If I told you a champion had defended their title three times before losing via submission in the first round, caught in an armbar, via the proverbial shit happens rule… would you think that champion deserved a rematch? Now what if I told you that champion was Benson Henderson?
Tradition be damned, Henderson is out. No rematch. Not even a clear road back to the title that he just lost. Benson Henderson is a victim of public perception. Dana White’s perception.
This is not the first time either. Date back almost 3 years ago to the WEC finale versus the very same Anthony Pettis that just defeated Henderson at UFC 164. It was also against a reigning champion in Benson Henderson that Anthony Pettis defeated Benson Henderson. That was a five round war. This was more of a tease. Then as the WEC and UFC combined with the merging of divisions, not only did Henderson find himself on that outside looking in and unsure of what’s next role. He also didn’t even get a rematch against the man himself. Pettis, aligned to be the UFC’s next golden ticket would go on to lose his debut in the UFC against Clay Guida while Henderson would win his next 3 fights on the way to a title opportunity. Including defeating the same Clay Guida.
It was in that opportunity that the public perception of Henderson would shift. In what is quickly becoming the norm for Benson Henderson, he would go 5 rounds with then champion Frankie Edgar. Defeating the insanely popular people’s champion Edgar via a razor thin decision. Edgar however would get an immediate rematch. However, once again it was Henderson that would get his hand raised in an even more controversial and closely fought matchup.
Next, Benson Henderson would then go on to punish and defeat Nate Diaz in a unanimous decision. Controversy wasn’t far away though, as his next fight was against a man who at one time was considered the world’s best at 155lbs, Gilbert Melendez. Much, maybe too much like the Edgar fights, Henderson would go through a five round war versus Melendez. Resulting in a split decision victory for champion Benson Henderson.
While public perception continued to waver, Dana White didn’t help matters much by initially questioning the Edgar decisions before conceding later on that if it keeps happening maybe its for a reason. While never endorsing Henderson, White seemed to be finally accepting his champion. Though White did openly mock and question Henderson’s desire for a super fight versus welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
It really should come as no surprise when a few days after Henderson once again lost to the man that put a stain on his soul that White would announce that TJ Grant would get the next opportunity versus Pettis. Not the fighter Pettis called out in Jose Also and not the former champion Benson Henderson. Yes, before a conspiracy theorists dream injury that forced Grant out if his title opportunity in favor of Milwaukee’s hometown hero Anthony Pettis at UFC 164, he was next in line. But much like the previous champion in Edgar or even middleweight champion Anderson Silva, defend it once or a lot of times, if you’re the champion you always deserve a rematch. Note Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez now fighting for a third time.
From boxing to even the fictional pro wrestling, champions since the dawn of time have always been entitled to the same basic principal… Unless there are extreme circumstances, the champion always gets a chance for redemption.
While one could question Henderson’s arm/shoulder as a reason he has to wait, one could say the same as for Pettis’ knee that popped during the fight. People and even Dana White and Joe Silva quickly forget the dominance Henderson showed on his road to the title. One could argue that Pettis has beaten him twice, but being two separate promotions that means little. Especially since its been a three years.
Maybe Anthony Pettis will always have Benson Henderson’s number. Maybe Henderson just can’t beat Pettis. He is just a bad matchup. Pettis is one of the few 155lb fighters that is taller than Henderson, has the reach and physical ability to not be muscled around by Henderson. That however should be decided in the cage. Something Henderson has earned the right to do, same as any former champion.
For now, Henderson goes back to the waiting and fighting for his spot game. Something he is used to thanks to the lack of respect he’s received from the UFC since day one. Don’t worry, you haven’t seen the last of Benson Henderson.