The former WEC champion came to the UFC with one goal and that was to become the best fighter in the world.
After wins over Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida, Benson Henderson was primed for his fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 144, but he wasn’t going to get the belt without a serious fight from the incumbent champion.
He certainly got one.
Known for his incredible heart and tenacity, Edgar came after Edgar with everything he had and used his quick feet and boxing skills to keep the much bigger Henderson off of him for most of the fight.
The former wrestler from Clarion University also jumped in for several takedowns, using his lighting quick speed to swoop in and put Henderson on his back.
It backfired in a big way however at the close of the second round as Edgar stood over top of Henderson and got blasted with a huge upkick. Henderson says it was courtesy of his first fight against former WEC challenger Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone landing the same thing on him that taught him how valuable a good upkick can be.
“I’ve got to thank Cowboy Cerrone for that one cause he landed that one on me, I told him I was going to land it on somebody else cause that one hurt bad. Cowboy Cerrone thank you for that, I stole that from you,” Henderson said after the fight.
Henderson also got to apply his signature submission during the fight as well. His guillotine choke won him the WEC title when he defeated Jamie Varner, and it won him the rematch with Cerrone after slapping it on early in the first round of their second fight in the WEC as well.
Edgar wasn’t going to fall victim to it like so many have before him, and while it looked deep initially, Henderson knew that the champion was fighting it off with the perfect technique.
“Initially right away he went the right direction, he knew the right technique to escape. He knew what he was doing to get out of it,” Henderson explained.
The difference in the fight may have truly come down to Henderson’s size and power advantage.
While the official numbers showed Edgar outlanding Henderson in total strikes, while mixing in quite a few takedowns during the fight, it was the power and damage seemed to make all the difference.
Henderson shrugged off almost all of Edgar’s best punches and cracked back with vicious kicks to the body and left his opponent with a broken nose and a swollen eye. Henderson admits that using his size is always part of the game plan, especially after the brutal weight cut he has to make to get down to 155lbs.
“I wanted to use my size to my advantage, making weight kind of sucks for me, so I have to do a hard 8 weeks and then 2 hard days of cutting down the weight. I pay a big price for that so I want to make sure my opponents feel that pain when we have 25-minutes inside this Octagon,” Henderson said.
Make him pay indeed and the judges agreed. Henderson won a clean sweep across the judges’ scorecards picking up a 49-46, 49-46, 48-47 unanimous decision victor to win the UFC lightweight title.
When it was all over, Frankie Edgar didn’t agree with the decision, but still wanted to congratulate Benson Henderson for a well fought victory.
“Yeah I thought I did enough to win but those are the breaks, congrats to Ben,” said Edgar. “I thought I landed more strikes and I got more takedowns, I don’t know.”
Will Edgar’s loss finally result in him moving down to featherweight? The former champion says it’s just too soon to talk about that.
“I don’t know we’ll see what happens, it’s too soon to make decisions,” Edgar stated.
For Benson Henderson, Saturday night in Japan was the first step in his goal towards being the best fighter in the world, and right now he’s the best lightweight in the sport. It appears he already has his first challenge ready to go.
Following the fight, UFC President Dana White was asked if after his ‘Knockout of the Night’ performance earlier in the night, Anthony Pettis would get the first shot at Benson Henderson.
“I think he’s gonna get it,” White said about Pettis.
Pettis defeated Benson Henderson to end the WEC’s run as a promotion, and now it looks like there will be a part two in the UFC. For tonight however, Benson Henderson will soak in moment of what it’s like to sit on top of the world just like one of the superheroes he’s read about his whole life.