Photo by Esther Lin MMA Fighting
The former WEC lightweight champ earned it last night with the type of gritty performance that defined his title run in the UFC's former sister promotion.
Many analysts (myself included) didn't believe Henderson would be able to untangle himself from Bocek's web if he were caught in a submission hold but the Arizona grappler wiggled his way free time and time again and forced the action.
It was a bout that was significantly closer than the three 30-27 scores from the judges indicated.
The fight breakdown after the jump.
Mark Bocek confidently proclaimed that he had "the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) in the lightweight division," but despite his credentials, he was never able to significantly threaten "Bendo."
The Canadian worked hard from the clinch for takedowns but Henderson was very calm and collected, never panicking despite being put on his back multiple times.
The closest Bocek came to finishing the fight was with a mixture of guillotine attempts and an anaconda choke in the second round but the "Smooth" one twisted free and, in the turning point of the fight, leaped forward with multiple knees that connected with Bocek's head.
Even Bocek's red hair couldn't mask that his dome had been cracked and he was leaking blood profusely.
At multiple points, a frustrated Bocek was forced to pull guard and attempt sweeps off of his back.
The story of the fight was a mixture of Henderson's speed, craftiness and athleticism outworking Bocek's technique and plodding pace.
For Mark Bocek, the Canadian jiu-jitsu ace has likely been relegated to gatekeeper status. Despite an amazing submission against Dustin Hazelett, he has come up short against top lightweights like Jim Miller, Frankie Edgar and now Ben Henderson.
He's still in need of that signature win.
As Dana White would say, he's "in the mix" in the stacked UFC's lightweight division.