UFC 164 went down this Saturday night from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin headlined by the rematch almost three years in the making between Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. Entering the fight the common consensus was that Pettis needed a knockout to take the title from Henderson who is the master of winning decisions. It didn't work out that way. Henderson pushed the pace early on and controlled Pettis against the fence for long periods of the opening round. When Pettis did manage to get free he unleashed a series of vicious body kicks to Henderson, landing five in a row at one stage. With just a minute left in the opening frame Pettis threw an outlandish wheel-kick which Henderson caught in mid-air and took Pettis to the ground. Almost as soon as they hit the floor Pettis sunk in a beautiful armbar. Henderson tried valiantly to escape but couldn't. The champion was forced to verbally submit with just twenty nine second left in the very first round. Prior to the fight Pettis and his team were adamant that he had Henderson number. It looks like they were right. Next up for Pettis is a possible superfight with featherweight king Jose Aldo who he called out in his post-fight interview.
The co-main event was a clash of former UFC heavyweight champions as Frank Mir took on Josh Barnett. It was a battle fought at a frenetic page from the beginning as they clinched against the fence and unloaded a series of sickening uppercuts on each other. The decisive, and ultimately final, blow came from Barnett as he landed a huge knee to the dome of his opponent and dropped him to the floor. By the time Mir was able to get to his feet and complain, referee Rob Hinds had stepped in and stopped the fight with just under two minutes left on the stopwatch. It was somewhat of an early stoppage considering Mir recovered so quickly, but as he seemed to fall limp after the kick had landed nobody can have too many complaints.
Featherweights ranked #1, Chad Mendes, and #9, Clay Guida, met in a fight, former title challenger, Mendes entered as the heavy favourite and it played out exactly how the odds-makers had predicted with the Californian dominating the action throughout. The team-alpha male student bossed both the striking and wrestling against an opponent who was never going to give up. In round three, though, Mendes stepped it up and rocked Guida with a series of pinpoint right hands which eventually dropped him to the floor and forced referee Yves Lavigne to step in, giving Guida the first ever knockout loss of his career and moving Mendes one step closer to an almost inevitable rematch with champion Jose Aldo. Although he may have to wait if Anthony Pettis gets his hands on him first.
The second heavyweight fight on the main card was the evenly fought match-up between Ben Rothwell and Brandon Vera who was in his first fight back at 265 lbs. Vera seemed to to be the more mobile fighter in the opining two rounds and showcased his Muay Thai with some big body kicks. In the final round, though, Rothwell came out with an added impetuous, pushing Vera against the cage and landing a series of concussive blows dropping his opponent to the ground forcing referee Herb Dean to step in and stop the fight with just three minutes left.
Opening the main card was a round of the year candidate between Erik Koch and Dustin Poirier. As soon as it began Koch secured the takedown and had Poirier deep in a triangle choke. Poirier escaped, though, and minutes later dropped Koch with a huge right hand. The first round ended with the bell saving Koch who was caught in a tight d'arce choke. Poirier took advantage of the damage done to Koch and dominated the middle round with the significant move being an early takedown. Koch, though, seemed to have recovered as the round ended and in the third began to get the better of Poirier, securing a takedown of his own where he began to beat up Dustin from his guard, who in turn was able to defend well and take it to a judges decision. The unanimous decision went the way of Poirier (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
The preliminary section of the evenings business contained four superb fights showcasing a quartet of the lighter weight divisions and was headlined by former WEC champion Jamie Varner against Gleison Tibau. After an evenly fought first round the Brazilian took over in the second as Varner struggled to cope with the size of Tibau who was able to get the takedown midway through the frame and stay on top until the bell. The final round, though, personified what Jamie Varner is all about. He came back with a vengeance and had Tibau in trouble going into the last minute of the fight. Tibau held on and took the closest of split decisions (29-28, 27-29, 29-28).
Tim Elliott and Louis Gaudinot threw down at flyweight in one of the most entertaining fights of the night. As per usual, it was a swashbuckling three rounder in the lightest division with Elliot dominating throughout. Gaudinot, as the smaller man, couldn't deal with the size advantage of Elliott who took his green-haired opponent down at will in all three rounds. The unanimous decision went the way of Elliott (30-27, 30-26, 30-26).
In the welterweight division Hyun Gyu Lim brutalised Pascal Krauss to win his seventh straight fight. The victory came inside of four minutes after Krauss had already been knocked twice with referee Rob Hinds generously letting the fight continue. The final blow was a devastating knee to the face of Krauss which rendered him unable to continue. And at bantamweight Chico Camus won somewhat of a controversial (dare I say hometown) decision against Kyung Ho Kang in a fight which the Korean dominated for long periods. A late upkick, which almost knocked out Kang, was the decisive blow and won Camus the judges decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
There were three early prelims as, firstly, Sweden's Magnus Cedenblad kicked off the night with a magnificent guillotine submission of Jared Hamman and afterward called out Dylan Andrews who defeated his countryman, Papi Abedi, only three days previously. Al Iaquinta produced a slick second UFC performance to win every round on the judges cards against the now 0-2 in the UFC, Ryan Couture. While rounding off the trio was the heavyweight bout between Soa Palelei and Nikita Kyrlov in which 'The Hulk' came through a broken rib to win via TKO in round three following one of the most tired looking fights in UFC history.