Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Benson Henderson and Brandon Thatch scrapped in a late notice bout last night (Sat., Feb. 14, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 60 inside 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado.
The odds certainly seemed to be against Henderson, as he entered this bout off two straight losses with a clear size disadvantage. However, Henderson was more than game and looked to use his experience to take out the up-and-coming prospect.
Thatch brutally ruined each of his foes prior to Henderson with extremely powerful Muay Thai strikes. Against the former lightweight kingpin, Thatch looked to earn the biggest victory of his career in similar fashion.
The fight began in a very tense manner, as both men feinted quite a bit in the first minute or so. While Thatch controlled the center of the cage, he wasn't his usually reckless self. Instead, he looked to land big kicks and move forward with clinch knees when opportunities present themselves.
Meanwhile, Henderson looked to take advantage of his quickness by bursting in with heavy low kicks and body shots. The former lightweight champ did not look for a single takedown, choosing instead to strike with the feared kickboxer. Overall, it made for a very close first round.
Early on, Henderson looked to follow his coaches advice and look for clinch takedowns, but nearly got kneed for his troubles. After that close call, Henderson returned to his kickboxing.
Thatch did a much better job utilizing his range in the second round. In addition to walking Henderson into the fence to land some heavy kicks and punches, Thatch also threw Henderson to the mat a couple times with Muay Thai dumps from the clinch.
While Henderson remained unfazed, he definitely lost the second round.
Henderson started out the third round fairly strong, landing his improved jab a number of times. Thatch, undeterred, continued to move forward and throw his strikes, albeit with a little more head movement.
As Thatch began to land more of his strikes, Henderson looked to his takedowns. At first, it appeared that Henderson was simply to small to drag his opponent to the mat, but Henderson doggedly pursued the double and eventually finished the shot.
Almost immediately, Thatch gave up his back in an attempt to stand. Henderson quickly hopped on and secured the back mount. For much of the round, Henderson calmly hunted for the rear naked choke, before attacking with an armbar at the end of the round. However, Thatch slipped away and returned to his feet, sending this bout into the championship rounds.
Thatch looked to come out aggressive and retake the momentum, but Henderson's movement kept him out of most of his opponent's strikes. Henderson looked to return to his wrestling, but he could not drag his large opponent to the mat and took some heavy shots along the way.
Just as Thatch seemed to be catching his second wind and scoring with punches, Henderson blasted through him with a double leg. Once more, Henderson quickly passed his opponent's guard and moved into the back mount. Thatch escaped at first, but Henderson returned him to the exact position once again.
This time, Henderson quickly attacked with his submissions. First, he heel kicked Thatch's ribs, which opened up the neck. "The Smooth One" then slid his arm under the chin and locked in the grip, finishing the bout via rear naked choke.
Not bad for a lightweight.
Henderson fought an incredible fight. In the first couple rounds, it was too dangerous for Henderson to grapple with his opponent, who was obviously stronger and still quite fresh. Instead, Henderson used his movement and speed to keep himself out of harm's way, while landing his own shots.
Early on, Henderson attacked often to the body and legs. As the fight wore on, Thatch was getting tired due to the high pace and elevation, but Henderson's body shots definitely quickened that process.
In addition, this is the best Henderson's right hand has looked to date. His jab was much sharper than it has been in the past, and his lead hooks to the body were on point.
As for Henderson's next opponent, who knows? It's unclear which division Henderson will next compete in, but he definitely won't get Rory McDonald. Either way, I'm looking forward to it.
In my preview, I wrote that Thatch should not give Henderson any respect. Thatch clearly tried to fight a measured bout, and he did well early, but the chances of Thatch winning a decision were pretty slim.
Instead, Thatch should have went out and done his best to manhandle Henderson. Early on, the strength advantage was very clear, meaning that Thatch would have likely had a good chance at simply blowing through Henderson with knees early on.
As "Rukus" said in his post-fight interview, this is a learning experience. Thatch and his Muay Thai are not going anywhere, and he's still not far outside the top 15. He certainly doesn't need to face off with another lower ranked fighter to prove himself again; we've seen that fight.
Instead, Thatch should face off with the winner of Erick Silva and Ben Saunders. Imagine the violence!
For complete UFC Fight Night 60 "Henderson vs Thatch" results and play-by-play click HERE.