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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Anthony Pettis and Ben Henderson make their way to Japan this Saturday night at UFC 144, but the final WEC Lightweight Title participants are in considerably different fights, having taken considerably different paths to the event.
Pettis' "Showtime kick" helped sway the final round of his fight with Henderson to his favor, and he entered the UFC with a guaranteed title shot. However, with Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard fighting to a draw at UFC 125, the shot never came, and he fell short in his UFC debut to Clay Guida. He then defeated Jeremy Stephens, setting him up for his fight with Joe Lauzon.
Henderson, meanwhile, went on his best career run, defeating Mark Bocek, Jim Miller, and Guida in succession to earn a title shot against Edgar on Saturday's card.
Their differing paths have not gone unnoticed by Pettis, and with the two of them starting in opposite spots than they did in 2011, Pettis is motivated to get back on track.
"It's really motivation for me," Pettis said in an interview with MMAJunkie.com. "Ben did his thing last year. I had a 50 percent year, 1-1, and he went undefeated and went 3-0 over some tough dudes. He earned his title shot. He deserves it, and I'm rooting for him."
Pettis knows he had a rough 2011, but he also knows he needs to perform well in this fight against Lauzon to get himself back closer to where he was to start last year.
"Coming off the 'Showtime' kick and the Henderson fight, it was probably the best performance of my fight so far," he said. "Then I fight Guida and have my worst performance."
"I'm trying to advance my spots (on the division ladder), my career... [Lauzon's] up there, man. A win against him puts me where I need to be. I don't need to get in there proving anything. I just need to win fights. That's what it's all about."
Penick's Analysis: Pettis is still a fantastic fighter despite the loss to Clay Guida, and considering he's got just two decision losses on his record, he is still one of the top fighters at 155 lbs. A win over Lauzon would be huge for him at this point, and he needs to find a way to regain the magic he had at the end of his WEC run. A loss on Saturday would be a major setback, though, and he has to know what he needs to do in order to get himself back into the spotlight.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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