The good news for Benson Henderson is that after Saturday’s victory over Gilbert Melendez in San Jose he enters his second year wearing the lightweight title belt—and he’s engaged. But Henderson’s fight history has many wondering just what kind of champion we’re dealing with.
At UFC on Fox 7, Henderson took on Melendez in the night’s headline match, successfully defending his 155-pound belt for the third time in a split decision. This decision was so split, though, the biggest heart pumping of the night may have been waiting to see which hand would be held high in the end. The first two rounds, Melendez was forcing Henderson back. In the third, Henderson had Melendez on his back—briefly. Four and five, it most likely depends who you ask.
UFC fans are beginning to get used to Henderson. Even UFC President Dana White said of the fight, “It’s a Ben Henderson fight… All his fights go to decisions—and controversial decisions.” Probably the smoothest thing about Smooth is his so-far undying ability to hold out long enough for the judges to rule in his favor. Henderson has yet to pull off a TKO in the cage and two of his past three title bouts have ended in splits.
Henderson’s record, of course, should not be taken lightly. He is now 19-2 and sits more comfortably in the immediate wake of Jose Aldo, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva—the top five of the UFC pound-for-pound rankings. But his style of fighting and consequently his style of winning, make every victory worth a rematch, which works against him when it comes to merit. UFC fans like their champions domineering like Silva and ruthless like St-Pierre. Henderson may never be that kind of champion. But, obviously, that doesn’t stop him from being a champion at all.