Benson "Smooth" Henderson had a pretty fantastic 2012 campaign in the Octagon. To start things off, Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar to win the lightweight title, and then at UFC 150, won another close decision against Edgar to hold onto the belt.
Recently, Henderson was able to defeat the very talented Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 5. The win against Diaz now makes it six-straight in the UFC and marked Henderson's second title defense.
In the post-fight press conference, Henderson mentioned attempting to chase down the record for consecutive UFC title defenses. That record is currently held by Anderson Silva, who has 10 straight title defenses and could add to that mark in 2013.
Henderson's title defense streak stands only at two so looking at Silva's 10 defenses is a lofty goal. But can the lightweight champion break Silva's record?
As far-fetched as it sounds, Henderson could very easily be on his way to breaking that record. Let's start by first examining the competition that could be considered "in the mix" at the moment.
Looking at the top of the lightweight division you will see some familiar faces as Gray Maynard, Gilbert Melendez, and either Diaz or Anthony Pettis round out the top three after the champion. Donald Cerrone could also vault himself into title contention by scoring a victory against Pettis in January.
The two men at the top could give Henderson the toughest obstacles to overcome as Maynard is a very strong wrestler with heavy hands and Melendez is a very tough, well-versed fighter in MMA.
Pettis has actually defeated Henderson once before in the dying days of the WEC but it was also an extremely close fight. I'd also like to believe that Henderson has become a much better fighter since then.
The last two remaining men can each glance at their records and notice a loss to Henderson. The champion just bested Diaz earlier this month and defeated Cerrone in the WEC. The bout with Cerrone was one of the best fights in recent memory and won Fight of the Year in 2009 by many MMA media outlets.
But of course the top of the mountain changes each time and new contenders will always emerge as the UFC keeps trucking on. Still, Henderson is a matchup nightmare for any current or future title contender.
Starting with the stand up game: Henderson is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has proven to be a dynamic striker. He was able to drop Diaz on a few occasions in their contest and inflicted some massive damage on Edgar's face in their contest which no doubt help swayed the judge's scoring.
Henderson's ground game is exceptional as well. He's an NAIA All-American wrestler and holds a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Henderson's knack for escaping tight submission attempts is part of what earned him the nickname "Smooth."
He has a dangerous guillotine that can be slapped on as quick as a hiccup and is responsible for half of Henderson's submission victories.
Let's not also forget the massive physical gifts that Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan love to point out each time Henderson steps into the Octagon. It goes without saying that Henderson's legs are as big as tree trunks and he will enjoy a significant size advantage over virtually anyone he faces at 155-pounds. That size advantage only increases his ability in the grappling department.
The final point I'd like to make about how good of a fighter Henderson is revolves around his choices in life. Henderson is more at home reading a book by the fireplace than he is out at the clubs partying with his boys. That lifestyle may lead to some boring weekends but it also keeps Henderson focused on being the best fighter possible.
In short, Henderson is a complete fighter who has virtually no weaknesses. Fighters have come close to finishing him, yet he still escapes the bad spots. As any former or current champion will tell you, staying on top is the hardest part but Henderson appears to have all the talents necessary to make a run at UFC history.
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