This time, the stakes were much higher and Pettis delivered yet again. He won the UFC lightweight title by finishing Henderson with an arm bar at 4:31 of the first round.
"I thought I heard his arm pop and he said, 'Tap, tap, tap,' " Pettis said.
Pettis blistered Henderson with a series of kicks to the body early, but Henderson took him down and seemed to be setting Pettis up for a bit of his vicious ground-and-pound.
Pettis reacted quickly though, snatching Henderson's arm and forcing the submission as the crowd screamed in approval.
"Anthony's a tough dude," Henderson said. "He proved himself as the No. 1 contender and he proved to be a champion. He got my arm and he did a good job, twisting, turning it in the right direction. … That was a high-level arm bar right there. It was a pretty good arm bar."
Pettis had earned a UFC lightweight title shot by defeating Henderson in their first bout, in what in 2010 was the final match in WEC history.
But when he had to wait for the title shot, he opted to fight in between and lost a decision, and the championship opportunity.
He fought his way back and, after thinking he might be fighting for the featherweight title, got the call to fight Henderson for the lightweight belt when T.J. Grant was forced to pull out with a concussion.
"You can't write a better story than this," Pettis said as the crowd cheered him.
Pettis, said his "dreams were crushed," when he was injured and had to pull out of his featherweight title fight with Jose Aldo in Brazil, but said he still wants to take on Aldo.
Josh Barnett def. Frank Mir via first-round KO
The co-main event didn't turn out the way anyone wanted. The highly anticipated heavyweight battle between ex-UFC heavyweight champions Josh Barnett and Frank Mir had a premature ending when referee Rob Hinds appeared to stop the bout too quickly.
Barnett was clearly in control of the bout from the start and was doing damage to Mir against the cage. He was landing good shots on his bitter rival, then landed a knee to the face when Mir bent at the waist.
Mir went down, and Hinds immediately jumped in and stopped it. Mir quickly popped up and seemed all right, but the fight was over and his protests were in vain.
The two had engaged in plenty of trash talk, and it was an unsatisfactory ending to a bout that had the potential to be a classic.
"I know I didn't want to stop [fighting], I'll tell you that," Barnett said when asked if the stoppage was too soon.
Most of the serious blows in the fight were landed by Barnett, and he seemed in control of the bout.
The referee's call, though, ensured that Mir wouldn't get the chance to reverse the momentum.
Chad Mendes def. Clay Guida via third-round TKO
Chad Mendes made a big statement in the very deep and crowded featherweight division, becoming the first man to stop Clay Guida and winning his fourth fight in a row by stoppage.
Mendes dumped Guida with a big counter right early in the third round. Guida got up, but the fighters stayed along the cage. Mendes landed a big left, then two hard rights and Guida was down again.
This time, he didn't get up. Mendes landed a shot or two on the ground, before referee Yves Lavigne stopped it at 30 seconds of the third.
"That was a goal of mine going into this fight," Mendes said. "It's what I wanted to do. I needed to make a statement. I want [featherweight champion] Jose Aldo. I want that title shot. I want that belt."
Mendes, who had won three consecutive bouts by first-round knockout entering the match, didn't land much of significance in the first two rounds. Guida was, as usual, bouncing crazily from side to side and Mendes couldn't get the timing down.
But he did in the third. After the knockdown to start the third, Mendes went after Guida hard.
"I knew I landed clean," Mendes said of the big left. "He's been hit hard before and hadn't been finished. I knew I had to take my time and land another punch on the chin."
Ben Rothwell def. Brandon Vera via third-round KO
Ben Rothwell scored a final-round knockout of Brandon Vera after he finally got fired up and decided it was time to attack. Rothwell began to bob and weave, a la the late, great Smokin' Joe Frazier, and picked up the intensity tenfold.
He caught a retreating Vera with a series of shots and forced Dean to jump in to halt it at 1:54 of the third.
"It was time for me to show the UFC what I can do," said Rothwell, who called out Travis Browne after the match. "It's pretty obvious how I fight. I'm going to come after you. I saw him stumble and it was my time to spring."
Vera had a strong first round, landing several shots to the chin as well as very strong body kicks. Rothwell admitted one of those first-round body kicks was tough.
"In the very beginning, a good hard left kick got through and thank God my conditioning is better than it's ever been," Rothwell said.
Dustin Poirier def. Erik Koch via decision
The pay-per-view card opened with a fast-paced back-and-forth battle that featured all aspects of MMA. Erik Koch nearly finished Dustin Poirier in the opening minutes of the fight with a triangle choke, but Poirier rallied to pull out a unanimous decision victory.
Poirier nearly finished Koch twice in the first. He drilled him with a picture perfect right hook that nearly ended the fight. Later in the opening round, he caught him in a D'Arce choke that was close to ending it as well.
But Poirier was in big trouble early, and he knew it.
The triangle was really close, guys," Poirier said in the cage after the bout. " … For a split second, I felt myself losing this fight."
But Poirier took over the remainder of Round 1, with two judges' giving him a 10-8 edge. He solidly won Round 2, but then Koch nearly pulled off the dramatic finish in the final moments of the bout as he maneuvered into position for a rear naked choke.
He couldn't quite get it, though, and Poirier got the impressive victory.
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Anthony Pettis
- Benson Henderson
- Clay Guida