten84 and @USCombatSports for all local MMA news.