Benson Henderson may have found a new home 15 pounds up the scale. | File photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
During interviews prior to his win over Brandon Thatch at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Broomfield, Colo., Benson Henderson made it seem like his move to welterweight was a one-time deal.
However, following his fourth-round submission of a larger, favored foe, “Smooth” didn’t seem so sure anymore. While Thatch’s frame certainly dwarfed the ex-lightweight king at weigh-ins and inside the Octagon, Henderson’s superior experience took hold down the stretch, as he wore the Colorado native down by taking his back in both the third and fourth round.
The second instance came as a result of a beautifully timed takedown in round four, and when Henderson worked his way to his opponent’s back once again, an exhausted Thatch succumbed to a rear-naked choke.
It was a much-needed victory for the MMA Lab product, who had dropped his previous two bouts at lightweight. Could it also be the start of a new journey? Henderson seemed torn after a victory that some were calling the best performance of his career to date -- a strong sentiment directed at man who has competed at or near the top of another division for the past several years.
“It’s still up in the air,” Henderson said when asked if he would consider taking more fights at 170 pounds. “It’s not truly up to us... It’s up to the UFC a lot of times. They give you a call, talk to your manager, talk to you, and off you go.”
Moments earlier, Henderson was entertaining the idea of a welterweight showdown with top contender Rory MacDonald, who recently had a UFC 186 matchup against Hector Lombard canceled when it was revealed that Lombard had failed a drug test at UFC 182 on Jan. 3. Henderson was mistakenly under the impression that MacDonald was in need of a new opponent, but UFC President Dana White promptly squashed that notion.
“MacDonald has a fight,” White said. “He has a fight lined up already.”
White would not reveal MacDonald’s next opponent, but he would not be opposed to Henderson taking another fight at welterweight against a different foe. Like many in attendance, the UFC boss was impressed by the Arizonan’s effort at 1stBank Center on Saturday night.
“He looked unbelievable against a tough big guy,” White said. “I was blown away by his performance. It was insane. I’m not a big fan of small guys moving up to bigger weight classes but how can you deny what Benson did tonight?
“Ben took some big shots tonight, too. He looked awesome tonight. If he wants to stay at 170, I’m cool with it.”
Not surprisingly, Henderson did not see the matchup like the rest of the world. While others looked at the size discrepancy and doubted his chances, “Smooth” felt nothing anticipation leading up to the fight.
“Standing in front of him, I was more excited. Like most fighters, you see your opponent and you’re ready to go,” he said. “Sometimes he’s taller than you, sometimes he’s shorter than you, sometimes he’s wider than you, sometimes he’s skinnier than you. It is what it is. You’ve got to have confidence in your abilities and your skill set to go out and beat him up.”
Henderson admitted that he felt good at 170 pounds, and he believes that he could only improve competing at welterweight if given a full camp. He took the fight against Thatch on short notice, less than one month after dropping a unanimous decision to Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night in Boston on Jan. 18.
“It felt really good. There was something to not cutting down, not starving myself to death,” he said. “What we go through for ourselves to get down to weight ... if we had to continue for another three, four, five, six days, we’d probably do some massive damage to our bodies. We kill ourselves getting down. Being able to stay at 170 would make it a little bit easier.”