It was the rematch that had to happen.
In October 2009, Ben Henderson met Donald Cerrone in the main event of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 43, which took place at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. While Henderson was able to secure a three round unanimous decision, it was hardly a "Smooth" ride to the judges' scorecards.
Some even argued that Cerrone deserved the nod.
That's because "Cowboy" was relentless in his submission attempts, but the flexible "Bendo" refused to tap in what was widely-considered "Fight of the Year" by multiple outlets. Following their controversial decision, Henderson went on to capture the division crown from Jamie Varner while Cerrone choked out Ed Ratcliff.
Fans wanted closure.
Prior to their second go-round, ZUFFA began implementing the promotion's inevitable merger with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and what was originally billed as WEC 48 mutated into UFC presents: "Aldo vs. Faber," a pay-per-view (PPC) event pitting Urijah Faber vs. Jose Aldo for the promotion's featherweight title.
In a show void of any WEC branding.
Even the UFC broadcasters were imported to give the production a "UFC feel," where "Henderson vs. Cerrone 2" sat nestled snugly in the co-main event. "If he lives me an opening, if he gives me a chance, I'll definitely end it in the first round," insisted the challenger. "He's going out. He's going to sleep."
Here's how it all went down.
Despite their rivalry, both competitors touch gloves to make their rematch official. Henderson comes out southpaw as Cerrone lumbers in with a leg kick. "Smooth" seizes the opportunity to shoot but is quickly stuffed. "Cowboy" rolls to his feet as the champion drives him to the cage.
Henderson punishes his foe with hard knees to the thigh followed by a pair to the dome.
A disgusted Cerrone whirls around to face his attacker but loses his footing and gets taken down. "Bendo" pins him against the cage and unleashes brutal ground and pound as the challenger's forehead begins to swell. Any lingering anticipation of an evenly-matched war has long since dissipated.
"Cowboy" is in all kinds of trouble.
The former pro kickboxer and Greg Jackson disciple sneaks out the back door but Henderson is relentless and clings to him like a barnacle, securing a front guillotine while a befuddled Cerrone is still on all fours. The champion throws a leg over the shoulder and leans back, forcing the tap at just 1:57 of the very first round.
"There was no hesitation in the tap," observed on-loan UFC color commentator Joe Rogan. "That means he was going out, there's just no doubt about it."
Despite his lethal striking and deadly submission game, Cerrone was rendered combat ineffective.
Could Nate Diaz meet the same fate? The wily Stockton slugger, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, will try to succeed where "Cowboy" failed in the main event of UFC on FOX 5 this Saturday night (Dec. 8, 2012) from the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.
To see how Diaz made history en route to his 155-pound title shot click here.