Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson entered UFC on Fox 10 with aspirations of moving up the ladder in the lightweight division, but in the end it was Henderson who overcame a tough challenge from Thomson to perhaps put himself in position for a title shot.
Despite coming into the fight as a heavy favorite in the main event, Henderson squeaked out a very close split decision. Despite a 46-19 advantage in significant strikes and a 114-33 advantage in total strikes, Henderson lost the fight on one card, 48-47, while picking up wins on the other two, 49-46 and 48-47, per FightMetric.
The decision win might not have been what "Bendo" was looking for in his return to the Octagon as a contender, but it did make a little UFC history:
Benson Henderson rebounds from loss in previous fight, def. Josh Thomson by split decision. Henderson's last 8 wins have come via decision.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 26, 2014
There was plenty of buzz surrounding the main event at the United Center in Chicago, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Both men desperately tried to outdo the other, and it spoke to the depth and high level of competition within the UFC's lightweight class.
It wasn't long ago that the 30-year-old Henderson was the UFC Lightweight Champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. Henderson dropped the title to Anthony Pettis back in August, though, which marked his second career loss to the current lightweight champ.
Even with the loss, Henderson remained atop the lightweight hierarchy in terms of title contenders. Rather than simply giving him another crack at the championship, however, Bendo had to prove his worth by beating the No. 4-ranked Thomson.
Henderson revealed his plan to be aggressive against Thomson, according to UFC on Twitter, and put that strategy into action.
Henderson also had some added motivation stemming from comments Thomson made about the ranking of Henderson and other WEC fighters a few years ago, according to Mike Bohn of MMAjunkie.
"I have a pretty good memory, and I remember when guys talk smack about me," Henderson said. "I remember when other fighters say something derogatory about me. I don't forget that stuff."
Does Henderson deserve a title shot when Pettis returns?
This fight represented perhaps the greatest opportunity of Thomson's career. After a great run with Strikeforce, the 35-year-old Thomson decimated Nate Diaz in his first UFC fight since 2004 in April. That put Thomson a win over Henderson away from possibly challenging Pettis for the strap.
Unfortunately for Thomson, though, Henderson proved to be too much. The loss is obviously a huge setback for Thomson in his quest for the title considering his age, but he acquitted himself well and could eventually get back in the mix down the line.
In fact, Thomson was supposed to face Pettis for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but a knee injury suffered by Pettis resulted in the fight being put on hold, and now it may not happen at all after Thomson's loss to Henderson.
The result wasn't a huge surprise considering some of the information that came to light prior to the bout. According to MMAjunkie, Thomson had an awful training camp leading up to Saturday's contest.
That may have contributed heavily to Thomson's inability to overcome Henderson, although some might argue that Henderson is simply the better fighter.
As for Henderson, he was expected by most to come away victorious against Thomson. He did what he was supposed to do, but the focus now shifts to the speed bump known as Pettis. Henderson has twice lost to Pettis and it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to overcome his kryptonite.
Whenever Pettis returns from injury, conventional wisdom suggests that Henderson is next in line for a crack at the title despite his past struggles against him. Henderson will eventually have to get past that obstacle to become the best lightweight in mixed martial arts yet again, and his win over Thomson suggests that he is capable.
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