It’s time to make a quick return to the Octagon for the UFC’s latest pay per view offering, with Anthony Pettis challenging Benson Henderson for the Lightweight title at UFC 164, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sports here in Britain.
The broadcast began with the prelims and the bantamweight encounter between Chico Camus and Kyung Ho Kang.
This certainly proved to be an interesting three round affair. Most of the best work during the first round or so came from Kang after he scored with the takedown. It was a sound performance from the Korean as he controlled the action, although he didn’t always have things his own way. Camus’ defensive work off his back was just as good, and it came as no surprise when he was finally able to reverse the positions and get off some good shots before the end of the second round.
The third round proved to be the decisive one. Camus got in some good blows during the stand up exchanges, but when Kang took the fight to the ground again it looked as if it was going to be more of the same. That wasn’t the case though. Camus managed to escape and connected with a knee that rocked his man, but when the fight went to the ground again Kang once again took top position.
So just when it looked like the Korean was going to cruise to win Camus connected with an up kick as Kang postured up. Kang was in la-la land as he went to the mat and Camus went to work. But time was against him as he went to work with the ground and pound.
Which mean that the judges were called into action for the first time during the broadcast, and all three were in agreement as Camus took the unanimous decision.
Then it was up to the welterweight division as Pascal Krauss faced Hyun Gyu Lim.
For the first three minutes of this fight these two stood in the middle of the cage exchanging blows. It made for great viewing as they went back and forth, each man getting in their fair share of blows.
But when Lim connected with a big right Krauss fell to the mat after a delayed reaction. The Korean followed him down, and even though Krauss managed to get back to his feet it was obvious to all that he was still badly hurt.
Lim went in for the kill, and although Krauss and his rubber legs survived a barrage of blows a knee to the head sent him crashing. Lim followed him down again before the referee stepped in to give Lim the TKO win.
It was down to flyweight for the next fight as Louis Gaudinot took on Tim Elliott.
Once again the flyweights delivered big time. Well, one of them did anyway. The action began when Elliott inadvertently poked Gaudinot in the eye, but once normal action resumed it was more or less a one-sided affair.
Elliott looked in top form throughout. Everything he did just looked so good, from his stand up game to his takedowns and his ground and pound. Gaudinot gave him a few good shots, but Elliott just ate those up and kept on coming.
As the fight progressed it became more and more obvious who was going to win. It was as if there wasn’t anything Gaudinot could do to stop Elliott’s attack, and the man who could probably earn a living as a Daniel Bryan tribute act didn’t just bloody the nose of his opponent he beat him up whenever he took the fight to the ground. It was a performance so complete that the only thing that was missing was the finish.
Which mean more work for the judges, and they agreed with everyone else as Elliott took the overwhelming unanimous decision.
The final preliminary fight featured lightweight action as Jamie Varner went up against Gleison Tibau.
The third three rounder of the night proved to be a very entertaining affair, and another example of how a fighter can come back into a fight a little too late.
The first two rounds clearly belonged to Tibau. Varner looked off his game a little as the Brazilian took control, particularly on the ground. It was another of those fights where everything just looked so smooth, such was his dominance, and as the second round ended it only looked a matter of time before Tibau would take the one.
But the Varner that came out for the third round was a different kind of animal to the Varner that had competed in the first two rounds. It was as if someone had put a new set of batteries in him. With Tibau visibly tiring Varner took control. His body shots clearly hurt the Brazilian, and when Varner took the fight to the ground Tibau began to look quite ordinary. The body shots clearly had had an effect on him as Varner looked to make an impression with the judges.
It did turn out to be too little to late, although the judges couldn’t agree as Tibau took the split decision.
The main show began in the featherweight division between Erik Koch and Dustin Poirier.
If the powers that be were looking for a great fight to start the pay per view then they certainly got it with this one.
After the initial feeling out process the fight went to the ground, and it looked like we were going to get the early finish when Koch locked in a triangle choke. But try as he might he just couldn’t get the job done, mainly because of Poirier’s sound defensive work.
It was then that Poirier took over and controlled the action. He allied some nice grappling with some hard ground and pound shots. Koch looked almost helpless at times, especially towards the end of the second when Poirier went for his hold of choice, the d’arce choke.
But as the third round began and both fighters jockeyed for position against the fence Koch managed to come back into the fight when the action went back to the ground. Although he wasn’t as active as Poirier he did enough, and it wasn’t long before he took his man’s back and went looking for a choke. Poirier’s defensive work meant that this opportunity wasn’t forthcoming, which meant that the fight ended with a virtual stalemate.
Which meant yet more work for the judges, and they were back on agreeable terms as Poirier took the unanimous decision.
The big boys of the heavyweight division were up next as Ben Rothwell took on Brandon Vera.
This certainly proved to be an interesting encounter, and a good mix of styles. Vera put on a good display early on. His stinging leg kicks to Rothwell’s bread basket looked great, and he used his speed to good effect against the bigger man.
But while Vera was the more technical of the two Rothwell looked like a big old bear stalking down his prey. He controlled the centre of the cage perfectly, keeping Vera against the fence as he sought to unleash with big blow after big blow, throwing a few well placed kicks, and one not so well placed kick, into the mix as well.
This was basically how the first two rounds played out. It wasn’t pretty to watch but it was effective, and as the third round began it looked like we were going to get more of the same until a big right from Rothwell rocked Vera. A series of uppercuts, knees and big rights followed as Vera slumped to the mat, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to give Rothwell the TKO win.
It was back to featherweight for the next fight as Chad Mendes faced Clay Guida.
Guida began this one with his usual jack in the box style as he sought to confuse Mendes with his perpetual motion, and although this tactic looked like it was having it’s desired effect at first it wasn’t long before Mendes began to see through this and impose his will on the fight, and as time went on Mendes just got better and better. His striking looked a lot more crisper than Guida’s, and when he took the fight to the ground his work there looked solid.
As with an earlier fight this was pretty much how the first two rounds played out, and it looked like we were going to get more of the same when the final round began. Then Mendes clipped Guida with a right that dropped him to the mat. A few seconds later another right sent Guida crashing again, and a few shots later the referee stepped in to give Mendes the TKO win.
The co-main event featured heavyweight action and a battle of former champions as Frank Mir went up against Josh Barnett.
These two didn’t bother with the feeling out period, they began trading as soon as the fight began, and although Mir got in some good blows early on Barnett took over when they clinched against the cage.
It wasn’t pretty to watch, but it certainly was effective, especially on Barnett’s part. He did a great job in controlling the action, and when he connected to a right knee to the head Mir dropped like the proverbial sack of spuds. The referee stepped in immediately to give Barnett the TKO win.
The main event saw Anthony Pettis challenging Benson Henderson for the Lightweight title.
Henderson began his night’s work going for a takedown against the cage, and although he was quite relentless with these attempts Pettis showed some sound defensive skills before he eventually shrugged his man off.
Pettis then came forward and connected with a series of kicks, but when Henderson took the fight to the ground it looked like the rest of the round would see the champion working in the challenger’s guard.
Then, from out of nowhere, Pettis suddenly brought his legs up and locked in an armbar, and with just under 30 seconds left in the round Henderson verbally tapped to give Pettis the submission win, although it took a few seconds for everyone to realise what had happened until Pettis released the hold and began to celebrate.
After a second showing of the Krauss/Lim fight the filler material continued with the middleweight encounter between Jared Hamman and Magnus Cedenblad.
The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening saw both men exchange some nice shots, but when Hamman went for a takedown Cedenblad locked in a guillotine immediately. There was only one thing that Hamman could do as the referee stepped in to give Cedenblad the submission win after just 57 seconds.
Yet more filler material followed in the former of the lightweight encounter between Ryan Couture and Al Iaquinta.
This certainly was an interesting one. Despite having a big reach advantage Couture never really used it, and while his kicks looked great he looked almost tentative as far as his punches were concerned.
Iaquinta, for his part, was the complete opposite. Every punch was thrown with intent, and I lost count of the number of times he connected with really hard shots. Couture showed a lot of toughness as he took those blows, but as the fight went on he was clearly showing the signs of battle, and with Iaquinta scoring with takedowns at the end of each round it was obvious who was going to win this battle.
As for the judges they agreed entirely as Iaquinta took the unanimous decision.
In conclusion – the UFC’s second show in four days proved to be another great show.
It certainly ticked all the right boxes, with the fights ranging from good to great, although I was a little disappointed that my favourite current lightweight lost his big gold title belt. But as the saying goes there’s always next time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis going at it again.
As for my fight of the night once again I’m going to disagree with those in the know and give the no-prize to the featherweight encounter between Dustin Poirier and Erik Koch.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing to do, and that’s to give UFC 164 the big thumbs up.