It was the performance dreams are made of. At UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Thatch on FOX Sports 1 last night, former lightweight champ Benson Henderson shucked the bounds of the 155-pound weight class and moved up to face rising star (and member of the striking elite) Brandon Thatch. And Henderson looked fantastic, weathering some ghastly kicks to the body, constant pressure and a pair of well-timed trips that had him staring up at the rafters to eventually pull the bigger fighter to the canvas and choke him out. In sum, Henderson looked great.
But chill with the “Who’s next at welterweight for ‘Bendo’?” talk, will you?
Although he pulled out the “W”, Henderson was at all times a very visibly undersized fighter in the cage compared to his foe, and that size difference came into play early and often with the ease in which Thatch kept him at the end of his kicks and punches, and with the first few takedown attempts that Thatch shrugged off. Sure, the former champ overcame that deficit with head-movement, circling and tenacity, but not every welterweight he might face is going to have the same strengths and weaknesses as Thatch. There would be some who wield an offensive wrestling threat to go with that ace-level striking, and having that extra wrinkle to worry about could mean Bendo would be eating shins and leather until he actually swallows that toothpick that’s perpetually in his mouth.
There’s also no good reason to keep Henderson returning to the welterweight trough. There are, after all, still plenty of fights for him at lightweight. Sure, champ Anthony Pettis has his number, but there are other matchups and other stars. In that division, Henderson’s plate remains full.
Last night’s performance was reminiscent of the glory days of PRIDE FC. David took on Goliath, and with grit and fortitude, David won. Kudos to Henderson for that.
Now let him go back to the lightweight ranks and stay there. There’s no good reason to do otherwise.