SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It’s official: Benson “Smooth” Henderson is the undisputed WEC lightweight champ.
The new boss of the WEC 155 division did it in sudden, definitive fashion, sinking home a guillotine on Jamie Varner that came in the third round of the WEC 46 main event Sunday at Arco Arena.
“I’m going to remain the same,” Henderson told Sherdog.com after the bout. “I’m getting right back to training. I know there are a lot of hungry guys that are going to come gunning for me.”
After losing the first two rounds in a largely uneventful match where both men’s potent wrestling seemed to neutralize significant takedowns, Henderson hit a textbook guillotine counter as Varner charged in to plant him on the mat. With his arm sunk deep into the choke, he forced Varner to tap before the pair hit the ground. The finish came so quickly that the crowd of 10,027 did a 180-degree turn from the boos sprinkled throughout the first two rounds -- suddenly, it was over.
For his part, Varner felt that his 11-month layoff didn’t play a role in the loss, and he congratulated the new champ on his performance.
“I felt good. It was good timing on his part,” Varner said. “I felt like I was winning. He was using leg kicks to try and take my striking away, and it seemed like he was doing a little running.”
With both fighters based out of Arizona, Varner said he wasn’t surprised Henderson went for the finishing sub that ended the match.
“I’ve heard about his guillotine and I knew it was good,” he added. “He got the hand under, and it was done.”
The new champion will likely face Cerrone in a rematch of their first bout, a sizzling five-round affair punctuated by Henderson’s dynamic takedowns and Cerrone’s submission attempts, several of which had Henderson in deep trouble. Composed as is his wont, Henderson also escaped a deep guillotine from Varner in the opening stanza.
Henderson explained that he wanted to get settled into the bout before shifting gears.
“I felt like things were going as planned. I knew Jamie would come out like gangbusters,” he said. “I wanted to get his timing down, pick up (the pace) and things would go according to plan.”
When asked about how a rematch would go down, both Henderson and Cerrone felt confident they could make adjustments and that they’ll need to bring their games up a notch.
“I wanted Jamie to win so I could beat on him again,” said Cerrone. “But I’ll take Benny. I’ve been working on my wrestling with Joe Stevenson, Clay Guida and Melvin Guillard. I’ve got to work on that and on getting back up to my feet and not just laying there.”
For what will probably be his first defense, the affable and unflappable Henderson, known for escaping bad positions with creative counters, figures his work is cut out for him. With the trio of closely matched lightweights, the WEC figures to have a good crop of marketable title matches in the coming months and years. At the postfight news conference, WEC President Reed Harris indicated they plan on doing a pay-per-view venture -- the organization’s first -- sometime in the first six months of this year.
“We don’t have a date or a place yet, but it will happen,” Harris said. “We want to put together some good fights. The kind of fights where you say ‘I have to see that.’ We want to make sure our first pay-per-view is very successful.”
Reed did not commit to any specific fights, but with Urijah Faber likely to try and retake his featherweight belt from Jose Aldo and with Henderson-Cerrone and some strong supporting bouts on the card, the promotion would be taking a bold step toward expanding its market.
Henderson said he won’t be fazed or distracted by the demands of being champion, despite the attendant obligations and distractions that can arise.
“Jamie and Donald and all of these guys have been working on their boxing for years,” he said. “If I fight Donald, I have a long way to go. I’m going to stay hungry.”