A quick armbar put Anthony Pettis on the lightweight throne. | Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
When Anthony Pettis opened his hips and put himself in perfect position to torque Benson Henderson’s elbow, no one knows how many people watching the UFC 164 main event on Saturday thought he was going to land the submission. After all, Henderson had only been submitted once previously -- at a Battlequest event in March 2007. Moreover, “Smooth” had made a habit out of escaping cinched submissions, only to wind up with his hand raised at the end.
Pettis locked on a textbook armbar while Henderson was still relatively dry. When he failed to stack “Showtime” and free his right arm, the MMA Lab representative was forced to verbally submit. The win was a sensational one for Pettis and validated his thrilling victory over Henderson inside World Extreme Cagefighting nearly three years ago.
However, the Henderson-Pettis rematch left a lot to be desired. Many insiders predicted a Pettis win in a “Fight of the Year” contender. Considering the memorable nature of their first encounter, virtually no one foresaw such a quick and anti-climactic ending before any true fireworks were ignited inside the Octagon. Most fans were hoping for the same kind of back-and-forth drama that unfolded between them at WEC 53; that duel overflowed with gravity-defying leaps off the cage, Houdini-like submission escapes and action so intense that Ultimate Fighting Championship play-by-play man Mike Goldberg might have forgotten to read 61 of his allotted 90 advertiser plugs had he been seated cageside.
When all was said and done, the two lightweight stalwarts failed to deliver the sort of fight for which everyone was hoping. Obviously, Pettis did his job, attacking the champion’s body with kicks before snatching the arm.
One question prevailed in the aftermath. What was wrong with Henderson? He was not as aggressive as usual and spent much of the fight on his heels. Henderson looked to be in tremendous shape but seemed flat. This is not to take away anything from Pettis’ title-winning victory, but “Smooth” just did not look like himself.
We may never know for sure what -- if anything -- threw Henderson off his game; it may have just been a case of Pettis being perfectly on point. Whatever the case, their eagerly awaited rematch fell short of delivering the sort of war that made their first encounter so enthralling. Then again, when a bout carries the magnificence of a Henderson-Pettis 1, the rematch almost never meets expectations.
No one is to blame here. This was simply a case of Henderson relinquishing his title to the world’s best lightweight.
Miscellaneous Debris: It was great to see Josh Barnett back in the Octagon picking up where he left off at UFC 36. He tore through Frank Mir like he was a sparring partner and immediately placed himself in the thick of the hunt within the UFC’s heavyweight title picture. Barnett has been one of the more overlooked heavyweights in recent years, but his first-round drubbing of Mir figures to change the situation. Plus, it is always great to see a fighter walk to the cage to Bolt Thrower entrance music … Speaking of Mir, it looks like the end of the road is rapidly approaching for the former heavyweight champion. He has made a career out of both eye-popping wins and uninspired stoppage losses. Now that he has lost three in a row, it is safe to say that Mir’s best days are behind him. It will take more than a submission over a shopworn Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for him to return to relevance … Chad Mendes is among the best featherweights on the planet, and his technical knockout of Clay Guida only reinforced his position. After Ricardo Lamas, he is next in line to face champion Jose Aldo.
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