The UFC's lightweight division has always been abundant with talent but when Zuffa purchased the unheralded WEC in 2010, it became the best division in MMA.
The brightest of the bunch was Duke Roufus' protege Anthony Pettis, who entered the UFC as the final WEC lightweight champion after defeating current UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson. You know the story: flashy kicks, incredible athleticism, knockout power in both hands and great submissions.
Pettis appeared to be the No. 1 contender for the title upon arrival and all he had to do was wait for the winner of Frankie Edgar/ Gray Maynard. Problem was, Edgar and Maynard put on one of the most classic fights in UFC history that wound up as a draw, so naturally they had a rematch.
After a slew of injuries coupled with one bad decision (see:Guida lay-n-pray), "Showtime" got back on track when he figuratively and literally turned heads with a brutal head kick KO of Joe Lauzon last February.
Finally, after what seems like a year of trash talking, this Saturday's UFC on Fox features a heated showdown between Pettis and another former WEC ass-kicker, Donald Cerrone. The men never crossed paths in the WEC in what promises to be an early candidate for fight of the year.
Cerrone, who is coming off of a huge win over former training partner Melvin Guillard, claims Pettis has been ducking him for the better part of his career. Pettis and his people dispute that "Cowboy" has never been in the running for a belt. Either way, both men will finally get their chance to prove who is worthy of a title shot.
Both men have incredible stand up as they both use distance well, but you must give the edge in power and speed to Pettis. The only way "Cowboy" stands a chance is if he closes the distance and works his knees in the clinch.
It would be imperative for Cerrone to tire Pettis out while looking for a submission if he can't find and hurt his opponent. It would be a mistake if Cerrone came out as aggressive as he did at UFC 150 against Guillard. In a flash, Pettis can end anyone's night early. He has an array of weapons that equal a matchup nightmare for anyone at 155. Look for Pettis to even use his wrestling to chain a highlight submission if he has to.
The bottom line is, I don't see this playing out well for "Cowboy" Cerrone. 2013 may indeed be the year of "Showtime".
Zachary Hutton is the lead boxing writer and an MMA contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can see what he's up to at his band's website myunclethewolf.com or also subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
Photo Credit: getty