A grudge match three years in the making went down when Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis faced off in the main event of last night's (Aug. 31, 2013) UFC 164 pay-per view (PPV) main card from BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
We have a new Ultimate Fighting Championship 155-pound champion, as "Showtime" did the unthinkable, submitting Henderson, a man who had never tapped out prior to last night. It was an epic win that prevented Henderson from attaining his fourth consecutive Lightweight title defense, which would have broken the record he still shares with former great B.J. Penn.
For a good portion of the contest's first round, it looked like Henderson's expected gameplan of grinding out Pettis was going to pay off, but the tides quickly turned. Let's dissect Pettis' monumental title win in his hometown of Milwaukee, a fight that he was almost never even scheduled in.
Not surprisingly, Henderson came out looking to utilize his wrestling early on to negate Pettis' striking prowess. For a while, that tactic was working well, with "Smooth" controlling Pettis in the clinch and landing good short shots to score points. Pettis wasn't able to get much going until he broke free later in the round to unleash a torrent of body kicks, each of which found its mark.
From there, Pettis decided to pull another trick out of his bag, spinning on the ground and landing in what appeared to be a disadvantageous position of bottom guard.
However, appearances can be deceiving.
Just when it looked like Pettis had made a mistake and would begin eating ground shots from Henderson, "Showtime" swiveled his hips to lock on a tight armbar from the bottom. As the round began to wind down, Pettis twisted and turned the arm until Henderson had no choice but to voice his decision to tap to referee Herb Dean. The win will etch Pettis' name in to the UFC history books, as he gained the title in storybook fashion. Declared out of his scheduled UFC 163 Featherweight title match with Jose Aldo after injuring his knee, Pettis only found himself in UFC 164's main event after Henderson's original opponent T.J. Grant was injured as well.
Pettis completed the sweep over Henderson in extremely dramatic and exciting fashion last night, and now he'll begin his reign as a UFC champion. He's earned it, having endured the extreme ups-and-downs of losing a promised UFC title shot after wresting the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Lightweight title belt from Henderson in 2010, to losing to Clay Guida, and then suffering through a multitude of injuries.
Pettis' time in the limelight has truly come, but he won't be able to sit back and enjoy it for long. Many important bouts will await him as champion, and a rematch with Henderson could be a possible avenue. Although Pettis has now defeated him twice, no other Lightweight could truly figure out "Smooth." If a rematch is bypassed, perhaps Pettis could have a superfight with Aldo, who's on the shelf for the remainder of the year with a broken foot he suffered against Chan Sung Jung at UFC 163.
Grant is always waiting in the wings, too.
For Henderson, it's a devastating loss. He appeared to have Pettis' vaunted striking under control for the most part, but ultimately lost to a submission. That was definitely low on the list of expected outcomes for this fight, and it will leave the former champion wondering where he went wrong. But Henderson is not the type of fighter that will get too down on himself, as he usually maintains utmost confidence. We'll have to wait and see how badly his arm is injured, but if Pettis does end up fighting Aldo sometime early next year, Henderson may face Grant for the next No.1 contender spot at Lightweight.
All in all, it was an impressive victory that showcased the all-around skills of Pettis, who can now truly be considered the world's most talented Lightweight mixed martial artist. Whatever he does next, you can bet more and more fans will tune in to follow "Showtime," and we may have witnessed the beginning of an electric era in the UFC.
Anthony Pettis used his lesser-known submission skills to take Benson Henderson out and secure the UFC Lightweight title. Should he face off with Jose Aldo next? Let us know in the comments below!