The UFC 164 pay-per-view main event saw one of the most anticipated rematches in recent history as former WEC champion Anthony Pettis took on current UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson for a shot at the UFC lightweight title. Henderson has built a questionable reputation as a successful champion having defended his belt three times successfully against Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz, and Gilbert Melendez. His tendency to eke out narrow decisions hasn't made him the most popular champion but his consistency has been admirable. Pettis on the other hand had become something of an enigma since gaining the WEC title in the promotions last show back in 2011. He'd fought only four times leading into this fight, dropping a decision to Clay Guida and taking a split decision over Jeremy Stephens before dominating Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone. To some it appeared that he'd turned a real corner in the last year or so, to others it looked like he was a talented but flawed fighter who would struggle with aggressive lightweights who could push him into grappling heavy fights.
If ever a question needed an answer, this was it, and boy did fans received one. Henderson had obviously done his homework on how to make Pettis uncomfortable. He rushed him early and often driving Pettis back into the cage where he could grind him against the fence before ducking out with a few strikes. Midway through the first he got his hands around Pettis' waist and started kicking him in the calf. It was a nasty tactic that looked to hobble Pettis' striking down the line. Unfortunately for Henderson he never made it down the line. When the two fighters separated again Pettis began to drill into Henderson with a hard series of body kicks. If Henderson didn't wear the damage on his face it definitely appeared to make him less eager to strike. Pettis then went for a Capoeira kick and it was all Henderson needed to shoot in on a takedown and get Pettis on his back. Showing his surprisingly slick submission skills Pettis transitioned to a chained armbar attack and forced the submission. The result: Anthony Pettis def. Ben Henderson at 4:31 of Round 1.
What was the high point?
That armbar. Damn that was slick. Henderson even talked about how it was originally directed at his shoulder, and he was forced to give up his elbow because of it. Pettis adjusted with him and nailed a perfect armbar from guard, a true rarity in the modern MMA.
What was the low point?
The potential knee injury. Dana talked about it post fight, Pettis confirmed it. He attempted to check a kick early and caught it right on his left knee. After that he felt like the knee was unstable for the rest of the fight. Let's hope it's not serious, Pettis has already missed enough time due to injury over the past two years.
Where do they go from here?
Pettis is the champ. He goes where he wants. He called out Jose Aldo which was a great move, even if the fight doesn't happen. It already goaded Aldo's manager into saying that they don't want the fight and sets an early bar for Pettis as a fighter other guys want to avoid. If the Aldo fight doesn't happen TJ Grant only makes sense.
Henderson goes back to the drawing board. Fortunately for him lightweight is full of guys he hasn't fought yet. I like the idea of seeing him take on Gray Maynard, or possibly a rematch with Gilbert Melendez.
Watch it now, later, or never?
The king is dead, long live the new king. Watch it now, it's a great fight from start to finish and a moment in MMA history to boot.
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