Why you should care
Because it’s better to see this kick coming before it makes contact than try to remember it afterward.
There are signature songs for signature moments, spaces and places in which you, or someone like you, does something so wonderful that all you want is to see it again. We have all been treated to moments like that, but only rarely are the TV cameras rolling when they happen. Like they were the night of Dec. 16, 2010, outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
The World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Lightweight Championship 53, a mixed martial arts (MMA) event that featured names that, at the time, any casual fight fan might not have heard of: the 26-year-old Benson “Smooth” Henderson and the 23-year-old Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. At 5’10” and 155 pounds, Pettis stood 1 inch taller than his same-weight opponent, but despite his quasi-movie star looks and his 17 wins and two losses, he did not draw any special attention.
He was ahead on points in the last round of a 5-round fight when Pettis did something that few had seen before and not many have seen since, putting a punctuation mark on what was shaping up to be a championship win. He ran to the chain-link fence side of the cage within which they were fighting and, like some kind of cartoon character, he run-jumped on it, propelling himself back toward Henderson while spinning himself into a head kick, 360 degrees, and hitting the landing on the far side of his now laid-out opponent.
The response was no less than it would have been had Pettis burst into a flaming unicorn: total pandemonium. Even his erstwhile opponent, Henderson, looking up from the cage’s canvas, seemed shocked into a begrudging admiration in the brief 59 seconds before he got up and tried to pull off a miracle that would never come.
“And as soon as Henderson hit the ground,” said MMA middleweight fighter and Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Leopoldo Serao, who was watching from cageside, “next thing I know I was standing and screaming. In that moment making that move? Real art.” That was the first time he had put meat on his bones.
The first MMA fighter on a Wheaties box, co-owner of the Showtime Sports Bar in Milwaukee, where he hails from, TV commercials and end of last year, even some recognition by embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. But even more so than that, much more so than that?
The kick. Seen and now believed.
Color our minds blown.