Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson accepted a short notice fight against Brandon Thatch, making his welterweight debut at UFC Fight Night 60 in Broomfield, Colo. on Saturday. Looking undersized at the weigh-in on Friday, many felt Henderson was biting off more than he could chew, but he proved the naysayers wrong.
Thatch pressed forward while Henderson moved along the perimeter of the cage. Thatch had success in the early going, but Henderson had a game plan.
In the second frame, Thatch had Henderson back peddling and retreating. He landed big shots and tripped the former champion to the canvas twice.
Henderson’s corner advised him to take Thatch to the ground between the second and third rounds. Midway through the frame, Henderson secured a takedown and took Thatch’s back. He delivered heel strikes to Thatch’s midsection and the momentum of the fight changed.
Henderson picked up the pace in the forth round. He kept his jab in Thatch’s face. He set up a double let takedown off a combination and quickly advanced to side control. Thatch gave up his back again and Henderson pounded away with punches before sinking in a rear-naked choke that forced Thatch to tap out.
“Sometimes you have to go out there, you have to give it your all and test yourself. I didn’t know I could win this fight. A lot of times you have to do something you don’t know,” said Henderson following the submission win.
“I knew he was going to come out like a monster in the first round. He did. I was trying to use my movement, I don’t know, run away. But the dude is a big dude, so I didn’t want to stay in there in the first five minutes,” he said. “I wanted to more elusive and then in the second, third, forth or fifth round pick it up on him.”
While Henderson won the fight by submission, his big fight experience may have been his biggest weapon.
“He’s just a tough dude. He’s got the heart of a champion. I thought he was hurt in the first and second round to the body. I think I threw power a little bit more than I should have. I should have stuck with speed. But that’s just trial and error. I think I need more experience. He’s a vet, a class act,” said Thatch after his first loss in eight years. “I’ll be back.”
Henderson’s welterweight debut was a success, and he plans to pursue more fights in the 170-pound division. After the win, he offered to face a top contender in the division who recently lost an opponent.
“I hear there’s a big named (Rory) MacDonald up in Canada who needs a fight. So if he still needs it, I’m game,” said Henderson.