Over the course of his 13-bout Ultimate Fighting Championship tenure, Benson Henderson has made a habit of winning by the skin of his teeth.
His latest outing was no different, as the MMA Lab standout edged short-notice foe Jorge Masvidal via split decision in the UFC Fight Night Seoul headliner at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday. Judges Barry Foley (48-47) and Charlie Keech (49-46) submitted scorecards in favor of Henderson, while Mark Craig turned in a 48-47 tally for Masvidal. Meanwhile, 11 of the 14 media scorecards tracked by MMADecisions.com had “Smooth” winning as well.
Henderson is now 5-0 in five-round UFC bouts that end via split-decision, with victories against the likes of Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez and Frankie Edgar (twice) to his credit along with the most recent triumph over Masvidal.
“It was a good fight. I definitely felt it went my way,” Henderson said in a backstage interview with UFC.com. “Jorge is tough as crap. I was like, ‘Man aren’t you supposed to get tired? You were only getting ready for a three-round fight; aren’t you supposed to be tired? In the fourth and fifth round you’re supposed to slow down quite a bit.’”
“So hat’s off to him; thanks to him for taking the fight to even make sure I had a fight. I got my hand raised, so it was a good night.”
Henderson was originally supposed to face Thiago Alves in the main event, but the Las Vegas-based promotion was forced to do some last-minute scrambling when Alves withdrew from the welterweight contest due to a rib injury approximately two weeks ago. Masvidal, who was slated to meet Dong Hyun Kim in a three-round co-headliner, was promoted to face Henderson. That change prompted some serious revisions in strategy from Henderson’s camp.
“We have a pretty good game plan, pretty good ideas for every opponent that we’re going to face. We have something for every single person on the roster, especially all the champs, for all the big name guys, all the top 5 guys in the division,” Henderson said. “We have something special just for them. So we were preparing for four or five weeks for Thiago and we had something special in store for him….But with Jorge Masvidal stepping in that threw a wrench [in our plans], and we couldn’t quite pull off what we were working on in camp.”
In the end, the altered plan of attack worked out well enough for Henderson, who improved to 2-0 at 170 pounds and to 10-3 overall during his promotional tenure. There is an air of uncertainty regarding the future of the former lightweight king, however, as Saturday marked the final bout on his current UFC deal. At least in the immediate aftermath, “Smooth” gave no indication that he was planning on leaving for a rival organization. Instead, Henderson, who is half Korean, chose to bask in the glow of his latest triumph.
“Every time I come to Korea the reception is absolutely amazing. This time I took a special chair for this to enjoy the moment and the experience and soak it up. You never know how many of these you have, these are once in a lifetime experiences, once in a lifetime moments,” he said. “People live their entire lifetime [hoping to] fight in the UFC just one time. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to do it how many times, and this time I was just hoping to enjoy it. The Korean fans were amazing. I would absolutely love to come back to Korea and fight. Whenever the UFC has a Korean event they can pencil my name in there.”