(Strikeforce neva die. WEC neva die. UFC doing best it can, under circumstances. Images via Getty/FOX Sports)
In July, a concussion suffered in training robbed UFC lightweight contender TJ Grant of his title shot against Benson Henderson. Grant was expected to return to action at UFC on FOX 9 (December 14th, Sacramento) against new champion Anthony Pettis, but news broke last night that the Canadian fighter has still not been medically cleared to compete. As Grant wrote on twitter:
“Hey people. Quick update. Unfortunately I won’t be fighting Pettis on dec 14. I am still not yet 100% n can’t commit to fight. UFC is going with someone else instead. It sucks but it is the best for both myself and the UFC. Please don’t worry. Ill be back and if I gotta fight someone else to get back to where I wanna be then that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m not bitter. Thanks”
The promotion confirmed shortly afterward that Pettis will remain on the UFC on FOX 9 card, defending his belt against Josh Thomson. It’s a somewhat unexpected choice, as Thomson’s TKO of Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 7 represented his first victory in 13 months. Still, his performance against Diaz was extraordinary (“bitch-ass lady sounds” notwithstanding), and The Punk’s epic battles against Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce always suggested that he might be a better fighter than rankings and records indicate.
Melendez is coming off a decision loss to Benson Henderson in April, and is already booked to fight Diego Sanchez next month. The only lightweight who might have a legitimate gripe about being passed over is Rafael Dos Anjos, who has won five straight fights in the UFC against increasingly nasty competition. But Thomson is a bigger name — and considering that he lives and trains in NorCal, where the event is taking place, the booking is a no-brainer. Plus, Pettis and Thomson have already talked shit at each other on twitter, so yeah, GRUDGE MATCH.
What do you think? Is Pettis vs. Thomson a more interesting title fight than Pettis vs. Grant? And does Thomson have a chance here?