UFC 164 Results: Questions Answered and Lessons Learned
When Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson first met at WEC 53, Pettis took Henderson's WEC lightweight championship belt. At UFC 164, "Showtime" managed to take things a step further by ripping the UFC lightweight championship right out of Henderson's arms.
It's tough to argue that, in spite of Henderson's dominating stint as the 155-pound king, Pettis has his number.
It wasn't all about the main event, though. Chad Mendes reminded the world of his mad quest to get a second shot at Jose Aldo, and Josh Barnett returned to the UFC in a dramatic fashion.
Let's take a look at some of the more valuable lessons learned in Milwaukee, Wisonsin.
The Mythical Brandon Vera Was Never Meant to Be
Regardless of how many self-reinventions Brandon Vera undergoes, it seems impossible for him to materialize the type of awe-inspiring, dual-champion performance he once promised the world.
At UFC 164, Vera sought to establish some semblance of a presence in a UFC that had evolved leaps and bounds since his earlier bouts for the promotion.
Ben Rothwell was determined to not let that happen.
After a relatively competitive first two rounds, Rothwell landed a clean strike that staggered Vera back towards the cage. A few more critical strikes eventually downed Vera long enough for the referee to call the fight.
Blind luck and chance brought him back to the UFC, though unfortunately his admirable return fight against Shogun Rua resulted in a KO loss. With his lackluster effort against Rothwell at UFC 164, Vera is staring at the bad end of consecutives losses capping off a 12-7 career record.
Unfulfilled potential is an upsetting thing, but when the stark reality is upon us, it's justifiable to consider "Truth" to be just that—the great that could have been but never was.
Chad Mendes Is the No. 1 Contender for a Reason
Were it not for a knockout loss to champion Jose Aldo in early 2012, Chad "Money" Mendes would have a perfect record.
His performance at UFC 164 validated exactly why that's the case.
A Tazmanian Devil materialized in combat form, opponent Clay Guida started the bout in his classic bounce-bounce-strike fashion. In return, Mendes kept his composure and remain unfazed by the blistering movement.
In the third round, Mendes landed a critical right hook that immediately dropped Guida to his knees. After a mad scramble, Money threw a few close-range shots until the referee saw enough to call the fight.
Save for Ricardo Lamas, it's now become tough to argue that anyone else is more deserving of a shot at 145-pound gold. Thankfully, Mendes has no reservations about settling the argument as to who's the geniune No. 1 contender.
Four straight knockout wins culminating in the first knockout of Clay Guida's 34-fight career is certainly a bold way to remind Aldo that you're coming back better than ever.
Josh Barnett Is a Formidable Heavyweight Contender
After an 11-year stint away from the UFC—with much of his international efforts adding dominant wins to his impressive 33-6 record—Josh "The Warmaster" Barnett may be able to create the kind of chaos that an otherwise shallow heavyweight roster needs at the moment.
When you get past Velasquez, Cormier, dos Santos and a handful of others, you're left with a division that has some promising talent without the kind of experience or pedigree needed to really make some waves.
At UFC 164, Barnett used brutal infighting and clinch work to rough up the No. 6 ranked heavyweight Frank Mir.
With a rock-solid chin, Barnett easily weathered any counter shots that Mir threw—ultimately landing a single, brutal knee that downed Mir to the cage floor.
Whether or not you think the stoppage was early, there's no reason to doubt that a savage veteran like Barnett would have followed up with a few more crippling blows from his standing position to really debilitate Mir—why demand the unnecessary damage?
When the new heavyweight rankings comes through, Barnett will likely be a few steps higher than No. 10 and in prime position to continue to his war path.
Anthony Pettis Always Had Benson Henderson's Number
Showtime Kick aside, WEC 53 left some lingering doubts as to who was superior between Anthony "Showtime" Pettis and Benderson "Smooth" Henderson. Showtime's critics argued that the kick-heard-round-the-world was the only reason the judges gave him the win—Henderson was presumed to be the more complete and capable fighter.
Pettis put those critics to rest at UFC 164.
If the rematch reduced to a matter of which fighter had evolved more in the three years since their first bout, Pettis made it all too clear that he'd added more tricks to his trade than Henderson is capable of handling.
From the opening bell, Henderson sought to capitalize on his presumed wrestling advantages—he pinned Pettis against the cage and worked feverishly for a double-leg takedown.
Pettis wasn't having it.
They eventually split and, once the right distance was achieved, Showtime landed a series of brutal body kicks. From the sickening thud of his shin slamming into Henderson's ribs, it was clear why the champion winced and backed toward the fence.
Eventually, Pettis' predisposition towards flashy techniques materialized in a cartwheel kick attempt; Henderson blocked it as the two crashed toward the canvas.
Was this the opportunity for the champion to demonstrate his grappling superiority?
Certainly not. Pettis swiveled his hips for a textbook armbar and, with both arms trapped beneath his torso, the champion was forced to verbally submit.
As the new lightweight kingpin, Pettis just dethroned a man that had gone on a title run long enough to rival the famed BJ Penn. Regardless of who he fights next, his unpredictability and versatility won't be an easy puzzle to solve.
With the added confidence of gold around his waist, Showtime might be saving some of his more explosive techniques for any contenders who dare challenge the title.
Full Results and Bonuses
Fight Bonuses ($50,000 each)
Fight of the Night: Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Pascal Krauss
Knockout of the Night: Chad Mendes
Submission of the Night: Anthony Pettis
Anthony Pettis becomes the new lightweight champion by def. Benson Henderson via verbal submission (armbar) - Round 1, 4:31
Josh Barnett def. Frank Mir via TKO (strikes) - Round 1, 1:56
Chad Mendes def. Clay Guida TKO (punches) - Round 3, 0:30
Ben Rothwell def. Brandon Vera via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 1:54
Dustin Poirier def. Erik Koch via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Gleison Tibau def. Jamie Varner via split decision (29-28, 27-29, 29-28)
Tim Elliott def. Louis Gaudinot via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Hyun Gyu Lim def. Pascal Krauss via TKO (strikes) - Round 1, 3:58
Chico Camus def. Kyung Ho Kang via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Soa Palelei def. Nikita Krylov via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 1:34
Al Iaquinta def. Ryan Couture via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Magnus Cedenblad def. Jared Hamman via submission (guillotine choke) - Round 1, 0:57