Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson made it difficult to argue against the WEC’s continued existence Saturday: their headlining fight at the promotion’s 43rd event in San Antonio packed more action into 25 minutes than Michael Bay could manage in 120. (Actual running time of “Transformers 2”: over four hours. Look it up.)
Years removed from first-generation guard work -- where opponents might actually take short naps right along with viewers -- Henderson spent much of his early activity posturing up and looking for ways to end the fight with his fists; Cerrone used his rangy 6’ frame to tie Henderson up in knots of submissions. Often, he’d coil up his long legs, shoot them out like they were powered by hydraulics, and send Henderson flying across the ring. It was 2009’s most entertaining fight to date, stained only by a contested judges’ decision -- officials valued Henderson’s work from the top over Cerrone’s submission attempts.
There’s little argument Henderson’s control and strikes took rounds two and three, or that Cerrone turned on his ignition for four and five. Round one was the deciding factor: Henderson spent roughly 1:30 getting strangled and 2:00 in Cerrone’s guard landing shots. (The remaining 1:30 of the round was more or less a wash.) Which of those feats you consider to be more important determines who you think won the fight. For my money, whoever comes closer to ending the evening early deserves the favoritism -- and a nice, tight triangle is more promising than strikes that you can’t put your hips into.
Debatable? Maybe. Robbery? Not by any stretch. But if any fight should be considered a draw in principle, this would be it.
Next for Henderson: A unification match for the WEC’s lightweight title against frequently hobbled Jamie Varner.
Next for Cerrone: According to WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby, another fight or two before jumping back into a title bid.
The Nobody-Under-the-Age-of-60-Will-Get-Your-Nickname Award: Dave “the Fugitive” Jansen, in homage to actor David Janssen’s work as wrongfully accused Richard Kimble in 1963’s “Fugitive” television series. I desperately hope we get a good fighter named Fred Mertz, and soon.
The “You Okay, Dude?” Compassion Award: The referee of the Rich Crunkilton/Jansen bout, who reacted to an inadvertent nut shot and a fetal-position fighter with the bedside manner of Keanu Reeves.
The Anything-is-Possible Award: Mackens Semerzier, a one-year rookie who was expected to get turned into ground chuck at the hand of jiu-jitsu black belt Wagnney Fabiano but submitted Fabiano with a triangle choke instead. You just don’t know until you try.
UFC chair Lorenzo Fertitta instructed the WEC to award both Cerrone and Henderson $20,000 each in bonus money, doubling the usual take; Semerzier took home $10,000 for his implausible win…Both observers and participants were split on the main event: Cerrone believes Henderson won, while Jamie Varner thought Cerrone edged out a victory…Record for spinning back kicks landed in a single fight probably now belongs to Yves Jabouin, who lit up the torso of Raphael Assuncao en route to a decision loss. Frank Dux will not be happy.