Saturday night saw Benson Henderson defeat Josh Thomson in a split decision, but Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officials saw nothing that would cause them to rush toward giving him a rematch against Anthony Pettis. According to UFC president, Dana White, Saturday’s decision was a typically uninspiring performance from the former belt holder. The crowd’s reaction when the decision went in favor of Henderson would seem to confirm White’s assessment. Thompson was not the only one surprised by the final ruling.
Henderson ignored the crowd, seemingly content to have squeaked by with the victory, but the UFC president was not as pleased with this Saturday’s supposed headline fight. For sure, it was not the type of definitive beat-down which would have cemented him as the best candidate to fight Pettis for the lightweight title shot. While Henderson has been itching for a rematch since he lost the top spot last August, his tendency to do “just enough” to tip the scales in his favor with referees is not the type of exciting draw that is the bread-and-butter of the UFC. White was not shy with his opinion that neither of the men in Saturday’s featured fight showed the type of drive or effort that would earn them a shot at the title.
While Henderson vs. Pettis has a storied history, for most fans it is a story that has already been told. Henderson lost convincingly last August, submitting in the first round to Pettis. Before that, he lost in a 2010 WEC battle that ended his 18 month run holding the title. There was very little in Saturday’s fight that would suggest giving Henderson a rematch would produce a fight that might end any differently.
Thomson had been scheduled to fight Pettis in December, but the fight was cancelled when Pettis withdrew due to a PCL injury. Thomson elected to fight in Saturday’s feature, as Pettis will be recovering from his surgery until this summer. Despite the loss, he is likely still the number one lightweight contender. He will, however, need to come up with something more dynamic than was on display for fans on Saturday if he is going to hold on to that position. White was not sparing in his criticism of both fighters for allowing the fight to come down to the kind of decision that leaves the UFC audience as unsatisfied as they were after this bout. With a shot at fighting for the lightweight title potentially on the line, White felt that the fans deserved more.
White has thrown the future of the UFC lightweight title up for grabs with his comments. Labeling Henderson as a “grinder,” willing to leave the fight to the numbers on the scoring cards rather than finishing definitively, White all but ruled out the looked-for rematch with Pettis for the former title holder. Thomson, while still a strong contender, did not do himself any favors with his efforts in this fight. With months to go before summer, and the return of Pettis for a title defense, White may just be looking to find more attractive options than either of these two present. Fans themselves may be taking a look to see if there isn’t someone else on the horizon more willing to earn himself a shot.
By Jim Malone