Anthony Pettis is the new UFC lightweight champion.
This is a great thing, not only for Pettis, but for the UFC. For all of Ben Henderson's skill, and for all the great, competitive fights he'd been in, there was a spark lacking from him as champion. Yes, he'd earned the belt and the right to be called the best lightweight in the world, but it just felt like there was something missing.
With Pettis' first round armbar victory over Henderson at UFC 164 there's now a champion at 155 that is missing nothing. The new champion is flashy, capable of great violence, creative in his offense and has the right kind of personality to be marketable in ways that the clean cut to a fault Henderson likely would never be.
Pettis looked uncomfortable for much of the fight, Henderson was forcing him to go backward, an uncomfortable proposition, but then he got space and started to throw body kick after body kick. "Bendo" looked badly hurt by the onslaught to the body and it immediately changed his approach. Pettis' skills and confidence allowed him to try an ill advised sort of capoeira kick that ended with him put on his back. From there he simply shifted his hips, locked up an arm and submitted a man often sold as nearly un-submittable.
All hail Anthony Pettis, your new UFC lightweight champion.
Long may he reign, effectively may he be promoted.
- I've made no secret of my distaste for Josh Barnett. A man who has failed as many tests as he has should be put through more stringent testing than he is currently. He can talk about being blood tested before this fight, but having blood taken and having had that blood ran through CIR testing and a bevy of other tests is a different story.
That said, Barnett handled Frank Mir with ease tonight. Mir looked okay to start, landing good punches as Barnett tried to fight him in the clinch, but then he seemed to wilt. It felt like a replay of so many fights where a larger, more physical man would push Mir into the cage and beat on him in the clinch: Carwin, Lesnar..etc. Once it was clear that he wasn't going to get space, it felt like only a matter of time. While the stoppage can be considered mildly premature, it only hastened the inevitable.
- Rewind a second! Pettis called out Aldo after his fight. If there's a more exciting fight in MMA right now, I'm not sure what it is. I've got the vapors!
- Chad Mendes has become a wrecking ball. Finishing Clay Guida is no easy feat, but the ease with which he handled him to that point was what was truly impressive. Mendes stuffed the takedowns with ridiculous ease and was just subtly busting Guida up with strikes. Duane Ludwig has transformed that camp's striking in such noticeable ways that he truly should be coach of the year.
- Ben Rothwell and Brandon Vera were putting on a bit of a snoozer before Rothwell went all crazy and bombed Vera out of the fight and (probably) out of the UFC. He's only won one of his last six bouts and even then he got in bad trouble against Eliot Marshall. He can keep trying to bounce from weight class to weight class, but it appears we know all there is to know about Vera in the UFC.
- Dustin Poirier and Erik Koch was such a delightful MMA bout. Poirier looked so good early and when it seemed like Koch would be perfectly understood for looking for a way out he ended up battling back in the third and trying to get a stoppage before time ran out. Koch took the loss but he looked good doing so.
- Two undercard highlights:
Tim Elliott handled Louis Gaudinot in a fashion that I don't think many expected. Eilliott has that kind of big dumb striking offense (not an insult) where he doesn't set stuff up particularly well but he throws a lot into his shots and keeps guys on the defensive. He also has a very legit wrestling background that allows him to dictate where the fight is taking place. Gaudinot seemed like a guy who was being positioned to maybe get a little run toward the title, but Elliott put an end to that and gave some reason for him to be considered a potential challenger.
Also, Hyun Gyu Lim fought a much better fight than I expected. He was gutsy coming in and throwing big shots with Pascal Krauss, but he didn't back down and started to get in with his strikes and, for the second fight, won with a big knee and some follow-up punches.
- Two undercard lowlights:
Okay, it's unfair to call Ryan Couture a lowlight, he's a decent fighter who tries his ass off and has never embarrassed himself. But he's just not a UFC level fighter. He looks out of place and not particularly confident in the cage. Al Iaquinta was busting him up and only Couture's heart (which is impressive) kept him in the cage for all three rounds. He's just not got the physical tools needed to go with his effort level.
Broken rib or not, Soa Palelei's win over Nikita Krylov holds the distinction of worst UFC fight of the year for me. Just brutally bad stuff.
- Quick note: 66% of title fights have ended in stoppages in 2013, including the last six title bouts. The only fighters involved with title fights that have not resulted in a stoppage this year: John Dodson, Frankie Edgar, Georges St. Pierre, Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez. Aside from GSP (who is fantastically marketable, so it doesn't matter) that is a list of very exciting fighters, not "point fighters." So let's kill that title bout point fighting meme until further notice, okay?