History repeated itself at UFC 164 on Saturday, as Pettis defeated Henderson for the second time in his career, this time, inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The fight was a rematch of a WEC title bout in December 2010, which Pettis won via decision.
The rematch proved to be far more conclusive. Pettis (17-2) needed less than one round to lift the UFC lightweight belt from Henderson, submitting him via armbar at 4:31 of the opening frame.
"I grew up coming to this arena," said Pettis, who lives and trains in Milwaukee. "I remember sitting in the nosebleeds. So this is for all you in the nosebleeds."
Henderson (19-3) clearly wanted to take the fight to the ground early and often, shooting in Pettis from the opening bell. His attempts to bring Pettis down were all unsuccessful though, as Pettis used the cage to his advantage and remained upright.
After a long stalemate along the fence, Pettis landed three hard kicks to the body and a knee to Henderson's chest that had him visibly shaken. With the crowd rallying behind him, Pettis made his first mistake -- a flashy cartwheel kick that Henderson anticipated and turned into a takedown.
Moments after being taken down however, Pettis had a surprise for Henderson. Known for his submission defense, Henderson did his best to escape the armbar but ultimately tapped, verbally, to referee Herb Dean.
"I felt his arm snap," Pettis said. "And he said, 'Tap, tap, tap.' "
Henderson, who had successfully defended the belt three times and was looking to tie the longest lightweight win streak in UFC history, was gracious in defeat.
"I'll be back, don't worry," he said. "Anthony is a tough dude. He proved himself to be the No. 1 contender and he proved to be a champion. He got my arm and did a good job of twisting it in the right direction."
Pettis was originally scheduled to drop to featherweight and meet defending champion Jose Aldo at UFC 163, but fell off due to injury. After the win, he called once again for that fight.
Barnett makes quick work of Mir
Barnett (33-6) made quick work of Mir in the co-main event, posting a TKO victory at the 1:56 mark of the first round. The end came under some controversy, as Mir protested an early stoppage -- but there was no question he was in major trouble.
The heavyweight bout saw a blistering start, as Barnett trudged straight forward with punches and clinched with Mir against the fence. Mir stood up to the early onslaught, but a devastating knee by Barnett eventually put him down.
Referee Robert Hinds stepped in immediately when Mir went down, giving him no opportunity to recover. It appeared to be a little early, as Mir was down but not unconscious. He grabbed for a single leg takedown as Hinds stepped in.
Mir (16-8), whose last win came against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in December 2011, protested the stoppage but nevertheless suffers his third consecutive loss.
Barnett was simply relentless from start to finish. He caught Mir with a right hand in the opening seconds and continued with knees to the body, elbows and uppercuts. Mir was relatively helpless getting his back off the cage during that opening round.
It marks the first win in the Octagon for Barnett since he defeated Randy Couture for the heavyweight title at UFC 36 in 2002.
Mendes takes care of agressive Guida
Chad Mendes' streak of first round knockouts is over. His streak of knockouts in general still lives.
Mendes (15-1) recorded his fourth consecutive finish, knocking out Clay Guida 30 seconds into the third round of their featherweight bout.
Down two rounds to none on the scorecards, Guida ran forward with a combination early in the third but Mendes was waiting for him with an explosive counter right hand up the middle.
Guida (30-14) went to the floor but worked frantically back to his feet. He might have been better off staying down though, as Mendes trapped him along the cage and delivered a stinging left hook, right cross combination that dropped him again.
"I feel like I have made as big of a statement as I possibly could in this division," Mendes said. "I wanted a TKO knockout very badly and I got it. I knew it was my best bet and after the first big hit, I knew he was out of it."
The finish capped a dominant overall performance by Mendes, whose only pro loss came at the hands of defending champion Jose Aldo early last year. Mendes maneuvered around Guida's typical feints and awkwardness with ease, and bloodied his opponent near the left eye in the first round.
Guida looked to switch things up on Mendes, shooting in for several takedowns in the first two rounds. Mendes, almost laughingly, shrugged every attempt off, frequently taking a dominant position in the process.
Mendes, already the No. 4 ranked featherweight in the world by ESPN.com, figures to move one step closer to a rematch with Aldo. Guida drops to 1-1 since moving to featherweight this year and 1-3 in his last four overall.
Rothwell ruins Vera's heavyweight return
In a somewhat bizarre sequence, Rothwell (33-9) threw a little gamesmanship at Vera, awkwardly bouncing around the cage before rushing in with a swarm of punches that eventually put him away.
Several hard right hands along the fence knocked Vera down. Once he turtled up and Rothwell followed with more hard shots, referee Herb Dean called the fight at the 1:54 mark.
"I think the best of me came out in that third round," Rothwell said. "I think this was a fight I was supposed to win, but what was most important was that I fought hard and a lot was earned tonight."
Vera (12-7), in his first heavyweight fight since 2008, opened the fight with leg kicks while constantly circling away from Rothwell's power. He landed a few good punches of his own early on, but it was obvious he didn't carry nearly the power of his natural heavyweight opponent.
A big overhand right by Rothwell hurt Vera midway through the first. Rothwell failed to capitalize on it and, after recovering, Vera responded with a wicked kick to the body.
The second round was slower and booed often by the Milwaukee crowd. Vera continued to land the cleaner strikes, at one point knocking Rothwell back with an elbow from the clinch, but he never had him in trouble.
The constant pressure by Rothwell finally paid off big in the third round, when he worked to the finish. An emotional Rothwell called for his next fight to be against fellow heavyweight contender Travis Browne.
Vera has now one just once in his past six fights.
Poirier proves too durable against Koch
Poirier (14-3) took home a hard-fought unanimous decision in Koch's backyard, earning scores of 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28. The fight was billed as a Fight of the Night candidate heading into the event and it did not disappoint.
"I was dominant in the first two rounds, but I made a mistake in the third and he capitalized," Poirier said. "He's slick but not that strong. I knew I had him hurt a couple times but he's a tough guy."
Koch (13-3) found himself in trouble from the start. After the two traded leg kicks, Poirier dropped him to the canvas with a hard left hand.
Somehow, Koch had the presence of mind to catch Poirier in an armbar as he came in for the finish. As Poirier worked to clear his arm, Koch transitioned to a triangle from his back, which nearly ended the fight.
Poirier would escape though, and, after signaling Koch back to his feet, dropped him again with a huge right hand. That put Koch in survival mode for the rest of the frame. He made it to the bell, despite a deep D'Arce choke attempt by Poirier.
The second round featured nearly as much action, with Poirier scoring an early takedown on a nice hip toss. He worked briefly for a rear-naked-choke, before settling on a long stretch of ground and pound along the fence.
Needing a finish, Koch responded in the third round. He scored a takedown of his own and unleashed a swarm of hard elbows, cutting Poirier deeply under the left eye in the process. Koch worked hard for a Hail Mary choke, but time ran out.
Poirier has now won six of eight in the Octagon, with his only losses to Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson. Koch drops back-to-back fights for the first time in his career. He suffered a TKO loss to Ricardo Lamas earlier this year.
Tibau survives third round, overcomes Varner
A terrific rally in the third round was ultimately too little, too late for Jamie Varner.
Varner came up on the short end of a split decision to Gleison Tibau, despite a dominant finish. Two judges scored the lightweight contest 29-28 for Tibau, while the third had it 29-27 for Varner. ESPN.com scored it 29-28 for Tibau.
"Jamie Varner is a very strong guy and today he had strong pressure," Tibau said. "I had good training and diet for this fight, but I was a little tired in the third round."
Tibau (28-9) dictated early action with effective counter punching and a visible grappling advantage over Varner. He assumed the center of the cage and waited for the more mobile Varner (21-8-1) to come at him with combinations.
Varner had some success finding his range, but Tibau would typically answer his offense with a hard counter right. A late takedown in the first round helped the Brazilian get out to a 10-9 start.
Tibau would really showcase his grappling in the second round. He timed a shot on an early knee attempt by Varner, putting him on his back early. He eventually transitioned to back mount and mauled Varner with punches to the side of the head.
Varner came on strong in the last round, though. He caught Tibau with several combinations to the body and seemed to hurt him with an uppercut. In what may have been a mistake move, Varner took a stunned Tibau down and finished the round with ground and pound. It was enough to win the round but not the fight.
Tibau improves to 3-1 in his last four contests. The 29-year-old has now competed 20 times in the UFC with a 13-7 record. Varner falls to an even 3-3 in the Octagon.
Lim finishes Krauss in Round 1
One second, Pascal Krauss was in control. The next, he wasn't.
South Korean welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim earned the second win of his UFC career with a TKO victory over Krauss at 3:58 of the first round.
Lim (12-3-1) spent the majority of the opening frame absorbing jabs and counter punches from Krauss (11-2), but he made the most of one exchange in the center of the cage, dropping Krauss with a hard straight right.
Krauss responded well, popping back to his feet and slowing the pace with a double leg shot. Lim sprawled on the attempt though, and when Krauss stood back up his legs buckled on him.
Smelling blood, Lim swarmed with the right hand, carefully measuring shots and defending desperate single leg attempts by Krauss. The end came when Lim connected on a beautifully timed knee as Krauss shot once again for a takedown.
The win improves Lim to 2-0 in the UFC. He recorded a second-round knockout over Marcelo Guimaraes in his debut in March. Krauss falls to 2-2 in the Octagon.
Elliott dominates Gaudinot
If Tim Elliott didn't have the flyweight division's attention heading into the weekend, he does now.
Elliott (10-3-1) thoroughly dominated Louis Gaudinot for a full 15 minutes in their 125-pound contest, earning unanimous judges' scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26.
"My game plan was to stay on him; move him around a little, pin him against the cage and just grind away," Elliott said. "But he was a lot stronger than I thought he was going to be."
Elliott put Gaudinot on the defensive immediately. He scored an early takedown, and then threatened with a one-arm guillotine. Gaudinot (6-3) managed to work back to his feet, but Elliott continued to have his way, popping Gaudinot with left hands. He hurt him late in the round with a knee from the clinch.
Bleeding from the nose, Gaudinot looked to respond, but backed himself into the fence where Elliott scored with a hard body combination. Elliott worked for another takedown, where he landed several flurries of unanswered elbows.
It was more of the same in the final round. Takedowns were key again for Elliott and at one point, he passed into full mount. Gaudinot survived to hear the final bell, but that was his only consolation.
Elliott improves to 2-1 in the UFC. His only loss came via decision to former No. 1 contender John Dodson, during which Elliott suffered a nasty accidental eye-poke. Gaudinot 's UFC record drops to 1-2.