Benson Henderson just can't solve the puzzle that is Anthony "Showtime" Pettis.
For the second time in Henderson's mixed-martial arts career, Pettis took the Decatur High School graduate's championship belt. Pettis (17-2) handed Henderson his second loss of his professional career Saturday night in the main event of UFC 164 inside Milwaukee's Bradley Center.
The loss gave Pettis the UFC lightweight championship and ended Henderson's seven-fight winning streak and his 18-month grasp on the 155-pound belt.
Pettis caught Henderson with an arm bar late in the first round and made the former UFC champ submit. Henderson was using a solid wrestling game up until Pettis escaped and caught him with several kicks to the body.
Pettis then attempted a wild flip kick, which missed, allowing Henderson to take top control. But, in an instant, Pettis locked Henderson's right arm and, following a little struggle, forced Henderson to submit.
“Anthony is a tough dude,” Henderson said after the fight. “He proved himself to be the No. 1 contender and the champion. He got my arm, and he did a good job of twisting it the right direction. That’s a high-level armbar right there. Most guys might miss the technique behind it, but that was a pretty good armlock. My arm is killing me, dog."
“I felt his arm pop, and I heard him say, ‘tap,’” said Pettis. “It was the body kicks that set that up. I hit him with four or five body kicks, and I saw his face change. Body kicks are underrated in mixed martial arts. People don’t know how to use them. I’m a traditional martial artist. I’ve been using body kicks since I was 5 years old, so body kicks are (good) moves for me.”
Saturday's fight was a rematch of their classic World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) title showdown in December 2010. Pettis also won that fight by a unanimous decision to take the WEC championship belt from Henderson.
The loss was the low point of Henderson's stellar MMA career. Following the fight, Henderson sat on a stage in front of reporters inside the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., weeping.
The heart-breaking defeat, which included a highlight-reel kick by Pettis, ended a 10-fight winning streak by Henderson. Saturday's loss not only ended Henderson's seven-fight winning streak, it also kept the Decatur grad from making history. A victory over Pettis would have been Henderson's fourth successful title defense in the UFC lightweight division, breaking the previous record of three, held by B.J. Penn.
“I just wanted to put pressure on him,” Henderson said about Pettis. “He’s not as good going backward. He’s a lot better if you give him space to go forward, so the idea was to keep him going backwards the entire time. The kicks he hit me with both came while he was coming forward.”
It's still up in the air as to what's next for Henderson. His right arm was in a sling at the post-fight press conference. It also doesn't appear likely that he will get a rematch with Pettis anytime soon.
UFC president Dana White said after the UFC 164 press conference that two losses to the same fighter is bad enough, but the second fight was so one-sided that he just doesn't see a scenario for a rematch in the foreseeable future.
"That's definitely the case," White said. "We have a fight with Ben (Henderson) and Frankie (Edgar) where some people are like (it was close). There's no (expletive) denying who won this fight. It was a first round annihilation."
Henderson, 29, began his wrestling career during his time at Lakota Middle School and continued wrestling at Decatur. He went on to wrestle at Dana College in Nebraska and started MMA fighting a year after a dare from a couple of wrestlers.