Anthony Pettis made it look easy at UFC 164. | Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Anthony Pettis once again provided the kryptonite for Benson Henderson’s Superman.
Pettis (17-2, 4-1 UFC) submitted Henderson with a first-round armbar, capturing the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown in the UFC 164 headliner on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Henderson (19-3, 7-1 UFC) verbally submitted 4:31 into round one, as he was beaten for the first time inside the Octagon.
“Showtime” withstood a relentless clinch game from the champion. He broke free late in the first round and delivered a series of blistering kicks to the body. A wild kick attempt left Pettis on the bottom, Henderson settling in his guard. In an instant, the challenger locked up the arm and, after a brief struggle, forced the submission.
“I felt his arm pop, and I heard him say, ‘Tap,’” said Pettis, who afterward called for a super fight with reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo. “It was the body kicks that set that up. I hit him with four or five body kicks, and I saw his face change. Body kicks are underrated in mixed martial arts. People don’t know how to use them. I’m a traditional martial artist. I’ve been using body kicks since I was 5 years old, so body kicks are [good] moves for me.”
The defeat halted Henderson’s streak of seven straight wins.
“Anthony is a tough dude,” Henderson said. “He proved himself to be the No. 1 contender and the champion. He got my arm, and he did a good job of twisting it the right direction. That’s a high-level armbar right there. Most guys might miss the technique behind it, but that was a pretty good armlock. My arm is killing me, dog.
“I just wanted to put pressure on him,” he added. “He’s not as good going backward. He’s a lot better if you give him space to go forward, so the idea was to keep him going backwards the entire time. The kicks he hit me with both came while he was coming forward.”
Barnett Makes Triumphant Return
In the co-main event, former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett made a dominant and triumphant return to the Octagon, as he brutalized Frank Mir in the clinch en route to a first-round technical knockout. Barnett (33-6, 5-1 UFC), who had not competed in the UFC since March 22, 2002, forced the stoppage 1:56 into round one.
Mir (16-8, 14-8 UFC) was on the defensive from the word go. Barnett pressed into the clinch and battered the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with punches, knees and elbows.
Pinned hopelessly on the cage, Mir lowered his head, was met with a thudding knee strike and collapsed to the mat. Barnett then closed him out with punches. Mir, who has now lost three in a row, immediately protested the stoppage.
“I know I didn’t want to stop, I’ll tell you that much,” Barnett said. “Me and Frank are the kind of guys who would rather die than quit. That’s the way it goes. I’m just here to fight. If you want us to come back after the main event and do it again after the main event, we’ll walk back out here. We can do it in the parking lot, too. I’ve got enough to go around for anybody.”
Mendes Scores Fourth Straight KO
Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes dispatched Clay Guida with third-round punches in a featherweight showcase. Mendes (15-1, 6-1 UFC) tagged Guida’s figurative toe 30 seconds into round three, becoming the first man to ever stop “The Carpenter” with strikes.
Guida (30-14, 10-8 UFC) bobbed, weaved and fired off errant punches and kicks throughout the match. Mendes did not seem impressed. He threatened the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export with a guillotine choke in the first round, sprawled and countered for much of the second and then let loose in the third.
A crisp right hook folded Guida where he stood, forcing the Round Lake, Ill., to dive at his opponent’s legs in desperation. Mendes dodged his advances, blasted him with another clean right hook and polished off another impressive victory with unanswered blows on the canvas.
“I knew that punch landed clean,” Mendes said. “He’s been hit hard before and didn’t get finished. I knew I needed to take my time and keep the pace on him. I found another hard punch on the chin and ended it. It’s tough to go against someone who is moving around like that all the time, but I finally found him and ended it.”
Rothwell Swarms, Stops Vera
Ben Rothwell spoiled Brandon Vera’s return to the heavyweight division, as he put away the Alliance MMA veteran with a third-round hailstorm of knees and punches. Rothwell (33-9, 3-3 UFC), who still has never lost back-to-back bouts as a professional, sealed it 1:54 into round three.
Vera (12-7, 8-7 UFC) circled and countered for much of the match, frustrating the monstrous Kenosha, Wis., native with pace, movement and measured offense. Kicks to the legs and body were the primary weapons for “The Truth,” along with a few left hooks.
Fed up with the pursuit, Rothwell dive bombed Vera in the third round, burying him with knees and punches for the finish.
“It was time for me to show the UFC what I could do,” Rothwell said. “[In] that third round, it hit me that my potential has finally come on, and I’m here to give the fans what they need to see. I see blood. It’s pretty obvious how I fight and how I’m going to come after you. I just felt like a shot caught him, and he looked stumbled and it was my time to spring.”
Poirier Denies Roufusport’s Koch
A multi-pronged offensive attack carried American Top Team’s Dustin Poirier to a unanimous decision over fellow prospect Erik Koch in a featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Poirier (14-3, 6-2 UFC): 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27.
Poirier escaped a tight triangle choke in the first round and nearly finished it twice, first with a searing right hook and later with a brabo choke. Koch (13-3, 2-2 UFC) kept himself in the bout through sheer will power. However, Poirier had him in trouble again in round two, where he mounted the Roufusport product and moved out to a
Koch rebounded in the third round, as he tripped the Lafayette, La., native to the floor, assumed a dominant position and eventually transitioned to Poirier’s back. “New Breed” fished for the choke, but Poirier defended well and ran out the clock.
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