Anytime Benson Henderson enters the cage, you never quite know what to expect. But his Saturday night main event at Bellator 183 in San Jose, California, against Patricky Freire ended with the same result as his last fight.
Saturday's main event was a back-and-forth war between two great fighters, but Henderson just didn't do enough to warrant the win. While it can be argued Henderson was the more active fighter through three rounds, he wasn't as effective with his strikes as Freire was.
A split-decision win for Freire (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) was well-earned.
With the loss, Henderson falls to 1-3 inside the Bellator cage, with the only win coming against Freire in their previous bout when Henderson won via TKO due to Freire's freak leg injury.
But this time around, Freire came out with something to prove. In the first, both fighters had their moments as they felt each other out, each anxiously moving forward without too much volume, wary of each other's ability to counterstrike.
The second round showed Henderson try to take the fight to Freire, shooting for a couple of takedowns, albeit unsuccessfully. The crowd grew frustrated with the fight since it wasn't a slugfest like the other fights on this main card. Instead, it was a very technical bout Freire won primarily because of his performance in the third round, where he was able to connect with a couple of nice shots to Henderson's body, including a shoulder that hit Henderson hard enough to make him stumble just a little bit.
At the end of the day, a split-decision victory is a hard way to lose a fight. And for Henderson, the clock is ticking on his career after yet another loss.
Here's the full results from Bellator 183:
Goiti Yamauchi def. Adam Piccolotti via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:19 of R1
Aaron Pico def. Justin Linn via KO (punch) at 3:45 of R1
Paul Daley def. Lorenz Larkin via KO (punches) at 2:40 of R2
Roy Nelson def. Javy Ayala via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)
Patricky Freire def. Benson Henderson via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Tony Johnson def. Mike Ortega via KO (1:49, Round 2)
Kaytlin Neil def. Brooke Mayo via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Brandon Laroco def. Gaston Bolanos via technical submission (2:16, Round 2)
Jaymee Nievara vs. Corina Herrera via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-27)
Fernando Gonzalez def. Alex Lopez via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Ricardo Vasquez def. Justin Tenedora via submission at (2:39, Round 1)
J.J. Okanovich def. Luis Jauregui via submission (:42, Round 1)
Daniel Gonzalez def. Anthony Castrejon via KO (4:03, Round 1)
Yamauchi taps out Piccolotti
Putting his undefeated 9-0 record on the line, Adam Piccolotti came into Saturday night's fight with a lot of confidence against Goiti Yamauchi, a veteran with a 21-3 record.
It didn't take long for Yamauchi to look to assert his dominance on the ground by pulling guard fairly early in the first round as he attempted a guillotine, but he wasn't able to sink his arm in deep enough to complete the choke.
However, Yamauchi was able to make Piccolotti work to get back up to his feet, eventually sinking a hook in to gain control of his back. His relentless pressure was becoming too much for Piccolotti, and he was able to sink his forearm underneath Piccolotti's chin for a rear-naked choke, leading to a tap.
It was a short, yet impressive, performance for Yamauchi, who should surely get some more face time on main event cards in the foreseeable future.
Pico shuts the lights out for Linn
For Aaron Pico, Saturday's fight was a career-defining bout, even though it was only his second-ever professional fight. But with so much hype surrounding him, he had to show up after a disappointing debut.
And, boy oh boy, did Pico deliver.
His debut loss will be long forgotten after his vicious knockout on Linn, who went crashing to the canvas. Not only was Pico's finish the Knockout of the Night, it should also be in consideration for Knockout of the Year. Pico's left hook won't be soon forgotten, nor should it.
Even UFC Fighter Al Iaquinta chimed in, claiming Linn was, literally, lifeless on the canvas.
Here's to many more highlight finishes for Pico, who came back in the best way possible from a loss.
Big Country puts on a show
It's a bit surprising to see Big Country go the distance in a fight that had some serious strikes by both opponents, but his Bellator debut against Ayala was a very competitive, hard-fought three-round fight.
Ayala landed several good rights in the opening exchange, but Nelson was able to eat up the punches on his iron chin and continue to march forward. Ayala and Nelson found themselves in the clinch, where both looked to drop elbows on each other. Nelson found himself in full mount on Ayala near the end of the round, but couldn't keep Ayala down long. A knee to the face courtesy of Ayala was a nice way to end the round, but Nelson won the first on my scorecard.
After a competitive first, Nelson took over.
Nelson clipped Ayala with a vintage right hand that we've all grown to love over the years during his UFC days, but Ayala stayed upright and continued to exchange. With two minutes left in the second round, Nelson was able to get Ayala in an uncomfortable position on the canvas, using his underrated grappling skills to sink two hooks in. Ayala got back up, but Nelson was able to secure another takedown shortly after taking a kick to the chin, dropping elbows on Ayala until the end of the round.
The third round was more of the same, with both fighters clearly feeling the effects of a back-and-forth fight.
Both fighters had their moments in the third, but Nelson was able to show his true grit, unleashing all the energy he had left in the final seconds of the round to win over the fans—and the judges.
A solid debut for Nelson, it's good to see him back in the cage, doing what he does best.
Daley beats down Larkin
Who would've thought Lorenz Larkin would be 0-2 after his first two fights in Bellator?
After losing in his debut a few months back, Larkin was looking to make a statement against Paul Daley Saturday night. And after a strong showing in the first round, showcasing his beautiful striking and technique, it was safe to assume he would get back on track.
But Daley had other plans.
At the 2:40 mark in the second round, Daley landed a left hook that shook Larkin, sending him to the canvas for the knockout victory. The punch didn't necessarily come out of left field, as Daley did look quite sharp in exchanges, but seeing Larkin go down the way he did was alarming.
Larkin was expected to beat Daley, so this puts him in a bizarre position in the welterweight division. It looks like he'll have to move down in competition to gain some wins, while Daley climbs the rankings looking for a big fight. In fact, he had one in mind post-fight, per MMAjunkie's Steven Marrocco.
Let's see it happen.