Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
In capturing the UFC lightweight championship and then defending the belt months later, Benson Henderson still could not convince all of the MMA world he was worthy of strapping the gold around his waist.
The doubters will be fewer after Saturday night, after Henderson punched, kicked and wrestled his way to a dominant decision win over Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC on FOX 5 from the Key Arena in Seattle.
The judges scored it in his favor 50-43, 50-45, 50-45.
Henderson authored nearly all of the fights best offensive moments.
In the first, he hurt Diaz with hammer fists and strikes from the top. In the second, he landed a hard head kick that rattled Diaz, then dropped him with a left hand after a series of jabs to the leg. Henderson hurt him in the third moments after Diaz gave him the middle finger, flooring with a right hook. In the fifth, he scooped Diaz up high and slammed him to the mat. In short, it was all Henderson.
According to FightMetric, Henderson landed 124 significant strikes to Diaz's 30. He also completed eight of 12 takedown tries and passed Diaz's guard three times.
Diaz had come into the fight on the best run of his UFC tenure, posting wins over divisional staples Jim MIller, Donald Cerrone and Takanori Gomi. All of those wins had been lopsided, leading many to believe he could upend Henderson.
But when it came time for the fight, his offense was stifled, mostly due to Henderson's ability to control distance through powerful leg kicks and occasional clinches. Diaz could never truly get his hands going, as he finished landing only 36 percent of his significant strikes.
Diaz had his best chances on the ground, at one point in the third threatening with a leg lock and then a toe hold, but Henderson was well prepared for the attacks and worked his way free. All night long, Henderson beat Diaz in the scramble positions, and by midway through the fight, it seemed clear the fight was trending his way.
Diaz left with cuts and bruises on his face while Henderson's face looked unmarked.
The champion is now 18-2 while Diaz is 16-8.
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