Have We Seen The Last Of Benson Henderson As A Lightweight Title Challenger?


After No. 1-ranked UFC lightweight Ben Henderson was knocked out by No. 5-ranked Rafael dos Anjos in a shocking main event upset at last night’s (Sat., August 23, 2014) UFC Fight Night 49 from the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, mouths were left gaping open and fight fans were left wondering just what would become of former champion “Smooth,” who has now been finished in two out of his last four bouts.

With dos Anjos looking the best he ever has thanks to the Muay Thai coaching of the respected Rafael Cordeiro, the ultra-talented 155-pound arena may have taken a short step ahead of Henderson.

He was unable to enforce his gameplan of pushing the pace on dos Anjos, instead being pushed backward and nailed with repeated power shots until a huge flying knee and left hook ultimately sealed his fate.

“Smooth” already has two losses to returning champ Anthony Pettis, making his current plight a more than difficult one. He’ll have to prove himself against a veritable murderer’s row of lightweight talent, and will probably have to win at least five quality bouts in a row (with a few finishes) if he ever wants to sniff a title shot.

Henderson was quick to say he’s still confident that he’ll get there, but that’s simply easier said than done. He’s undoubtedly one of the finest lightweights the Octagon has ever seen, but it’s beginning to look like he doesn’t fare so well when opponents take the fight to him.

He’s more suited to a pressure-centered style of his own, using his strength and wrestling to wear opponents down in the clinch and grind them down over five rounds. Henderson’s chin had never failed him until last night, but that’s a very disconcerting sign at this point in his career.

There was a time not all that long ago when Henderson said he wanted to defend his title so many times that he would be compared to arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, longtime former middleweight champ Anderson Silva. That may have been a bit premature.

So what doe the future hold for Henderson?

Potential opponents for him could include the loser of UFC 178’s upcoming co-main event bout between Donald Cerrone and debuting former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, the loser of UFC 181’s title fight between Pettis and Gilbert Melendez, or currently injured No. 3 Khabib Nurmagomedov when he returns from surgery.

Those are all tough bouts for Henderson, but he’ll have to beat those contenders and likely more to rise back up the ranks. It’s not exactly fair to say that he’s earned the moniker of a fighter who chokes in the biggest fights because he’s won several high-profile title bouts.

But many of those were controversial split decisions, and although he notched his first-ever UFC finish over Rustam Khabilov in June, top-quality foes like dos Anjos obviously won’t give in to his strategy.

It’s clear that he can no longer enjoy the cushion of having the name recognition and ranking advantage over his opponents. He’s going to have to go for broke and use all of his considerable skillsets in an effort to regain the once-prominent role he enjoyed for the past few years.

Have we seen the last of Benson Henderson as a truly legitimate title contender?

Photo: Mark D. Smith for USA TODAY Sports

  • Hell no… He'll be right back! Last night was a set back, but 1 or 2 big wins puts him right back where he was. I would love to see Benson take on Khabib next!

    • Yeah I would still pick him to beat Rapheal in a rematch. I said before the fight that Rapheal would have to catch him with a good punch early to beat him and thats what happened. It was also possibly a bit early for the stoppage considering Bensons abilities.

  • If pettis loses which he probably will either to Gil or khabib then Bendo is right back in it he's beaten all the top contenders. Cerrone Diaz Melendez Thomson. Within a year it will come down to Alvarez khabib pettis and Bendo in the title picture

  • D

    I don't know that we've seen the last of him as a contender…but he will never be a champion again.

    Honestly he looked pretty bad last night. Dos Anjos hit him with nearly everything he threw. Henderson's head movement wasn't there, he was slower, and it looked like a matter of time from the first punch Dos Anjos threw. Henderson has relied on explosive athleticism to overpower guys and win close decisions for a lot of his career. He's 30 now, and that's around the age guys explosiveness and speed starts to fall off. He may have to change his style to stay at the highest level.

  • Ivy

    If Ben Henderson was a Brazilian he would have just lost to himself.

  • Hell NO! I'm not the biggest fan of Benson but i'm 100% sure that this will light and new fire in him. We will see a whole new animal come next fight, sometimes theses kind of things are a blessing in disguise. Benson will drop down the ladder like Faber did when he lost to Barao and rack up some impressive wins over the lower end of the top 10. Benson NEEDS to find a mean and nasty finishing streak, not finishing your opponents and getting split decision doesn't win you any fans and doesn't make the other fighters at 155 fear you in any way shape or form. Benson has some outstanding kicks, he needs to use them a Shit Load more if he wants to be anywhere near the belt.

    • Yep, i'm thinking he can come back strong just like he did after the 1st loss to Pettis.

  • Honestly I fuckin hope this is the last we ever see of this guy… I hate him so much and I thoroughly enjoy seeing his dumb face when he loses. Personally I thought Frankie Edgar beat him, gilbert melendez definitely beat him and even josh thompson won that fight.