Recently, UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson has drawn the ire of many fans for his play-it-safe style. That style has him on the verge of breaking B.J. Penn’s record of three straight LW title defenses when he squares off against archrival Anthony Pettis in the main event of this Saturday’s UFC 164 from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
It also has him sitting without a single finish in his entire seven-fight UFC tenure.
Many believe that Henderson, although a great fighter, has been the beneficiary of many controversial judges’ decisions. The first was arguable at UFC 144, where he first beat then-champion Frankie Edgar for the strap. The second was even closer, as Henderson didn’t do a whole lot against Edgar in their rematch at UFC 150, yet still got the split decision. Henderson’s most recent fight, another split decision win over Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7 this April, was the third in a trilogy of fights that could have easily ended with his opponent’s hand raised.
But they weren’t and now “Bendo” sits with a golden opportunity to etch his name in the record books while simultaneously avenging his 2010 loss to Pettis at WEC 53. And he’s going to see do that how he sees fit. At the UFC 164 pre-fight press conference, Henderson was on hand to clarify his philosophy that a win is win:
"What it all boils down to is getting your hand raised. Whether you do it impressively, emphatically, whether you do it by split decision or whatever the case may be," he said.
“I'm always after beating the guy up. I always want to beat the guy up. I don't care about judges or decisions or this or that. I just want to go out there and beat the guy up. If a guy walks into the cage and slips on a banana peel and I get a win, I'll take the win."
Henderson may have a point here, as it’s hardly advisable to focus on solely obtaining highlight-reel finishes when you’re fighting the absolute best 155 lb. talent on the face of the earth. So while Henderson’s wins may be controversial and ugly at times, he’s getting the job done like few can.
A finish over Pettis in Milwaukee would do wonders for his mystique as champion, but most predict Henderson to grind out another decision without playing into Pettis’ strengths. It might be close, it might be controversial, but Henderson doesn’t really care what the critics think.
All he cares about is doing his job in the biggest fight of his life and walking out of the BMO Bradley Harris Center on Saturday with the belt still around his waist.