UFC 129: Ben Henderson Gets No Easy Draw in Octagon Debut

April 26, 2011

Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis - WEC 53

Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis at WEC 53

Ben Henderson is jumping into a dog eat dog division as he prepares to make his UFC debut this weekend at UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields.

There are several fighters in the UFC’s 155-pound division that can make a claim to be the top fighter in the weight class.  Of course, Frankie Edgar currently sits atop the ladder as the UFC’s lightweight champion, but he and Gray Maynard will give it a third go-around next month at UFC 130.

After the champion and his next challenger, you think about names like Anthony Pettis, whom Henderson lost his WEC title to at the organization’s final event in December of 2010.  The fight included a stunning kick landed by Pettis, nicknamed the “showtime kick,” that sent shockwaves through the MMA community.  Some argue that it’s the greatest strike ever landed in MMA.

Ultimately, the kick led to a decision win for Pettis, leaving Henderson emotional in a post-fight press conference.

Now, four months later, Henderson has reflected on the loss and found some takeaways he can learn from and grow with in an effort to make his next fight that much smoother.

No need to harp on the negative for the former WEC lightweight titleholder. Just learn from your mistakes and move on.

Ben Henderson - UFC

Ben Henderson

“Stuff happens,” Henderson told MMAWeekly Radio.  “Definitely want to learn from that experience and grow from it whether you win, lose, or draw every time you fight.  Should be smart enough to take something away from that fight.  Especially on a loss, I definitely have a lot to take away from that fight.

“Go out there and really go for the finish.  That’s the main thing that I’m bringing into the Bocek fight.”

Some might say that Henderson might have been a little too comfortable being lightweight champion prior to his loss to Pettis.  After all, he was on a 10-fight win streak and just came off a second win over a very tough Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, the second consecutive successful defense of his title.

Being in that type of position might make one feel untouchable.  Unfortunately for him, he was touched and it cost him.

Looking back on the loss, Henderson doesn’t feel he was content being the champ, but understands that some might have seen it that way.

“I don’t think I was too content, but if you look at the fight, maybe I was a little bit,” he said.

Regardless of the loss, Henderson still holds a competitive 12-2 professional record in mixed martial arts.  He’s beaten the likes of Jamie Varner, Shane Roller, Anthony Njokuani, and the previously mentioned Donald Cerrone.  With that kind of resume, one can make the argument to be one of the top 155-pound fighters in the world.

Where does a description like that land Ben Henderson when thinking about the UFC’s lightweight mix?  According to him, there’s no point in talking about it until he actually gets in the Octagon to make his case.

“Until you make your place in the division, I don’t think there’s a place for you at all,” Henderson said.  “It’s hard to say I deserve to be that based off of past experiences or things I’ve done or accomplished.  Until you go in there and prove it.  There’s no point in talking about it.”

UFC 129 takes place across the border in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and one thing that is very clear is Canadians love their MMA – they go nuts for it.  The Canadian fan base is one of the most passionate in all competitive sports.  Not only do they love the sport, but they’re knowledgeable and follow more fights and fighters than many MMA fans.

Henderson will be taking on a Canadian fighter in Mark Bocek, so the sense of being the out-of-towner versus the hometown favorite might just be apparent on fight night.  55,000 UFC fans will fill the Rogers Centre and Henderson anticipates there being a strong backing for his opponent, but with his previous experiences in the “Great White North,” he feels that he’ll get a lot of support, regardless of not being from Canada.

“I fully expect it to be loud, crazy, boisterous,” Henderson said.  “The Canadian fans are awesome.  I fought twice in Canada before up in Edmonton, Alberta, and the fans were awesome.  Back then, even before I fought in the WEC, they knew my name, they knew my record, they knew who I was, and they had my stats down and everything.  They’re very knowledgeable.  So I’m not expecting too hard a time.  Of course, they’re going to be rooting for Bocek, who’s a hometown guy, but I don’t think they’re going to be outrageously booing me for my head on a platter or anything like that.”