Five years ago this week, MMATorch editor-in-chief Jamie Penick wrote about rising star Benson Henderson, who had a 14-2 record, but had only two UFC fights at that point in his nearly five year career. Penick asserted that he was one of the very best lightweight fighters in the world. He would go on to win seven of his next eight fights in UFC. The following is that article…
Ben Henderson’s six-fight run in the WEC was a very successful and beneficial period of his career, yet the simple fact that he wasn’t fighting against fighters in the UFC had many perceiving him as being outside of the top level in the division.
With that stigma on WEC lightweights, and being on the receiving end of Anthony Pettis’ highlight-reel “Showtime Kick” in December, Henderson could have easily just taken up a spot in the mid-level of the UFC’s lightweight division. But Henderson burst into the Octagon with an impressive win over Mark Bocek at UFC 129; and with an absolutely dominating performance over Jim Miller at UFC on Versus 5 on Sunday, Henderson has stepped out of the WEC’s shadow.
Miller entered the event on a seven fight win streak in the UFC and a 20-2 record overall. He had only ever been defeated by Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, but neither of those men put the fight to him the way Henderson did.
After Miller failed to lock on a spider-monkey-like standing arm triangle in the opening minutes of the fight, Henderson began battering him on the ground with a good ground and pound attack, defending against some good submission attempts from Miller while continuously doing damage.
In the second round, he upped his output, bruising and battering Miller even further as he took him down and kept him on his back for much of the round. Miller again was attacking with submission attempts, but Henderson was tiring him with a relentless attack on the ground, bloodying him up with elbows and punches, and never giving him much space to work.
The third round was even more brutal. Miller’s energy had been zapped by what Henderson had already done through the first ten minutes, but he wasn’t going to go out quietly. He rocked Henderson with a strike early, but Henderson immediately blasted through him and went back on the offensive. Throughout the rest of the fight, Henderson got increasingly closer to finishing Miller, hitting him over and over with elbows and punches on the ground, and nearly submitting him with some attempts of his own.
Ultimately, Henderson took the unanimous decision, earning his second straight win and bringing him to 14-2 overall in his career.
With how impressive the victory was, and with it coming against the fighter next in line for a title shot, Henderson made it absolutely clear that he is one of the best lightweight fighters in the world. Though he won’t leap frog anyone else for a title shot, the win puts him in position to take part in a title eliminator against a fighter like Clay Guida or Melvin Guillard, something that was hard to see happening this soon when he debuted earlier this year.
By continuing to improve, learning from the loss to Pettis in December and disregarding doubters from his time in the WEC, Henderson has put himself in position to breakout as a star in the UFC at the highest level. He’s moved past the stigma of being a “WEC guy” in the lightweight division with Sunday’s performance, and has firmly planted himself “into the mix” in the UFC.