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Anthony Pettis Taps Benson Henderson for UFC Lightweight Title

Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson

Anthony Pettis claimed the UFC lightweight title in his hometown, beating champion Benson Henderson by armbar submission in the first round at UFC 164.

Pettis (17-2) ended Henderson’s 18-month championship reign in decisive fashion, catching Henderson (18-3) in an armbar while on his back late in the round at the Bradley Center.

“It feels amazing to be here,” Pettis said. “I grew up coming to this arena and sitting in those nosebleeds. Milwaukee made Anthony Pettis. You really can’t write a better story than what happened right here tonight.”

Pettis stretched out Henderson’s right arm and abruptly finished the rematch of their memorable WEC bout, beating Henderson for the second time. Henderson verbally tapped out of just his second loss in 19 fights – both to Pettis.

“The armbar was there,” Pettis said. “I grabbed it and I heard him yell, `Tap, tap, tap,’ and that was it.”

Pettis climbed onto the cage to celebrate his win in a rematch of the fighters’ memorable meeting in December 2010, the last bout in the history of the now-defunct WEC promotion.

Pettis punctuated that back-and-forth fight by launching himself off the side of the cage for a gravity-defying kick that flattened Henderson and turned the fight in his favor, giving him a unanimous decision and the WEC title.

The “Showtime Kick” is among the most memorable feats in mixed martial arts history, but Henderson surpassed Pettis’ career in the ensuing years. He won the UFC lightweight title with a victory over Frankie Edgar early last year and defended the belt three times, twice by razor-thin split decisions over Edgar and Gilbert Melendez.

While Henderson turned himself into a points fighter with little inclination to knock out his opponents, Pettis kept fighting aggressively, but missed his own shot at the lightweight title with an upset loss to Guida before sitting out most of 2012 with injuries.

Pettis got this shot at Henderson when contender T.J. Grant dropped out of the matchup with a concussion.
Henderson had described his loss to Pettis as a “stain on my soul.” He spent the first round rushing Pettis onto the cage and attempting takedowns before Pettis abruptly finished it.

“Anthony is tough, and tonight he proved himself to be a champion,” Henderson said. “But I’ll be back.”

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