Last night (Jan. 25, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its return to Illinois for the third consecutive year with UFC on FOX 10: "Henderson vs. Thomson," live from the United Center in downtown Chicago. Not only was it the UFC's third straight visit to "The Windy City," but also the third straight year holding an event on FOX.
The night was capped off by a five-round headliner between former UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and former Strikeforce 155-pound kingpin Josh Thomson (highlights here). Thomson was originally scheduled to face Anthony Pettis for the division title, but "Showtime" was forced from the card because of injury.
Henderson ended up winning a decision that may or may not have been controversial. UFC President Dana White definitely thinks it was, for what it's worth. Anyways, enough with this introduction, let's talk about last night...
Winning is great, but Benson Henderson has to start finishing ...
Here is a very harsh truth that Benson Henderson is faced with: now that he's 0-2 against UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, the only way he'll get another title shot is if he either starts finishing opponents or he starts dominating in decision.
His UFC lightweight title reign was disappointing, if only because he seemed to retain his strap with close decisions. Though he successfully defended the belt three times, he didn't really impress in those wins. The argument could be made that he came up short against Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez.
Henderson's an amazing athlete and he could very well hold gold again in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. But right now, at this moment in time, he's just not a guy I want to watch. Despite his activity, he's just not looking to finish fights. And unfortunately, in MMA, winning isn't everything.
That being said, there really is no controversy. It was just a super close fight.
Disappointing showing by Stipe Miocic ...
Before the fight, a friend of mine who works in the MMA industry asked me what I thought about Stipe's chances against Gabriel Gonzaga. I said that "Napao" is a stiff test for pretty much everyone in the heavyweight division outside of Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and Travis Browne.
Having said that, I also recognized that Stipe should have a fairly easy bout. I enjoy being right but at the same time, I was a bit disappointed in the action inside the cage. Miocic has all the skills to be a top fighter in the division, but he's not good when it counts.
Kind of like with Benson Henderson above, winning is great but you need to finish opponents if you hope to sniff a title shot. Travis Browne made his case for a crack at the crown by being violent in the cage. Last night's win for Miocic didn't do anything for his standing in the heavyweight division.
Cerrone is a boss ...
Here's the thing about Donald Cerrone, he's probably my favorite fighter to watch in the UFC. In any division. In any time period. I know when "Cowboy" fights, there will be violence and a lot of it. Last night's bout against Adriano Martins was just another great example how much violent he can be in the cage.
Everything about that finish was beastly. The head kick was set up and executed perfectly (highlights here). When Cerrone is on, he's one of the most dangerous guys in the sport. He's just too dynamic for most of the division. The problem is that sometimes he's just not on.
I'd like to see more of him, just because I think he brings something special to the cage every single time he fights. He may not be a champion, but he's a guy who I'll tune in to watch every single time.
Additional thoughts ...
- The biggest star of the night for me outside of the main card is clearly Alex Caceres. I get the feeling he was supposed to be a stepping stone for Sergio Pettis. Instead, he gets a big win over a highly touted prospect (highlights here). Oh and he collected $100k in post-fight bonuses.
- I'm not sure if the Sergio Pettis hype-train got derailed last night, but it definitely took a bit of a hit. Yes, I know everyone loses in MMA. That's fine. But losing how he did against who he did? I've got to see more from him before I declare him a top prospect.
- I don't know what to think of Josh Thomson's claims that last night could be the end of his MMA career. Yes, he's getting older and he's had to deal with a ton of injuries during his time. But I don't think he retires on a disappointing loss like that. Though if he does, I'll say that I've enjoyed watching his career and wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do next.
- Daron Cruickshank did some violent things last night. I was really impressed with the spinning hook kick. Just nasty! Now to see him take a step up in competition.
- WHOA! Nikita Krylov also picked up a big win via head kick. Maybe he's not as bad as I thought? I mean he's still pretty bad, but he's not as bad as I thought.
- Highlight of the night: Joe Rogan hating on "Beatus." Sorry Joe but that's the FOX mascot. Maybe you shouldn't be talking a bunch of trash about him on FOX? Just a thought.
- Second highlight of the night: Joe Rogan saying "Penis" during the FOX Sports 1 broadcast. I'll list that under "Things you shouldn't hear on any sports network during a live event."
- Overall, I was kind of disappointed in the card. Sure there were some nice finishes and some decent fights. But there were also a lot of moments that just seemed to draaaaaaag on. If you're gonna be holding fights on FOX and not FOX Sports 1, you've gotta bring the thunder. I know there are injuries so champs are being saved for pay-per-view (PPV) broadcasts, but really, this wasn't worthy of the big FOX outlet.