Benson Henderson’s commitment to the grind may have come back to bite him.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder wound up on the short side of a split decision against two-time Bellator MMA tournament finalist Patricky Freire in the Bellator 183 headliner on Saturday at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. Scores were 29-28 and 29-28 for Freire, 29-28 for Henderson. Neither man did much to warrant the judges’ favor.
Freire (18-8, 11-7 Bellator) advanced behind single strikes, connecting with a few right hands upstairs and a handful of knees to the body. Henderson (24-8, 1-3 Bellator) remained active with his kicks, particularly to the body, and integrated overhand lefts when the mood arose. However, his bid for takedowns resulted in the lightweights stalling against the fence for much of the final 10 minutes. Once there, little happened, though “Pitbull” answered with either elbows to the side of the head or close-quarters knee strikes. When the smoke cleared and the boos died down, Freire’s hand was raised for the fourth time in five appearances.
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In the welterweight co-main event, two-time Cage Rage champion took care of Millennia MMA’s Lorenz Larkin with punches in the second round of their encounter at 170 pounds. Larkin (18-7, 0-2 UFC) bowed out 2:40 into Round 2.
Daley (40-15-2, 7-1 Bellator) spent much of the first five minutes measuring his fellow UFC veteran. Larkin seemed to gain confidence as time ticked off the clock, unleashing leg kicks and multi-punch volleys. He even mixed in some ground-and-pound when Daley fell while throwing a head kick. None of it mattered. In the second round, Daley sent a spinning backfist bouncing off his adversary’s head and fired one of his patented left hooks behind it. In an instant, Larkin was out on his feet. Daley swarmed with punches, followed him to the canvas and finished it with standing-to-ground hammerfists.
The 33-year-old Daley has won seven of his last nine fights.
Meanwhile, takedowns, positional control and steady ground-and-pound carried “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson to a unanimous decision over Javy Ayala in a featured heavyweight battle. All three cageside judges scored it for Nelson (23-14, 1-0 Bellator): 30-26, 29-28 and 29-28.
Ayala (10-6, 5-3 Bellator) was superior in the majority of the standup exchanges, as he tore into “Big Country” with right uppercuts, knees and the occasional standing elbow. However, he had no answer for Nelson’s desire to engage on the ground. The former International Fight League champion struck for takedowns in all three rounds and saved some of his best work for the closing act. Nelson spent the final 3:30 of Round 3 pounding on the Tachi Palace Fights veteran from side control.
The loss snapped Ayala’s two-fight winning streak.
Elsewhere, blue-chip prospect Aaron Pico authored one of the year’s best knockouts, as he cut down Justin Linn with a wicked left hook in the first round of their featured attraction at 145 pounds. A stiff and unconscious Linn (7-4, 0-1 Bellator) collapsed against the cage 3:45 into Round 1.
Pico (1-1, 1-1 Bellator) obliged his counterpart with a few breakneck punching exchanges, executed a pair of takedowns and worked in some ground-and-pound before bringing the bout to a shocking and sudden conclusion. Back on the feet, the 20-year-old fired a short left hook through Linn’s defenses, the impact of the blow immediately short-circuiting the Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran.
Finally, Goiti Yamauchi disposed of the previously unbeaten Adam Piccolotti with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their lightweight showcase. Piccolotti (9-1, 5-1 Bellator) conceded defeat 3:19 into Round 1, the Californian suffering his first professional setback.
Yamauchi (22-3, 8-2 Bellator) connected with a hook kick, snapped down on a guillotine choke and set the events in motion that would lead to his latest victory. He drew Piccolotti into a scramble, moved to a rear waistlock position and jumped to the back, setting his hooks in one fluid motion. Yamauchi snaked his arms in place and tightened his squeeze, his opponent falling at the base of the cage. Piccolotti struggled to free himself, came to the realization that his situation was hopeless and offered a reluctant tapout.
The 24-year-old Yamauchi has rattled off three straight wins, all of them first-round finishes.
In undercard action, Tony Johnson punched out Mike Ortega 1:49 into the second round of their light heavyweight bout; Kaytlin Neil was awarded a unanimous decision over Brooke Mayo in a three-round women’s flyweight match, sweeping the scorecards with 29-28 marks across the board; Brandon Loroco choked Gaston Bolanos unconscious with a triangle 2:16 into the second round of their featherweight pairing; Jaimelene Nievara took a unanimous decision from Corina Herrera in a three-round clash at 125 pounds, earning 30-26, 29-28 and 29-27 marks from the judges; Fernando Gonzalez Trevino eked out a split verdict -- 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 -- against Alexander Lopez in a three-round welterweight tilt; Ricardo Vasquez submitted Justin Tenedora with a guillotine choke 2:39 into the first round of their bantamweight affair; J.J. Okanovich tapped Luis Jauregui with an armbar 42 seconds into the first round of their encounter at 155 pounds; and Daniel Gonzalez knocked out Anthony Castrejon with punches 4:03 into the first round of their flyweight confrontation.