Lightweight champion Benson Henderson was looking to avenge his only loss in the past three years against Anthony Pettis—a fighter many consider to be the future of the 155-pound division.
Their first meeting resulted in a "Fight of the Year"-worthy performance in 2010, and when their paths crossed once again on Saturday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the expectation was high for another explosive showdown.
That certainly was the case for this go-around, except it didn't take Pettis five rounds to get the job done. The Duke Roufus-trained fighter submitted Henderson in the first round of their tilt to become the newly crowned lightweight champion.
In the co-main event, two former champions battled for relevancy in the increasingly competitive ranks of the heavyweight division, as Frank Mir and Josh Barnett locked up to determine who would retain their elite-level status in the UFC fold.
Mir, a two-time former belt-holder, came into UFC 164 in desperate need to stop a two-fight skid. Barnett, meanwhile, was looking to make good on his first appearance inside the Octagon after 11 years competing in rival competitions.
The bout was a crucial tilt for both men, but once the cage door closed, it was all Barnett. From the opening bell, both men came out aggressively, but "The Warmaster" put Mir against the cage and went to work. After he landed several big shots from the clinch, the 35-year-old veteran landed a big knee that dropped Mir hard on the canvas, and the bout was stopped shortly after.
Outside of the lightweight title fight and a heavyweight scrap between two of the MMA's top submission artists, the card at UFC 164 was filled with action-packed violence from top to bottom. Face-punching goodness was high on the menu, as fighters from every corner of the UFC roster looked to make a statement in Milwaukee.
The knockouts came fast and furious, and the green hair flew. Let's take a look at the good, bad and strange from UFC 164.
Anthony Pettis had been on a long road to reach a UFC title shot. On Saturday night in his hometown of Milwaukee, that journey came to a triumphant end. "Showtime" submitted Benson Henderson to become the lightweight champion and made the most of an opportunity that was originally supposed to come his way three years earlier.
With the victory, Pettis became the first man to defeat Henderson under the UFC banner, and he did so in impressive fashion. After a series of vicious body kicks backed the MMA Lab product up, Pettis threw a wild kick that brought the action to the canvas.
Before Henderson could establish control on the ground, the 26-year-old locked in an armbar which forced Henderson to verbally tap out to referee Herb Dean.
During his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, the newly crowned champion called out featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo to put their belts on the line in a proposed "superfight." The matchup was originally slated to take place earlier this month at UFC 163, but with two titles on the line, a Pettis vs. Aldo throwdown would certainly become one of the biggest fights of the year.
It had been more than a decade since Josh Barnett last handed out damage inside the Octagon, but he picked up exactly where he left off on Saturday night. The former heavyweight champion knocked out fellow former strap-holder Frank Mir in the first round of their co-main event tilt.
The victory over Mir will launch Barnett into the heavyweight title picture and guarantee his next opponent will come from the division's upper tier. A possible matchup with Travis Browne makes a lot of sense, but we'll have to wait to see where Barnett's win on Saturday night puts him in the divisional mix.
Chad Mendes has been on a tear through the 145-pound ranks, and that barnstorming continued on Saturday night. The former No. 1 contender made a strong case for a title shot by knocking out Clay Guida in the third round of their dust-up at UFC 164.
In the process of being the first man to stop "The Carpenter" via punches, Mendes picked up his fourth consecutive victory (all by way of knockout) since losing to Aldo at UFC 142 back in January 2012.
While the title picture at 145 pounds is murky with Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson knocking on the door of a championship opportunity, "Money" solidified his place in that conversation as well in Milwaukee.
Another featherweight determined to remain with the elite in the division is Dustin Poirier. After dropping two out of three of his most recent outings, he came in to his bout at UFC 164 looking to regain traction.
"The Diamond" faced early adversity in the form of an Erik Koch triangle choke, but once he broke free, the American Top Team product brought the thunder. Poirier came close to finishing the bout after a huge right hand put Koch on the deck late in the first round, and then he followed things up with a strong offensive top game in the second round.
The Louisiana native took the victory on the judges' scorecards and put himself back in the highly competitive mix at 145 pounds.
With the flyweight division being one of the newest weight classes in the UFC fold, fighters at 125 pounds can take huge steps forward with each showing. On Saturday night at UFC 164, Tim Elliott did just that by defeating The Ultimate Fighter alum Louis Gaudinot via unanimous decision at UFC 164.
The 26-year-old put on a gritty, high-paced performance, as he kept the pressure on the New Jersey native. Elliot's victory makes him successful in back-to-back outings and will guarantee his next opponent will come from the upper tier of the division.
Hyun Gyu Lim and Pascal Krauss engaged in a "go-for-broke" dust-up that brought the ruckus for one beautifully violent round. After both fighters landed heavy shots, Lim put a right hand on Krauss that made his brain forget how to control his legs.
To his credit, "Panzer" did everything he could to return fire, but with his body still on roller skates, the Duke Roufus-trained fighter ducked into a brutal knee from Lim that brought an end to the fight.
The victory was Lim's second consecutive under the UFC banner and his seventh straight overall.
Moving back to heavyweight was supposed to reignite Brandon Vera's career, but a knockout loss to Ben Rothwell at UFC 164 is going to put him in troubled waters. Where the Team Alliance fighter was once considered a title contender in two divisions, his recent run under the UFC banner has gone in the opposite direction.
Vera has found victory in just one fight in his last six showings. Granted, his loss to Thiago Silva was overturned to a "no contest" after the Blackzilian failed his post-fight drug test, but Vera's fall from grace has been substantial.
One year ago, Erik Koch was slated to face Jose Aldo for the featherweight title at UFC 153. An injury would force the 24-year-old to the sidelines where he was replaced by former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in the bout with the Brazilian phenom.
Koch would return to the Octagon against Ricardo Lamas at UFC on Fox 6 in January, but a second-round drubbing at the hands and elbows of "The Bully" soured his return to action. On Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the "Newbreed" was looking to get back to form against Dustin Poirier, but he didn't get the results he was looking for.
The Duke Roufus-trained fighter survived an early onslaught from Poirier to bounce back in the final round, but it wasn't enough to tip the balance on the judges' scorecards. While his effort was certainly valiant and not worthy of landing in this particular category, his fall from title contention has to be noted.
Where Koch was once heralded as a potential threat to Aldo, back-to-back losses in a deep division will serve to push him off the title radar for the foreseeable future.
When a fighter campaigns hard to get back to the UFC, it's important to put on a strong performance once you get there. Soa Palelei hadn't stepped foot inside the Octagon in over five years, but on Saturday night, "The Hulk" made his long-awaited return against Nikita Krylov.
Unfortunately for the 36-year-old Australian, what transpired was one of the worst fights in recent memory. By the end of the first round, both fighters were exhausted, and that made the second frame appear as if they were fighting in quicksand. Palelei found his mark in the final frame and landed a combination that dropped Krylov, and he pounded out the stoppage shortly after.
In the post-fight interview, Palelei revealed he had injured his rib a week before the fight, and if that is in fact the case, then it was a gritty showing to endure. That being said, in the competitive world of mixed martial arts, a fighter is only as good as his last showing, and Palelei's performance in Milwaukee left much to be desired.
Referee Rob Hinds made an appearance in the previous installment of "Good, Bad and Strange" with his handling of the bout between Abel Trujillo and Roger Bowling at Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis, and his rough week continued on Saturday night in Milwaukee.
After Josh Barnett crumbled Frank Mir with a knee in the opening round of their co-main event matchup, Hinds dove in to stop the fight before "The Warmaster" could set about dishing out punishment. While I personally think the stoppage was a bit premature, the road was only going to get rougher for a dazed Mir.
I'm not sure what was going on during the first two rounds, but once Ben Rothwell started doing the "Berserker" dance in the third, the end came shortly after for Brandon Vera. After chasing "The Truth" around for two frames, Rothwell let loose with some herky-jerky movement before he started launching bombs at Vera against the cage.
The Wisconsin native landed several big shots that put Vera on the mat and caused referee Herb Dean to step in. Following his victory, "Big Ben" took to the mic to call out contender Travis Browne. Whether that fight is out of his reach remains to be seen, but the 31-year-old certainly put a stamp on his performance at UFC 164.
Typically, seeing a fighter with green hair is strange enough, but when his opponent inside the cage is sporting one of the worst beard/haircut combos in recent memory, the ideal elements for an entry into this category are in place.
While the flyweight battle between Louis Gaudinot and Tim Elliott was a fierce affair, their respective presentations simply had to be mentioned.
Milwaukee native Chico Camus and Kyung Ho Kang locked up in a back-and-forth, three-round tilt with the Roufusport fighter taking the decision on the judges' scorecards. It was a close fight that could have gone either way, but the judge who scored all three rounds to Camus needs a stern talking to.
The battle between Dana White and Hall of Famer Randy Couture has been a public affair. The bad blood between the two men has spilled into the public forum, as both have taken shots at one another. White took a big swing at the former two-divisional champion by forbidding "The Natural" from cornering his son Ryan Couture in UFC matches.
It wasn't just the lack of the senior Couture's presence that was strange on Saturday night, but also the avoidance of his name being mentioned entirely during the broadcast by Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. On two occasions, Rogan referred to the former champion as "his father" rather than state the obvious when talking about Couture's wrestling pedigree.
It appears Couture has become the new "Lord Voldemort" in the UFC fold.
Duane Finley is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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