UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Benson Henderson's (23-7) promotional debut didn't quite go exactly as he had planned in Bellator 153's main event last night (Fri., April 22, 2016) inside Mohegan Sun Arena. "Smooth," Bellator's newly signed free agent, had absolutely no answer for the current Welterweight champion, Andrey Koreshkov (19-1), who scored a clean sweep on the score cards for a unanimous decision victory.
All three judges scored it 50-45 (watch video highlights here).
Simply put, Koreshkov was just too big. Henderson struggled to get inside of the champion's reach and his takedown attempts were all thwarted with relative ease over the course of the 25-minute bout.
In fact, it looked like it was about to end in the opening round when 25-year-old Russian from Omsk connected with a flying knee that floored Henderson, but the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion some how held on. For the remainder of the fight, though, it was a one-sided affair in favor of Koreshkov as Henderson could not mount much offense other than a handful of low leg kicks while enduring and absorbing big strike after big strike.
"It was a tough fight," said Bellator president Scott Coker after the fight's conclusion. "He took a lot of shots. Even from the very beginning, he looked he was about a foot shorter than Koreshkov. Koreshkov is no joke. He's got a lot of power. Everything is hard. Hits hard with every shot. You guys saw the fight. It was fairly one sided, so we will see what Benson wants to do next."
Coker thinks Henderson will get together with his head coach John Crouch next and decide if he'll stay at 170 pounds or head back down to 155. As far as he sees it, it's not that Henderson can't fight at Welterweight, but Koreshkov was just a much larger fighter than him.
"Could he fight guys at 170? Yeah. Koreshkov is just a big man, super strong and hits hard," Coker explained. "He's a guy that ... It's just, I don't know. If you don't ... I'm not sure what Benson could've done differently I guess is what I'm saying. He took a lot of shots and he didn't have an answer for it.
"A fight is a fight," he continued. "Anything can happen. It seemed like his punches were short all night long and that reach that Koreshkov has, I don't think he had an answer for that. I think Benson has a lot of his better fight at 155, but that's going to be his choice."
Although Henderson came over as the prized free agent, and most were expecting he would win his first bout and become the first fighter to ever win a title in WEC, UFC and Bellator, he surprisingly got dominated instead. That's a testament to the homegrown talent like Koreshkov, who has been growing within the promotion. The champion, who defeated Douglas Lima at Bellator 140 to win the title in July 2015, made his debut with Bellator in 2012 and is now 11-1 within the promotion. His lone loss was a one-sided drubbing by the hands of former Welterweight champion, Ben Askren, who is now the 170-pound champion for One Championship.
Coker, again, praised his champion.
"I mean, Koreshkov is the real deal," he said. "He is no joke. He had a tough fight against LIma and he's been fighting for Bellator way before I even got here. He's been doing extremely well. He had a great fight tonight. He had a great game plan. Benson seemed a little bit short the whole night. The punches were six inches from his face. The leg kicks were working, but at the end of the day, he couldn't land the big shot to hurt him and Koreshkov just kept coming in, coming in."
Henderson "fought hard, he fought valiantly," Coker added," but at the end of the day, Koreshkov is a beast and that is why he is our champ."