Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 | 9:15 p.m.
The search for a decisive Benson Henderson victory will unmercifully continue after UFC on Fox 10.
Controversial wins defined the former lightweight champion’s title reign, as judges awarded him four decisions that many fans and media dissented. Henderson’s post-championship run got off to an identical start Saturday night in Chicago.
Boos overtook the United Center and displeasure invaded social media when octagon announcer Bruce Buffer read Henderson as a split-decision winner (49-46, 48-47, 47-48) over former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson.
“I guess I can’t have a fight that doesn’t have some controversy around it somewhere,” Henderson smiled in a televised interview afterwards. “I guess that just kind of goes with the nature.”
The Sun was among those questioning the decision, having scored the bout 48-47 in favor of Thomson. Henderson appeared to win only one round clearly, the third, when he out-struck Thomson to a significant degree and took him down to threaten with submissions.
Thomson had a tough time adjusting during that frame after hurting his hand in the first round, and realizing it was broken in the second. It was a bad stroke of luck for “The Punk,” who rocketed to a fast start before the injury.
Thomson controlled the larger Henderson with a takedown and a transition to the former champion’s back in the first round. The second was closer, and again grappling-heavy, but most scored it for Thomson.
Thomson ate plenty of shots in the fourth and fifth rounds, but took Henderson down three times and began finding ways to work around his swelling right hand. The two judges who gave the fight to Henderson awarded him each of the final two rounds, while the other scored them both for Thomson.
“As far as Ben Henderson fights go,” UFC President Dana White said, “this is typical.”
The decision didn’t outrage White — other than the one judge who scored four rounds for Henderson — because he felt neither fighter pushed hard enough for a finish.
Thomson shook his head with a grin in the octagon when he heard the scores, as if he knew what was coming. He knew history could repeat.
“My opinion doesn’t matter as you can tell,” Thomson said in a mocking tone at the post-fight press conference. “I lost. The only people whose opinions matter are the three sitting around the cage.”
Thomson held top-contender status coming into the event, as he was supposed to challenge Anthony Pettis in December before an injury forced the champion off the card. White confirmed that Henderson would not slide into Thomson’s lost title shot for a third bout against Pettis.
“He didn’t do anything that’s got anyone screaming, ‘I want to see him get another shot at Pettis,’” White said.
UFC on Fox 10 left the lightweight hierarchy murky, as the other 155-pound fighter to take a step forward also has a first-round loss to Pettis within the past year. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone ousted streaking Adriano Martins with a head-kick knockout at 4:40 of the first round.
While Cerrone spoke of wanting an opportunity at a championship bout, he didn’t sound like he was in too much of a rush. Cerrone’s primary goal is to fight six times in 2014.
“A lot of fighters say they can’t get fights,” Cerrone puffed. “I’ll fight anyone, anytime … I’m making another run for the belt. I’m right here.”
Cerrone infamously encountered Henderson twice in the WEC, losing via submission and unanimous decision. Those defeats came in 2009 and 2010, respectively, yet they’re two of the most recent examples of Henderson leaving no doubt that he won a fight.
“I get my hand raised whether it’s as close as it takes or as big a margin as it takes,” Henderson said.
Lately, it’s leaned heavily to the former.