Bellator 208: “Fedor vs. Sonnen” takes place this Saturday night (Oct. 13, 2018) at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., featuring the Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal match between “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (37-5, 1 NC) against “The American Gangster” Chael Sonnen (31-15-1).
Earlier on the Paramount Network-televised main card two Lightweight stars will shine as former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion, Benson Henderson (25-8), puts his reputation and pride up against the four-fight win streak of his opponent, Saad Awad (23-9).
“Smooth” is a name the combat sports world recognizes by virtue of his previous accomplishments, but after he signed with Bellator in 2016, Henderson went on to drop three of his first four fights. In fairness, it’s worth noting one was a five-round title fight and two were split decisions. Indeed, with a name like Henderson’s you don’t get easy fights. And he certainly didn’t draw an easy bout this weekend with Awad, who owns 10 wins by knockout and seven by submission. In fact, he hits so hard that he has a metal plate in his hand to keep it from breaking again. Damn, son.
“Oh man, it was so friggin’ relieving. It was so nice to go out there and have a good performance. The wins and losses, it is what it is, but ultimately what I am after — what we are after at The MMA Lab — is we are after great performances. We feel if you have a great performance, the wins and losses will take care of themselves and obviously there will be more wins than losses.”
In fact, Henderson takes all the blame for not being at his best for the two straight losses that he suffered in Bellator.
“Those two back-to-back split decision losses, I don’t think I had a great performance in either one of those. I had a decent performance, but not a great performance at all. It was great just to have a great performance and do what I do — go out there and shine and have fun, go crazy and get my hand raised on top of that.”
Henderson gives credit to Huerta for making him step up and be at his best once again.
“I would say he’s definitely resilient and tough as heck, because I kicked him square in the head and he looked at me and said, ‘Okay, let’s go, bring it’ and had big old cut on his head and just came forward. I was like, ‘Oh man, this is Roger Huerta here! There’s no quit in this boy here!’ He was bringing it, so it was a bit of an eye opener for me.”
It’s fair — if not more accurate — to say the same of Awad. He’s riding a four-fight win streak with two decisions and two technical knockouts. And he just keeps on coming.
“I’m excited for it — I like it! I think he’s a super tough guy, been around for a long time in Bellator, has a couple of big knockouts. (He has) big power in his hands, but my job ... what’s going to be on me is to make sure that I don’t let him hit me. He’s going to try, and my job is gonna be to make sure that he doesn’t do that. He’s tough as heck. He has some holes in his game, and my job is gonna be to make sure I exploit those holes as much as I can.”
Henderson says it’s possible that Awad is too tough for his own good, and given how many time he’s fractured his left hand, he may have a point.
“That’s the problem with throwing so hard, that’s the problem with having big power in your hands, you have hand problems. If you’re like me you throw nice and soft, and I’ve never had any hand problems, never had hand surgery, never had a broken hand, that’s because I hit nice and soft!”
To be fair, Henderson says he meant it “more jestingly” than factually, but given his lack of hand injuries and number of submissions (11) compared to knockouts (three), there may be something to it. What he’d really like to see is judges score strikes consistently.
“Yeah, that’s what I always wonder with judges (*sighs*) going to seek a decision or not is, ‘How do they score?’ Does this judge score more for the little shots, and not the hard shots? Or does this judge score a lot more for power shots, and yadda yadda yadda.”
If they can’t be consistent in how they evaluate a fight, Henderson says they could at least give fighters a heads up as to who is scoring their fight.
“I’d love to know as far as scoring-wise who your judge is going to be during the fight so you can know a history of their past, how they scored fights and how they like to score. ‘Oh this judge scores a lot for submission attempts. This judge doesn’t really score submission attempts at all, but he scores a lot for a good submission defense.’ I would just like to know what the judge’s opinions are. ‘This judge really likes jiu-jitsu, this judge really likes boxing, this judge doesn’t care at all about kicks.’ If I could know that ahead of time, I could make sure I do what I need to do.”
Henderson will take that risk of not knowing what the judges are going to do, let alone what Awad is going to do, and will go out there to have an exciting fight.
“I’m going to do whatever he gives me. I’m going to set some things up and make him give me some things, but whatever it is he gives me (I’ll do). If I set up the big left hand and he has the big left hand, that’s no problem, I’ll go to the leg kick instead. If he’s not giving me leg kicks, he gives me the takedowns, I’ll go for the takedowns instead. I’m going take whatever Saad gives me.”
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Sonnen vs. Fedor” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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