If UFC 163 was a lackluster pay-per-view (PPV), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bounced back in a way only it could, with an exciting main card and "Prelims" combination that made up UFC 164: "Henderson vs. Pettis 2" on Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013).
Live from BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., hometown fighters had some ups and downs to analyze Monday morning, a few veterans of the sport have officially been escorted out of their prime and title talk is brewing more than ever.
Before we get to your last read of UFC 164: "Henderson vs. Pettis 2," check out our full results and play-by-play here.
In the night's main event, hometown hero Anthony Pettis needed to prove to everyone that he had Ben Henderson's number, and that their first fight at World Extreme Cagefighting's last event, WEC 53, where he captured the lightweight title, could be repeated once more. Pettis was coming into this fight on a three-fight win streak, and wanted to get the biggest win of his career in front of his friends and family after unluckiness and an unfortunate knee injury cost him multiple title shots and opportunities.
Henderson was a true champion, but his split decision wins and his close fights had the fandom questioning his legitimacy as a true pound-for-pound best and with a win over Pettis, he would break the record for most title defenses in the lightweight division.
"Smooth" started off by trying to tire out "Showtime," pinning him up against the fence and trying to grapple with him. After Pettis landed some good, heavy punches and a hard kick to the body on "Bendo" when they broke away, Henderson needed to do much of the same that was working for him until he eventually succumbed to "Showtime" for the second time, losing his title to Pettis for a second time as well.
As Henderson was on top of Pettis in his guard, Pettis wrapped his legs around Henderson, trapping him in an armbar and forced the former champion to verbally tap in the first round (watch highlights here).
Pettis also stated that he tweaked his knee in the fight and as we originally reported it being the same knee that forced him out of the Jose Aldo fight, it was actually his left knee.Pettis is now undefeated (2-0) over Henderson with his next fight being uncertain since the injury is somewhat unclear at this time of publishing. Henderson, although being a solid, great fighter, will now go back to the drawing board.
Josh Barnett returned to the Octagon after a long absence of over ten years and after grappling with Frank Mir for two minutes, Barnett landed a knee flush on Mir's chin, dropping the former heavyweight champion and although the stoppage was controversial or questionable for many, Mir did go limp and it would have only gotten worse for the most accomplished and decorated heavyweight in UFC history (watch highlights here).
Barnett secured the biggest win of his career outside of the UFC, as a finish of Mir gets him right back into the title hunt as he is now one win away from being considered as a top contender since Fabricio Werdum will probably get the next shot; Daniel Cormier will be dropping to light heavyweight and Travis Browne now needs an opponent to see if he can get another huge victory to propel him to the top of the ladder. Barnett would be a perfect match for him.
Mir is now 0-3 in his last three fights (one of them being a loss to Junior Dos Santos for the championship) but Mir's recognition as a popular and accomplished fighter should not taint his positioning in the company. He will certainly not be cut but his next fight is more or less do-or-die, since retirement is always an option that looms near. Mir against Alistair Overeem would be a classic pro wrestling style "loser leaves town" match, and that one is hard to not want to see.
Team Alpha Male's Chad Mendes has evolved from the dull wrestling-based fighter he used to be, with his evolution being reminiscent to Josh Koscheck in his prime. Clay Guida was bringing the ferocious pace and energy he usually brings in his fights but Mendes countered his speed amazingly, stuffing his takedowns and taking advantage by hopping on Guida's back.
Not only did Mendes show he had superior wrestling, he showed his striking was a notch above Guida's as well, finishing off "The Carpenter" after he dropped him with a right hand and followed up with some ground and pound. "Money" was the first man to ever stop Guida by strikes, and making a huge statement like that is not the only accomplishment that has gotten him noticed as of late (watch highlights here).
Mendes has four wins straight by either knockout or technical knockout and looks to be at the forefront of the featherweight division, along with Ricardo Lamas of course. However in Mendes case, he has been a fighter reborn since his UFC 142 championship loss to Jose Aldo and he is making an interesting case to get another shot.
Guida is 1-3 in his last four fights and queue the journeyman status talk because he is somewhat distant from ever competing for a title.
"Big" Ben Rothwell pulled off the first shuffle dance, bob-and-weave-your-way-to-a-knockout ever over Brandon Vera, taking notes from Anderson Silva but not looking as seriously threatening as Silva -- even though he pummeled Vera en route to a third-round stoppage (watch highlights here).
Rothwell may face some criticism for being allowed a TRT exemption but the reality is you cannot point the finger at one fighter without worrying about the rest of the fighters on the current roster that are using it.
Rothwell looked like he was stalking Vera the entire fight, landing some big punches and credit to Vera for eating most of them. Vera looked promising early on in the fight, landing some heavy kicks to Rothwell's body and his legs showing that a return to the heavyweight division was working out for him.
Maybe Vera could not take the powerful shots that the 265-pound division has in store and forgot how they felt like five years ago. Having lost to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua a year ago by technical knockout, Rothwell provided with the Vera the same dose of punishment. Vera is now winless in almost two years, lost four out of his past six (with one being a "No Contest") and his future looks incredibly bleak right now. Does he go back to light heavyweight? Does he even have a job with the promotion?
Wisconsin's own Rothwell was giddy in his post-fight interview and maybe that is where the TRT kicked in. He shouted, screamed, ranted and even called out Travis Browne -- but he needs to win two-straight first, something he has not done since 2008.
The pay-per-view broadcast kicked off with a barnburner, as featherweights Dustin Poirier and Erik Koch were robbed for the Fight of The Night bonus, as both competitors had good moments but ultimately it was "The Diamond" who looked outstanding and outlasted "The New Breed" (watch highlights here).
Clocking him with a heavy right hand in the first, Poirier found himself in a bad position, fighting off an arm-triangle that looked all but sunken in. As Poirier recovered, he landed a heavy right hand that dropped Koch but Poirier could not finish him.
Poirier got the better of the striking in the second round, leading up to the takedown and tried to tie up a triangle-choke but the toughness of Koch was on display Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013).
Poirier used a grappling gameplan that tired out Koch, grinding him up against the fence and relentlessly taking him down to secure his sixth UFC victory. Although just 2-2 in his last four, Poirier looks to have made a comeback into title contention and even if he is a few wins away, one or two fights over top quality opponents should do him good.
Koch on the other hand has lost two straight but he should feel nothing to be ashamed about, losing to Poirier and Ricardo Lamas but those losses did end his impressive four-fight win streak with stoppage wins over Francisco Rivera and Raphael Assuncao. Luckily for him, he is still young with all the capabilities in the world to get it right next time.Gleison Tibau was successful in his 20th UFC fight but he did have to overcome the adversity of Jamie Varner in the final round, as this fight served as the headliner of Fox Sports 1's "Prelims."
In the opening round, Tibau looked like he was countering Varner's standup well, beating him to the punch every time the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion tried to capitalize. Tibau eventually took Varner down and it was the sign of bad things to come as Tibau toyed with his foe on the ground -- placing him in dominant positions while dragging his body wherever he pleased while Varner looked helpless beneath him.
Give credit to Varner for storming out of the gate in the third round and brining it to Tibau, rocking him and getting the Brazilian to back up and circulate to try and stay away from the punches. Varner eventually secured a takedown against the stockier Tibau but it was not enough, as Tibau took home the split decision victory (somewhat baffling since Tibau clearly won two-rounds-to-one)
Tim Elliott brutalized The Ultimate Fighter alumni Louis Gaudinot over the course of three rounds, making him one of the flyweight's to watch in the division. Gaudinot could not find an answer for Elliott's powerful groundwork, as he took blow after blow from Elliott, including elbows and punches to the head. Even when this fight was on the feet, Gaudinot was lightning-quick but Elliott literally beat him to the punch on all occasions. The win puts Elliott at 2-1 in the UFC and judging from this performance, a rematch with Jon Dodson is something he would be looking for in the near future. Gaudinot had some pretty tough opponents in his three-fight UFC career (Johnny Bedford, John Lineker) so it would only be fair to bring him back, having a record of 1-2.
Hyun-Gyu Lim showed us that the welterweight division is never shy on promising athletes, as he blazed through Pascal Krauss in the first round and delivered a brutal knee -- followed by punches -- to get the win. Lim, a tall, immense welterweight looked great in the striking department, staggering Krauss with a right hand that forced the Roufusport fighter to drop before being on wobbly legs. Lim did not stop unleashing the attack and for about fifty seconds, pummeled Krauss and eventually put him away as he delivered a nasty left knee to his opponent while he crouched down for the takedown.
Great performance by Lim, although why exactly did this fight get Fight of The Night? It was not a bad fight but there were about three to four other fights that deserved it a hell of a lot more than this one.
Chico Camus pretty much got the hometown decision over Kyung Ho Kang, kicking off the "Prelims" portion on Fox Sports 1. Camus was outwrestled for the nearly the entirety of the first round and almost the second had he not gotten a reversal with two minutes left. He closed the round off strong going into the third, where he was getting the better out of Kang on the feet but was being pinned down again. Camus did go into beast mode in the last minute and a half -- which had to be what won him the fight -- as he was a second away from finishing Kang had the horn not sounded after landing an upkick from the bottom and swarmed the Korean.
Close fight or not (it really was not), the scorecards were baffling as all three judges scored the fight in favor of Chico, even giving him a 30-27 when Kang looked like he had done enough to get his first UFC victory. Many will proclaim another Asian fighter got screwed and maybe that is true. The fact is the judges just got this one dead wrong.
Thank the heavens this fight was on Facebook and that some fans are not equipped to watch six-full hours of fighting or simply cannot make the Facebook broadcast because of previous engagements like work or having the liberties of a day off on the weekend. Those reasons are good enough to have skipped this fight altogether, and even though Palelei may have gotten a third-round TKO win over Krylov, it was not UFC caliber whatsoever.
Both men gassed about two minutes into the fight and there was an awkward submission battle, involving a cradle and some sort of a crucifix that we were treated to and it was relieving when this fight was called off after going too long to begin with. Dana White called this fight embarrassing and we do agree however here is the issue: promoters need to do their research before signing fighters and yes, some will look great outside the UFC but a shell of themselves when they get into the Octagon. How can the UFC justify firings of "boring" fighters such as Jon Fitch or Jacob Volkmann but oversaturate the product with a mess like this one?
As crazy as this sounds, Rolles Gracie would have made a better fight against either of these guys or anyone else for that matter.
The Serra-Longo fight team keeps on unearthing studs their camp while staying under the radar as one of the most underrated camps in mixed martial arts (MMA). Al Iaquinta dished out the fists against Ryan Couture, rocking the son of UFC legend Randy Couture on several occasions and hitting him hard on the chin for an entire three rounds. Couture showed positive signs by keeping Iaquinta at bay with kicks and even landed a some flashy strikes, including a flying knee, the strong and powerful Iaquinta overmatched him. Iaquinta got the win he needed to maintain his standing with the promotion having lost two straight. Couture showed a lot of heart and that he could take a shot so even if he is on a two-fight losing streak, he should get another call. Dana White said he certainly did not get his chin from his father and that should prove the son of "The Natural" is welcomed back for one more fight. His last three opponents have been tough ones, as Iaquinta, Ross Pearson and K.J. Noons could all be a level above him even though he is 1-2 in those past three fights.
The Facebook "Prelims" kicked off with Cedenblad defeating Jared Hamman in just 57 seconds, as "The Messenger" shot for a takedown but found himself on the receiving end of a tight guillotine choke and had no choice but to tap out. Cedenblad bounces back after losing his promotional debut to Francis Carmont nearly a year-and-a-half ago. It may be the end of the road for Hamman, who despite having tough fights during the course of his four-year UFC career (Alexander Gustafsson, Costa Philippou, C.B. Dollaway) it is his third stoppage loss in a row and he did not show anything special to give his bosses a reason to keep him around.