Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson makes his long-awaited return to the cage tomorrow night, following the loss of his title to Anthony Pettis in August.
The defeat very much put him in a very difficult position in the division. That was his second loss to Pettis after their epic encounter at WEC 53, where Henderson lost out via decision.
The second fight was a lot more convincing as Pettis managed to lock an arm bar on Henderson within the first round.
Holding two losses to the fighter with the strap does you no favours. Josh Koscheck suffered this fate when he lost for a second time to Georges St Pierre, as Joseph Benavidez may with two losses to flyweight champion Demitrious Johnson. Junior dos Santos sits very much in the same position in the heavyweight division. However what Henderson possess that JDS does not is a very simple thing – an option to move divisions.
Henderson is a massive 155er. When meeting Frankie Edgar, 'Smooth’ looked a whole weight division bigger. What I think that Henderson lacks in the cage is the lack of either speed or power.
He is an extremely gifted fighter. His wrestling is strong, his striking is clean and he has a good sub game. Now at 30, he cannot rely on his athletic abilities to get the job done any more. His weight cut must be getting more difficult each fight.
In my opinion a move to welterweight would be perfect to further Henderson’s career. He's already said that he will eventually have to move to 170lbs; I can’t see any time better than the present to do so.
Henderson already holds wins over top lightweights like Gilbert Melendez and Nate Diaz. If he faces them again and wins, what next?
Will Dana White give Henderson the nod and allow a trilogy fight with Pettis. I think that bar the ‘Ninja kick’ that was thrown by Pettis in the first fight, the match up makes no sense. The first fight was close, but the second was pretty much a wash over.
I could understand Henderson staying if they were bitter rivals. It would make a lot of sense from a business view for the UFC to put the fight on again if they could do a TUF series with the pair coaching either side.
Unfortunately they aren’t. This isn’t a Rampage vs Wanderlei or Chuck vs Tito rivalry where despite one fighter being two up, the bout still made a lot of sense.
The vacation of the welterweight title from GSP has completely opened the UFC 170lbs division. The division is one full of inconsistency, with the exception of Johnny Hendricks.
The fact is, out of the 15 fighters in the UFC’s top Welterweights, there are no less than ten who have lost at least once in their last three fights.
No disrespect to Matt Brown, who is currently ranked 8th, but Henderson at 170lbs could walk through him in my opinion. At 170lbs, an easier weight cut would first of all take a lot of pressure off his back. He’s allowed to earn a title shot without looking for redemption. As will not having to cut weight before a fight.
I think that fighting at a higher weight will to allow Henderson to demonstrate his striking much more. Although a black belt in Taekwondo, we haven’t seen as much of his stand up game as we hoped in the octagon.
Nonetheless, at welterweight it will be a lot more difficult to muscle his way through fights by grinding out decision. Therefore his stand up would play a lot bigger part - the likelihood is he would have a speed advantage on many of his opponents.
If Henderson beats Thompson on Saturday night, I just don’t know where he goes in the current lightweight division. Welterweight is almost like a new division within the UFC now that Georges St Pierre has abdicated his throne.
It needs a new king and ‘Smooth’ has what it takes claim the crown.
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