(In slo-mo for your convenience. Props: kemist. Full-speed gif is at the end of this post.)
Let’s get this out of the way: The cage-spring head-kick that Anthony "Showtime" Pettis landed on Ben Henderson in their lightweight title fight at last night’s WEC 53 event was 1) The greatest kick in MMA history, 2) Maybe the most impressive knockdown in MMA history, and 3) Further proof that Pettis is one of the most exciting 155′ers in the universe. (He’s also punched his ticket to challenge for the UFC lightweight title against either Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard, who both look dull as hell by comparison.)
We already knew Pettis was capable of stuff like this, but to have the balls to throw that kick in the fifth round of a title fight? If he planted his foot wrong, the video above might be titled "Ultimate Fail." Instead, he clinched the match on the judges scorecards with absolute authority. Said Pettis after the fight: “Duke Roufus plays with us, and we try these new kicks. He told us if one of us lands it in the cage that he would take us to dinner. So he owes me some dinner.”
The main event earned both men $10,000 Fight of the Night bonuses. As action-packed as the "Henderson vs. Pettis" broadcast was, the unaired prelims were equally hardcore, producing five first-round stoppages in seven bouts…
Zhang Tie Quan‘s streak of 11-straight first-round stoppages came to an end, as he was outpointed by 7-1 Roufusport lightweight Danny Downes. Quan was clearly not prepared for the fight to go longer than five minutes, and looked increasingly exhausted in the later stages, allowing Downes to capitalize with ground-and-pound and submission attempts en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Former WEC bantamweight champ Eddie Wineland scored his fourth-straight WEC victory, knocking out newcomer Ken Stone with a body-slam, as Stone was working for a flying guillotine. Stone had to be stretchered out of the cage. On the bright side, Wineland picked up a $10,000 Knockout of the Night bonus for his efforts.
Submission of the Night went to Shane Roller, who bounced back from his WEC 50 submission loss to Anthony Pettis by finishing Jamie Varner with a first-round rear-naked choke. Varner ends 2010 with a record of 0-3-1 (including losses to Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson, and a draw against Kamal Shalorus), which means his continued employment by Zuffa is by no means guaranteed.
In one of the two prelim fights that went the distance — and could have been a runner-up for Fight of the Night — British bantamweight standout Brad Pickett and Canadian veteran Ivan Menjivar enjoyed a back-and-forth war packed with ferocious striking exchanges and near-finishes on the mat. Pickett secured the first and third rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, rebounding from his previous decision loss to Scott Jorgensen.
WEC 53 Preliminary Card Quick Results
– Danny Downes def. Zhang Tie Quan via unanimous decision (29-28 x 2, 30-27)
– Shane Roller def. Jamie Varner via submission (rear-naked choke), 3:55 of round 1
– Brad Pickett def. Ivan Menjivar via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)
– Eddie Wineland def. Ken Stone via KO (slam) at 2:11 of round 1
– Danny Castillo def. Will Kerr via KO (punches), 1:25 of round 1
– Yuri Alcantara def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punches), 3:26 of round 1
– Renan Barão def. Chris Cariaso via submission (rear naked choke), 3:47 of round 1
And two more random notes: Dominick Cruz says he’d delay his hand surgery to accept a coaching position opposite rival Urijah Faber on The Ultimate Fighter; if Dana White gives the word, he’s all over it. "I would accept (a coaching position) very much, and I would be stoked. And it would be awesome, because I could get my loss back." Also, the Glendale crowd sucked even more in person.
(Props: the UG)