UFC: Benson Henderson defends lightweight title, dominates Nate Diaz

On Dec. 8 in front of a sold-out crowd inside the KeyArena, Benson Henderson (18-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC)  thoroughly dominated Nate Diaz. - Lance Giles, For The Mirror
On Dec. 8 in front of a sold-out crowd inside the KeyArena, Benson Henderson (18-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC)  thoroughly dominated Nate Diaz.
— image credit: Lance Giles, For The Mirror

By Lance Giles, Special to The Mirror

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight division has been put on notice.

On Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 14,412 inside Seattle’s KeyArena, Benson Henderson (18-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) thoroughly dominated Nate Diaz (16-8, 7-6) to retain the UFC lightweight title by unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45).

“It was just a matter of being well-prepared and being in the gym,” Henderson said at the post-fight press conference Saturday.

The 2001 Decatur High School graduate controlled Diaz for all five rounds in front of his hometown crowd. In typical Henderson fashion, he dictated the pace of the fight by using his wrestling against the physically weaker Diaz. He wrestled him down and punished him, while avoiding Diaz’s dynamic ground game.

Henderson battered Diaz by landing 124 significant strikes to Diaz’s 30, according to FightMetric.

“I didn’t perform how I wished I could have,” a battered Diaz said after fight. “I got punched in the eye pretty early in the fight and things were blurry and I couldn’t come back. Ben did great. He landed the good shot early and I waited. I think if I tried harder, it could have got worse for me.”

This was Henderson’s second 155-pound defense of the UFC lightweight title. He is now 6-0 since joining the UFC. The win over Diaz comes after two close and somewhat controversial decisions over former title holder Frankie Edgar.

“Every fight is close,” Henderson said. “The last couple fights were a little bit closer. We all fight to end fights, but sometimes that’s not the case.”

The dominating win over Diaz should also give Henderson some of the respect he has been seeking from fans around the UFC. As the reigning UFC lightweight champion, he wants to be talked about with “big names” like Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon “Bones” Jones.

“I’ve said it a couple times before,” Henderson said. “I want to fight the best guys on the planet at 155. Line ‘em up. I’m not going nowhere.”

Henderson will likely face the winner of the Jan. 26 fight between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis. A fight against either would be a rematch for Henderson. He beat Cerrone twice during their time in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and Pettis handed Henderson his last loss.

“I really don’t have a preference for anybody,” Henderson said when asked about getting another shot at Pettis. “I want to beat everyone.”

Henderson held the WEC lightweight championship for over a year before having his 10-fight win streak snapped by Pettis in December 2010.

Since the loss to Pettis, Henderson has steamrolled five of the UFC’s top contenders in very impressive fashion.

He beat Canada’s Mark Bocek by unanimous decision in front of 55,000 fans in Toronto in April 2011. Henderson then stopped Jim Miller’s seven-match UFC win streak in August before winning another unanimous decision over Clay Guida in November at UFC on FOX in Anaheim. He then beat Edgar at UFC 144 in Japan to win the UFC 155-pound title and won the rematch Aug. 11.

Henderson, 29, began his wrestling career during his time at Lakota Middle School and continued wrestling at Decatur, where he competed under head coach Mike Bressler.

He went on to wrestle at Dana College in Nebraska and actually started MMA fighting a year after a dare from a couple of wrestlers.



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