Henderson won on the scorecards 48-47 three times in a close five-round fight. The second and third rounds belonged to Henderson, who maintained a distance from Cerrone's Muay Thai striking and picked his takedowns to score on punches. Cerrone came alive the final two rounds, better defending Henderson's takedown efforts and attempting kimura, armbar and choke submissions.
Round one was the most ambiguous with Cerrone locking in a seemingly-tight guillotine choke and then transitioning to a triangle choke. Henderson would escape to deliver ground and pound punches. But since Henderson was awarded the win, it appears all three judges gave round one to Henderson.
With the win, Henderson will fight champion Jamie Varner to unify the belts mostly likely in December in Phoenix, Ariz.
"Jamie Varner we got a date!" Henderson shouted after his win.
Despite his animosity towards Cerrone, Varner entered the cage to give credit to Cerrone for his toughness and comment on his next challenger's performance.
"I thought Ben Henderson's wrestling would be the deciding factor in this fight and it was actually more his heart and submission which was a deciding factor," Varner said.
Team Quest lightweight Dave Jansen extended his unbeaten record to 13 in his WEC debut, outpointing former title challenger Rich Crunkilton with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 after three rounds. Crunkilton landed the harder punches but Jansen scored takedown after takedown to win the fight on his wrestling prowess.
Top 10 featherweight Raphael Assuncao moved a step up the WEC 145-pound ladder with a split decision win over Canadian knockout artist Yves Jabouin. Jabouin trains with Georges St-Pierre and David Loiseau at the Tri Star Gym in Montreal and it showed as he generously threw spinning back kicks, backfists and Superman punches. However, Assuncao was able to land hooks and threaten submissions off takedown attempts. Scores were all over the place with 30-27 for Assuncao, 30-27 for Jabouin and finally 29-28 for Assuncao.
In the televised opener, Damacio Page followed up his 18-second knockout in March with a 62-second rear-naked choke win over Will Campuzano. Page stormed out swinging punches before taking Campuzano down. After avoiding a Campuzano attempt at a triangle choke, Page climbed onto Campuzano's back to secure the choke finish.
Anthony Njokuani def. Mushin Corbbrey via TKO (punches) - R2
Scott Jorgensen def. Noah Thomas via TKO (punches) - R1
Mackens Semerzier def. Wagnney Fabiano via submission (triangle choke) - R1
Eddie Wineland def. Manny Tapia via unanimous decision
Charlie Valencia def. Coty Wheeler via unanimous decision
Deividas Taurosevicius def. Javier Vazquez via split decision