Pettis, ‘TUF’ finalists ready to prove UFC worth

Anthony Pettis’ “Showtime kick” is arguably the most incredible move in mixed martial arts history, but the Milwaukee native isn’t going to let his spectacular kick (Pettis jumped off the cage and delivered a mid-air blow to the head of a stunned Ben Henderson at the end of their WEC 53 title fight in December), define his career.

“I hear about it everyday,” says Pettis, who defeated Henderson via unanimous decision in the final WEC event before the promotion merged inside the UFC’s fold.

“It’s cool, but it’s kind of a Catch-22. Some people like the kick and think I’m a good fighter and others think I’m a one-kick wonder.”

Tomorrow night at the Palms, Pettis (13-1 MMA) will get his first chance in the UFC to prove he’s more substance than style when he takes on Clay Guida (28-11 MMA, 8-5 UFC) at The Ultimate Fighter 13 finale.

Pettis’ victory over Henderson made him the top lightweight contender and next in line at the title shot for the winner of Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. But their draw and impending rematch left Pettis in limbo. Instead of waiting around for his title shot Pettis told UFC Dana White he wanted a tough test with Guida.

“I lose this fight and I’m out of title contention. But I came to the UFC to fight and I’m not going to sit around,” said Pettis, who gained notoriety last year when his training regimen and family life (Pettis’ father, Eugene Pettis, was murdered in a robbery attempt) were documented on MTV’s World of Jenks.

While the long-haired, fan favorite Guida (+160 underdog at the Palms sports book, Pettis is -200) says he respects the young star, “The Carpenter” said Pettis made the mistake of choosing him for his first UFC fight.

“I think it’s the biggest mistake he’s ever made in his career,” said Guida, who is on a three-fight win streak after suffering back-to-back losses Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez in 2009. “He’s been in the big show for a while, but he’s about to find out what ‘Showtime’ is all about.”

A win would put Guida — who after his two losses moved his training camp from Chicago to Albuquerque, N.M., to work with Greg Jackson — right back in the mix at 155 pounds.

“The UFC, Joe Silva and Dana White, are going to realize who they want for the title shot,” said Guida, who has submitted all three of his last opponents, including a second-round guillotine choke over former PRIDE lightweight champ Takanori Gomi in their bout on New Year’s Day.

Contract Up for Grabs

Budding welterweights Ramsey Nijem and Tony Ferguson, the two finalists from the 13th edition of The Ultimate Fighter, will fight for the prized UFC contract when the two meet up in the main event of the card that airs on Spike TV at 9 p.m.

Ferguson, who goes by the nickname “El Cucuy” didn’t make many friends on the reality show that featured him attacking fellow fighter Charlie Rader, who had revealed he hadn’t seen his son in more than a year after missing child-support payments.

That behavior confirmed a suspicion Nijem had early on the show that Ferguson was a bad apple.

“I’ve sensed that in the beginning,” said Nijem (4-1 MMA). “I was always kind of wary about him. His true colors eventually came out. I’m not going to go in there and say, ‘I hate Tony, and I’m going to kill him, and eff him,’ and stuff like this,” Nijem said. “Tony’s an opponent, and he’s in the way of my dream, and that’s it.”

Ferguson (10-2) admitted he’s not proud of his behavior, but said the incident in the past and all he can do now is become a better fighter.

“I figured out a hell of a lot of things about myself, especially watching that episode,” he said. “And I figured that’s not the kind of person I want to be and not the kind of example I want to set for these kids.”