UFC 164 live blog: Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis
Welcome to SI.com's live play-by-play blog for UFC 164: Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis from the BMS Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. We're glad you could join us. Our main card tonight:
11:55 p.m. -- And we're on to our main event, a rematch between UFC lightweight Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. They met in December 2010 for a closely contested five-round WEC title bout. Some had Bendo up; others believed Pettis was the rightful winner. Of course, the highlight of this bout was Pettis' off-the-cage Matrix kick that smacked Bendo's face like a a well-placed glove. Bendo lost the title that night and Pettis never got to reign when the WEC dibanded shortly afterward.
A Duke Roufus protege, Pettis (16-2) is a kicking force. In his last two bouts, he flattened Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone with high kicks. He's fun to watch. Henderson (19-2) is pretty much all you want in a lightweight champion: great physique with broad shoulders and thick legs for explosiveness; strength, innate timing, calmness, and flexibility everywhere. This guy once fought while in a full split and didn't even know it. (I asked him about it.) Again, I must point out that Bendo has braided his hair for the first time ever. No more hair flopping and brushing it out of his way. I wonder if he'll phantom brush.
Bendo is pacing back and forth, looking every sober. Pettis is bouncing on his heels, trying to stay loose. Our referee is Herb Dean. The two take center for instructions. Both stare into each other's eyes, but don't touch gloves. Very tense.
Round 1: Bendo takes center and backs Pettis to fence. Bendo goes for TD, switches to single. Pettis is on one leg, fighting it off. Bendo leaning on Pettis, trying to tire him out. Pettis gets out, but Bendo throws a strong combo and pushes Pettis back to the fence. Again, he has a single leg, then lands a nice uppercut before they seperate. Pettis does not get far. Back to the fence. Pettis kicking Pettis' calf; double hooks in. Pettis shrugs Bendo off. Pettis with body kick. 1:20 to go. Pettis with another body kick and two more. And another. Bendo grimacing. Bendo takes Pettis down. Center canvas. Pettis with an armbar and Bendo taps. That's it. It's done. It was a verbal tap. Both of Bendo's arms were trapped in Pettis' legs. My goodness. Official: Anthony Pettis def. Benson Henderson - Tapout (Verbal - Armbar) 4:31 R1.
Anthony Pettis is your new UFC lightweight champion. He wins the title in his hometown of Milwaukee. Pettis said he heard Bendo's arm pop, then heard him say, "Tap, tap, tap." Wow. One of Pettis' kicks was a capoeira-like kick off one hand. He also landed a knee in the onslaught. Bendo thanks Christ and says he'll be back. His arm is under his shirt. Rogan asks about it and Bendo said "It's killing me, dog." Bendo said his game plan was moving forward, keeping it close, but he gave too much space and Pettis took advantage with the flurry of body kicks.
Tonight's Crib Notes: A lot of notable performances. From the undercard up: Magnus Cedenblad, Al Iaquinta, Tim Elliott and Lim Hyun-Ju stood out. On the main card Dustin Poirer grinded down the very tough Eric Koch impressively, keeping him in the title hunt. Ben Rothwell's out-of-nowhere surge was so uncharacteristic of him, but entertaining and effective. Vera was looking decent up to that point, but his future with the UFC is now uncertain. Mendes is as dangerous as ever, making Guida look old and irrelevant in the featherweight division. Mir is 0-3 in the heavyweight division and at a crossroads.
Pettis will be an easy champion for the UFC to market with his flashy finishes. I have to say, something did look off about Bendo tonight -- wasn't exactly himself, though it's hard to put my finger on what made tonight different for him.
11:35 p.m. -- Co-main event time. Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett is on deck. This is a heavyweight bout I've been looking forward to seeing. Josh Barnett. Where should we start? He became the youngest UFC champion in 2002 when he beat Randy Couture, but exited the promotion after getting busted for steroids in Nevada. He's never been back to the UFC until now. Relations between himself and Dana White have been sticky in the past, but once the UFC bought out Strikeforce, it was either the Octagon or Bellator. Barnett is a great ground tactician, decent on his feet, and almost undefeatable when he finds mount. He deserves to be in the UFC, for sure.
Now 35, Barnett (32-8) has fought everywhere - Pride, Affliction, Strikeforce. Former UFC heavyweight champion Mir (16-7) has had a tough go in the big O with two back-to-back losses to Junior Dos Santos and Daniel Cormier. Although dangerous on the mat, Mir has a susceptible chin.
Barnett enters to some scary metal music. Mir comes in to something much mellower and kisses his wife, who is in the front row with their kids. Mir is looking leaner and fitter than usual. By the way, he's another fighter who got an exemption for testosterone replacement therapy for this bout. No touch of gloves and we're off.
Round 1: Barnett swarms with a Thai plumb and Mir is suddenly fighting for his life. Barnett with uppercuts and knees, but Mir answers back, trying to find a way out of Barnett's hold. Barnett releases the plumb, but has a wrist and is striking away. Mir is still standing, until a sudden knee to the head crumbles him. Brutal. It's over. Mir jumps back up and is steamed it got stopped. In replay, Barnett nailed Mir and he fell like a rag doll. He recovered quickly, but he looked flashed-KOed to me. Official: Josh Barnett def. Frank Mir - TKO (Strikes) 1:56 R1. Barnett was aggressive and handled Mir well. On the fence, he controlled wrists and then Mir's head, pinning it with his forearm at one point, until Mir bent over, and he landed the finishing knee. Barnett said the only thing going through his head in the final sequence was "KILL." Yikes. Barnett is a wildcard, for sure.
Clay Guida (30-13) is the first to enter the arena. He kisses some lucky lady on the way. His second bout at 145, Guida is coming off a split-decision win to Hatsu Hioki. After losses to Gray Maynard and Ben Henderson, featherweight is Guida's only shot at a title now.
After his sobering loss to featherweight champ Jose Aldo in July 2012, Mendes (14-1) has racked up three straight wins, the last being a 78-second TKO over Darren Elkins. Mendes is fast and powerful. Guida can be fast when he wants to be and can take heavy shots like a champ. This should be interesting.
Our ref is Yves Lavigne
Round 1: Mendes connecting early with quick combos and an outside kick. Guida is bopping all over the place, but not really landing. Mendes is more centered, but when he strikes, it's faster than Guida. Guida eventually shoots, Mendes locks in a guillotine choke, but Guida quickly scrambles out. Back to center, Guida with a high kick. Mendes lands a one-two. Guida is cut under his left eye. A little swelling forming. Mendes with an easy TD into Guida's guard. One minute left. I see a pattern here with guys shooting takedowns with one minute left on the clock to lock up the round. A quick scramble as Guida gets to his feet, but no other action to the bell. Mendes 10-9.
Round 2: Guida pressing forward and swinging, but Mendes is steering clear until Guida lands a low blow with a wild kick. We restart and the speed dial suddenly goes up a notch. Guida shoots in and Mendes sprawls, then briefly takes Guida's back. Guida is out. He shoots again, but Mendes thwarts it easy, then takes Guida down and maneuvers again to a kneeling Guida's back. He's got that move down. A scramble to its feet and back to center. Guida pushing forward and shoots again, but Mendes jumps out of the way and again moves to Guida's back. Guida up and we're back to center once again. Mendes is just too fast for Guida, who's suddenly starting to look old. Mendes 10-9/20-18.
Round 3: Guida comes out strong again, but gets nailed with a Mendes' counter and goes down. Mendes takes his back, then corners him on fence. A big right and Guida goes down. Stoppage city. Mendes got in a couple good shots after that right that dropped Guida in the final sequence. Official: Chad Mendes def. Clay Guida - TKO (Strikes) :30 R3. Mendes tells interviewer Joe Rogan that he needed to make a statement to get a title shot. Mendes says it's tough to go against a guy who moves around a lot like Guida.
10:39 p.m. - Bendo makes his first appearance on the screens. He is braided. I repeat. Bendo is braided. Achille's Heel?
Of course, Wisconsin's Rothwell (32-9) must be on this card. Rothwell had a great win over Brendan Schaub in April 2012, but dropped a second-round submission to Gabriel Gonzaga in January. Confirmed by MMAJunkie.com, Rothwell is on TRT for this bout. Not coincidentally, his physique has drastically improved over his last few fights. After four years at light heavy, Brandon Vera (12-6, 1 NC) is back to heavyweight tonight. He came in at 244 pounds yesterday. His last fight, over a year ago, was a fourth-round TKO loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Our ref is Herb Dean.
Round 1: Vera with a low kick, Rothwell answers with a landed punch. Rothwell shoots, stuffed and eats a Vera punch backing out. Rothwell with another good punch; Vera with a stinging low kick. Rothwell starting to stalk Vera. Vera circling out and nails Rothwell on the nose. Rothwell is cut on his bridge, but keeps moving forward and lands a one-two. More Rothwell stalking, Vera circling. Rothwell with an inside kick. Vera with a body kick. Rothwell with a high kick that doesn't land. Rothwell is still chasing Vera. If he doesn't catch him, he'll tire out. Rothwell nails Vera with a body kick that grazes his crotch. Vera gets a break. Unintentional. They start again and bell sounds immediately. Vera 10-9 with his kicks, but Rothwell isn't far behind with one-two combos.
Round 2: Our first clinch, somewhere Vera doesn't want to be. Vera escapes at first, but gets caught again. Rothwell tying Vera up, leaning on him until Vera can circle out. Rothwell is trying to get that one-two in. Another clinch and Rothwell uppercuts, but Vera counters coming out. Vera with an outside kick. Another kick. A high kick that misses. Rothwell is slowing down slightly. Rothwell with a body punch, head punch, traps Vera on fence. vera fends him off with an elbow. Back to center with 30 seconds left. Vera high kick. Vera with a left straight. At this point, Rothwell is tentatively pawing in to try and land. It's not really working. Vera 20-18.
Round 3: Rothwell lands a body kick and Vera grabs Rothwell, who pushes him to fence. Ref Dean seperates them. Rothwell with an uppercut. And then he amps it up quickly, punching in with velocity we haven't seen from him. He traps Vera on fence and begins to unload. Uppercuts, knees. Right hand, uppercut and Vera spills to mat. Stoppage. Official: Ben Rothwell def. Brandon Vera - TKO (Strikes) 1:54 R3. Rothwell says Vera got a good body kick in early on, but his conditioning came through. That last surge from Rothwell seemed to come out of nowhere. He thanks the fans for it.
Rothwell asks to fight Travis Browne - says it will basically be the fight of the century. Probably not, but it's a fair fight to make at this point.
11:07 p.m. -- UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz makes an appearance -- not to tell us he's coming back finally -- but to plug some video game. Sigh.
Eric Koch's (13-2) most recent Octagon turn was a second-round TKO loss to Ricard Lamas. Before that, he was on a four-fight win streak between the WEC and UFC. Koch was supposed to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight belt at UFC 149, but pulled out with an injury and lost his place in line. Poirer (13-3) has gone 1-2 in his last three for the UFC. He dropped a unanimous decision to a surging Cub Swanson in February, with Swanson a last-minute replacement. These two were originally supposed to fight in February 2012. Both are southpaws, too.
10:15 p.m. -- Poirer enters first. Koch follows with Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren in his corner. Our referee is Rob Hinds.
Round 1: A trade of kicks. Poirer connects early with a straight, then another that floors Koch. Koch latches on a tight triangle choke quickly. Poirer pulls out with all his might and tries to find his breath in Koch's dangerous guard. Poirer gets to his feet and pushes Koch to the fence. Poirer with a knee. They seperate and Poirer lands a huge right that drops Koch. Poirer in half, Koch fighting for his life on the fence. Koch wall-walks up, but is taken down immediately. Koch is dazed. Poirer to half guard and secures the D'Arce choke. 15 seonds to go. Koch survives to bell. Poirer 10-9 in a crazy, exciting round.
Round 2: Koch seems recovered. He's throwing, as Poirer tries to set up a big counter. Poirer with a successful straight, then a left hook in the pocket. Poirer capitalizes with a trip takedown. Poirer takes Koch's back. He's relentless. Neck crank attempt. Now he's in full mount, trying to lock up an arm-triangle. Poirer dropping from solid punches. Koch cut under his right eye. Koch wall-walks, but Poirer keeps him on fence, landing knees. Koch is bleeding from his nose now. Poirer isn't letting up and you can see it starting to take its toll on the hometown boy. Koch gets away with 50 seconds left. Back to center, Poirer lands a nice left hook, Koch a knee. Bell. Poirer 10-9/20-18 in a more definitive round for him.
Round 3: Koch is down on the cards for sure. He comes out pumping his jab, then tries to throw some combos. Poirer pushes him to fence, drops levels for TD attempt. Koch fighting to stay on his feet. Trading knees, then Poirer drops levels again for the TD. No go. Poirer fumbles a trip and Koch falls on top in P's guard. Koch trying to pass, but Poirer defends. Koch starts throwing elbows. Koch again tries to pass guard; Poirer tries to backdoor out, but Koch takes his back, hoping for last-minute rally. He has both hooks in. Poirer is on his feet; Koch sliding off the front of him. Koch manages to keep Poirer's back, body triangles him. With :15 to go, Koch tries to get the RNC, but he's too spent. Bell. Koch 10-9/ Poirer 29-28 on my card. Official: Dustin Poirer def. Eric Koch - Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27). Two judges must have scored R1 a 10-8 for that big knockdown.
• Gleison Tibau's size and strength was initially too much for former WEC champ Jamie Varner, and Tibau took a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) in the end. The Brazilian brickhouse grounded Varner in the first round and ground-and-pounded him against the fence. In round two, Varner rolled the dice and jumped guard with a guillotine attempt, but Tibau wiggled out and mandhandled Varner in half guard, then full mount to the bell. Down on the cards, Varner swung for the fences in the final set, and hurt his right hand in the process. Throwing lefts, Varner managed to stumble a waning Tibau, then took him down. With 1:30 left, Varner pounded away to win the round, but not the fight.
• South Korean Lim Hyun-Ju showed promise in his aggressive dismantling of Pascal Krauss, stopping the German welterweight with strikes 3:58 into round one. The beginning of the end came with a Hyun-Ju overhand right. Krauss backed out, but his legs betrayed him with a stumble and Hyun-Ju went in for the kill. He crumpled Krauss on the fence with a crushing knee to his chin, and finished with strikes for the stoppage. Krauss was never able to get anything going.
• Flyweight Tim Elliott easily earned a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26) over Louis Gaudinot in an impressive showing. Elliott was relentless in the first round, grounding Gaudinot and hammering into his guard, then unloading on him later after trapping him on the fence. This set the pace for the next two rounds, where Gaudinot was overwhelmed everywhere. A textbook ground-and-pound demolition.
• In a spirited back-and-forth bantamweight battle, Chico Camus defeated Kyung Ho Kang by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27). Kang led with takedowns, but Camus initiated reversals and scrambles that sent the fighters everywhere across the canvas. Camus landed a huge upkick in the final seconds of the third round to punctuate his victory (Coach Duke Roufus told Camus to keep working the upkick between rounds). The bout was much more evenly matched then the scores would suggest.
• Australian Soa Palelei outlasted the much younger Nikita Krylov with a TKO referee stoppage from strikes 1:34 in the third round. It was a messy heavyweight bout that deteriorated as the fight went on, as conditioning a factor for both. Palelei kept the 21-year-old Russian striker at bay with key takedowns at the top of each round, though Krylov had some opportunities to stop the 36-year-old from his back and standing (especially in the second round when he stunned Palelei's ribs with a body shot), but couldn't seal the deal.
• TUF 15 finalist Al Iaquinta earned a sound unanimous decision (30-27 all) over Ryan Couture in an action-filled lightweight bout. Long Islander Iaquinta scored with heavy jabs and straights and sewed up rounds one and two with completed takedowns before the bell. Couture fared better with front kicks and two flying knees, but Iaquinta's overall power advantage and a third-round standing elbow, which opened the Xtreme Couture fighter up, cinched Iaquinta's win. Iaquinta improved to 1-1 in the promotion; Couture dropped to 0-2.
• Swedish middleweight Magnus Cedenblad made quick work of Jarred Hamman in the night's opener, securing Hamman's head from a shoot, then nimbly flipping to full mount to apply the pressure for the guillotine tapout only 57 seconds in. Hamman has dropped three straight in the Octagon; Cedenblad bounces to 1-1.