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WEC 53: Anthony Pettis pulls off the MMA move of the year

Anthony Pettis beat Ben Henderson at WEC 53

Anthony Pettis beat Ben Henderson at WEC 53 in Arizona to win the lightweight title. (Dec. 16, 2010) Credit: WEC

Anthony Pettis popped a few quarters into the machine in between the fourth and fifth rounds and turned himself into a video game. He may have even got 30 free lives in "Contra" with this insane move. 

Late in the fifth round against Ben Henderson, the WEC 53 lightweight championship bout still anyone's fight to win, Pettis did something we haven't seen since Bo Jackson ran up the wall in centerfield. With both fighters on the feet near the cage, Pettis got a running start and jumped toward the cage. He springboarded off the fence with his right foot and swung it around to blast Henderson in the face. Henderson fell to the ground, but was not knocked out. 

It may have been the one key move that won Pettis the WEC lightweight championship. The judges scored it 48-47, 48-47, 49-46, a unanimous decision victory for Pettis.

"We practice that all the time," Pettis said. "I got 10 more kicks coming."

Just not in the WEC ever again. World Extreme Championship merged with its big-brother promotion UFC, beginning, officially, right now. This flying-super-ninja-Shinobi-The-Matrix-Jet-Li-Ang-Lee-what-the-heck-was-that kick from Pettis was a capstone to a promotion that always served up great fight cards. A defining moment. A highlight clip UFC will use to market and promote the WEC fighters to a bigger audience.

Pettis (11-1) will face the winner of the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard fight at UFC 125 in a title unification bout. Edgar makes his second UFC lightweight title defense against Maynard, the only fighter he ever lost to in mixed martial arts. 

Henderson (12-2) struggled early with Pettis' range and distance. Pettis landed his left jab and combinations throughout the fight.

Early in the second round, Pettis got a knockdown and moved in, but Henderson was too quick and prevented any ground work or submission attempt.

In the third round, Pettis got Henderson to the ground and controlled his back. Henderson fought it off, and made it back to his feet. Of course, Pettis was still hanging off Henderson's back like a knapsack for the final two minutes of the round. 

Henderson managed to take Pettis' back in the fourth round and went for the rear naked choke. He had it locked under Pettis' neck but Pettis was able to shake it loose. Pettis got back to his feet with just over two minutes left, and closed out the round with a guillotine choke attempt.

The fifth round was much of the same, fast-paced action with back-and-forth exchanges and ground work. Then came that kick. Oh, that kick.  

New York Sports