Spearheading the highly-successful UFC on Fox 5, Benson Henderson executed a perfect game plan against opponent Nate Diaz. Using his foot work and long range attacks coupled with his clinch wrestling, Henderson attacked Diaz at his two weakest ranges (fighting from his back or in close) and never let the challenger get into gear. After five rounds, Henderson walked away with a painless decision win, looking every bit the champion.
The Lightweight division is perhaps the most “top-heavy” at this point due to the three immediate rematches for the title, which gummed up the works for two years. With many claiming to be the number one contender and more on their way in, Henderson’s next move is very much up in the air. In this installment of MMA Future Betting Odds, we deal with Henderson and every possible opponent we could see the champion faced with. Some could prove to be easy and others fiendishly difficult, yet all bring an air of excitement to the title picture.
So, let’s dig in to Henderson’s future with some comparison betting odds and fight previews.
Benson Henderson vs. Donald Cerrone 3
With Cerrone vs. Pettis being a potential number one contender fight, the possibility of a third fight between the two is high. Since their second fight, Cerrone has found major success as a UFC Lightweight, having set Dennis Siver and Charles Oliveira packing to Featherweight and walking through everyone, except Nate Diaz.
While Cerrone has since added a dimension of wrestling to his game and tightened up his already tremendous striking game, this fight should play out similar to the last two. Cerrone is simply too lanky to stop high-level takedowns consistently, and considering Henderson is impossible to submit with conventional holds, this turns into another grappling rout for Henderson.
Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis 2
Having ripped the WEC title from Henderson’s grip in their final fight in the promotion, Pettis was on track to unify the titles against Frankie Edgar before an immediate rematch was scheduled against Gray Maynard instead. Pettis’ natural talent has since shined in bouts against Jeremy Stephens and Joe Lauzon, and as the only man to hand Henderson a loss; he’s a shoe in for a title fight if he gets past Cerrone.
Pettis managed to pull a win last time out, largely by being a lot like Henderson. Using his kick arsenal and a scrambling style on the mat, Pettis was able to secure dominant positions on Henderson more frequently than the champion. Couple this with the highlight reel Pettis Kick and Henderson was woefully short on the score cards. This time around, Henderson has tightened up aspects of his game and added dangerous dimensions, such as his in-fighting against the cage and a superior punching game. Most importantly, he’s also embraced his resistance to submissions and learned to use it to his advantage; Baiting position-wasting subs from his opponents to score from the top. A close fight, but one I think Henderson wins in the rematch by a decision.
Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez
Another frequently cited title fight is the Strikeforce title unification, pitting Gilbert Melendez against Henderson. Melendez has never stepped into the Octagon, yet brings a world-class resume to the UFC from his time in Japan and SF. Using a skill set of rapid fire wrestling and punching combinations, Melendez has killed off prey with his sheer speed and timing, having seldom been in trouble in any fight.
Melendez makes for an intriguing opponent due to his fast start and time spent with the Ceasar Gracie crew, as his submission defense should be sharp in any position on the mat. His two weakest areas however are two of Henderson’s strongest, as he doesn’t do well stuck on the outside with his shorter reach, and his bottom game is based more on springing up than any kind of threat. This is a fight that starts well for Melendez, but deteriorates as it continues and his lack of facets becomes more obvious, leading to a decision win for Bendo.
Benson Henderson vs. Eddie Alvarez
A less likely scenario than the above matches, but an interesting fight none-the-less with Eddie Alvarez is in contract negotiations with the UFC/Bellator. An immediate hit when he launched his global career in Dream, Alvarez has battled the best of the best outside of the Octagon, coming out on top due to his terrific boxing and clinch wrestling skills.
What Alvarez has that the others lack is a boxing game with an emphasis on footwork and defense. This is in large part to make up for his shaky chin, but he’s made it the cornerstone of his career at this point, and could use it to close distance and work his clinch game in the fight. Henderson has made the clinch one of his stronger elements as well against similar styled opponents, but may well find himself out-sized against the former WW fighter. While Benson Henderson can take this fight by virtue of his takedowns and outside striking, a game Alvarez could certainly make things hairy for the champion.