Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson found his way back into the win column, earning a razor-thin split-decision victory over Josh Thomson at UFC on FOX 10 in Chicago.
As expected, the bout was a hotly-contested five-round affair between two of the best 155-pound fighters that the division has to offer. In the end, Henderson earned the nods on two of the judges’ scorecards by counts of 48-47 and 49-46 while the other judge saw the fight for Thomson by a margin of 48-47.
Thomson got off to a solid start in the opening round by taking Henderson to the ground early. He was able to have “Smooth” on the defensive as he employed a body lock and had him fending off a choke attempt. Henderson landed a solid knee to the body early in the second stanza, but Thomson responded in kind.
A big moment in the fight was the disclosure from Thomson to his corner that he had broken his thumb. The injury obviously hampered “The Punk” when it came to the striking and grappling department, but it didn’t prevent the former Strikeforce champion from competing hard to the bitter end.
Henderson started to take over the bout in the third round when he landed a Superman punch to begin the round. He secured a couple of takedowns and dominated in the striking statistics. As usual, he employed a bevy of leg kicks throughout the contest and there was a substantial amount of clinch work between the two well-matched competitors. Both fighters had their moments and it truly was a fight that could have gone either way.
Henderson has shown a knack of winning these types of close encounters and made it eight victories in nine Octagon appearances. It was a solid first step on the road back to title contention for Henderson after losing the belt at UFC 164 against Anthony Pettis.
The loss is an extremely disappointing result for Thomson, who would have secured his title shot with a victory. Thomson was scheduled to face Pettis last month, only to see that fight scrapped because of the champion’s knee injury. He is contemplating the possibility of retirement, but could decide to continue his career once the sting of the defeat eases a bit over time.
With Henderson 0-2 against Pettis, he’s likely going to need at least one more win to earn another title shot. Pettis is targeting a July return and at this stage, there’s no clear no. 1 challenger in place. There are a number of talented 155-pound competitors who will likely need to battle it out amongst themselves in the coming months to determine who should be next up for Pettis.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports