UFC 164 was one heck of a card, and the crowd in Milwaukee got its money's worth.
Twelve fights in total lined the card. Seven preliminary bouts got the evening started before transitioning to the pay-per-view telecast for the final five bouts. Five of the 12 fights had finishes with two submissions and three knockouts.
There was a little something for everyone.
Three stars stood above the rest on Saturday night's main card, and I have one bonus fighter from the preliminary action who deserves a mention.
Hyun Gyu Lim - Preliminary Bout
Lim is a massive welterweight. He looked exceptionally big against Pascal Krauss on Saturday.
He wanted to trade with Krauss on the feet and didn't utilize his length well in the early going. He allowed Krauss to find a home for his jab, but he got in some offense of his own as well. It was shaping up to be an interesting stand-up affair.
That is until Lim landed cleanly.
He packs a lot of power in his massive frame, and Krauss felt it. Once Lim knew he stunned Krauss, he cautiously stalked him while seeking the finish. When Lim landed a knee to the face, it signaled the end of the fight. He got a couple of more blows in before the referee stopped the action, but the performance left a lasting impression.
As the UFC tries to expand its global footprint, having successful fighters of other nationalities is important. The Korean made a statement in this UFC bout, and that will help the UFC machine in Asia. Lim will no doubt be touted overseas, which will make him a bigger figure worldwide.
Poirier has been on the brink of a title shot before. He came up just short against Chan Sung Jung. He then started to work his way back to the top before being sidetracked by Cub Swanson.
Erik Koch had his title shot taken away by injuries. When he returned, his momentum was halted by Ricardo Lamas.
This was a matchup of two great featherweight prospects who are similar. It was a matter of who would establish himself as the star who is more ready for the next step in the division. That man turned out to be Poirier.
The first round was exciting, and it earned Poirier two 10-8 scorecards. While some may disagree with the scoring, it is hard to deny the damage he inflicted. He came close to finishing the fight twice: once with strikes and the other time via submission.
Poirier took the decision win, and that will allow him to climb the ladder a bit higher. He defeated the No. 10-ranked featherweight, and it will be hard to keep Poirier off that list when the next rankings are due.
Chad Mendes is the No. 1-ranked featherweight, but he has had a hard time sparking interest in a rematch with Jose Aldo for the championship strap. That is likely to change after his performance on Saturday.
He used to be seen as a wrestler who grinds out wins, but after dropping the title bid to Aldo, Mendes has four consecutive KO/TKO finishes to his credit. His latest, at UFC 164 against Clay Guida, was his most impressive.
Guida is a durable fighter. While he had been dropped before, he had never been finished with strikes. Mendes changed all that.
The featherweight division is jammed at this juncture, but only Mendes has the resume and star power to get the fans behind him. The only other featherweight who rivals him is Cub Swanson, but Mendes has the better credentials.
Mendes' performance at UFC 164 may have been his golden ticket to a title rematch.
It is hard to keep Pettis off a list such as this. He was already a rising star.
Pettis entered the UFC with a lot of fanfare. He won the WEC Lightweight Championship prior to coming over to the organization, but Clay Guida nabbed a decision from him to ruin his introduction. Since then, Pettis put together a three-fight win streak.
He was going to drop to featherweight to battle Aldo, but an injury sidetracked that title shot. However, things had a way of working out for the best. After an injury to TJ Grant, Pettis stepped in to challenge Benson Henderson for the UFC Lightweight Championship.
His performance was even more stellar than what he could have hoped for.
In their first meeting in the WEC, it was a back-and-forth fight. Exciting but close. This time, Pettis finished the fight in the first round. A swift armbar was all it took. Henderson could not escape, and Pettis became the UFC titleholder for the first time in his career.
This is the type of performance that will get people talking. Time will tell if Pettis can bring the lightweight division back to the heights when BJ Penn ruled it, but he has the tools to do that. He is a potential star for the UFC and the 155-pound division.
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