When the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) decided it needed to bring another championship fight to its relationship with the FOX network, it chose Ben Henderson and his lightweight title to headline the UFC on Fox 5 card against the number one contender at 155-pounds, Nate Diaz.
The two hooked 'em up tonight (Sat., Dec. 8, 2012) at the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington, after a thrilling night of action set the stage for the two to deliver a classic.
It didn't look like that's what we would get in the early stages of the bout. Henderson grabbed a hold of Diaz and pushed him against the fence. Patience is key in 25-minute fights but it lead to a few terribly uninteresting minutes.
That's until they separated and "Bendo" started landing leg kicks that Diaz had no answer for. The two still managed to end the round hugging against the cage, though.
Close after one.
Henderson opened the second stanza with a quick takedown and some particularly savage ground-n-pound. Diaz got back up but ate a knee for his trouble and the champion resumed pushing him against that fence.
Once they reset in the center, "Smooth" resumed what was quickly becoming an ass whooping, landing clean on every area of Diaz's lanky body, scoring a knockdown and firmly establishing the fact that, yes, this man is the champion and no, you are not.
Diaz showed some signs of life late in the round with a sweet judo throw that almost landed him in full mount but his positioning was off and Henderson had no problem getting up and going back to work.
Henderson started the third with another early takedown and it looked more and more like Diaz never really stood a chance. A pass to side control and a few elbows had a desperate Diaz scrambling to grab for a leg, a toe, anything. They traded leg locks before frantically twisting and turning and getting back to their feet.
Once there, "Bendo" came down the pipe with a straight shot that planted Diaz and exploded the KeyArena. He was okay, never in danger of being finished, but Henderson's assault was a sustained aggression Diaz had no answer for.
Three rounds down and the champion was firmly in control.
Guess what happened in round four? If you answered, "why, the same thing that happened in the first three, Geno, but stop asking me questions" you got it.
Henderson was stronger, faster, more athletic, more durable, quicker to the punch, kick, takedown, elbow, anything you can think of. The low leg kick helped lead to shots over the top. That's when "Bendo" wasn't doing his thing taking the Stockton slugger down.
Only one round left for Diaz to make a comeback.
Henderson punished Diaz like he was mad at him for ever having the audacity to accept the fight in the first place. Diaz has lost in the past, but not like this, not at 155-pounds at least. This was an utter and complete dismantling, a star-making turn for Henderson, who turned in the performance of a lifetime on the biggest stage possible.
Take a bow, "Bendo," you deserve this one.
For complete UFC on Fox 5 results and coverage of the entire event click here.