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Benson Henderson more than just your average, everyday huckleberry

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Right now there’s a lot of fun to be had in weight-class jumping within the UFC. Before the evil shroud of asterisks gathered over Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz’s fight at UFC 183, there were two guys from wholly different everythings coming together to see what shakes. That fight was less a collision course than it was a course in creativity. Even their drugs couldn’t agree.

A few days ago, the UFC took two greats in limbo -- former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar and former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber -- and booked them against each other, just for the hell of it.

"This one is for my fans," Edgar wrote on his Twitter. That fight will headline a show in the Philippines in May. It doesn’t even matter if the rest goes down as the "Filla in Manila," because Frankie and Urijah captivates more than enough imagination.

And in Broomfield, when radar welterweight Brandon Thatch was in need of an opponent, it took Benson Henderson about "thirty seconds" to accept the fight, even though -- as a lightweight -- he would be the Lilliputian in the matter, straight out of the bleachers in left field. So far in 2015 it’s been a lot of fun to set fire to the weight-class partition, and Bendo was the latest to strike the match.

Yet in Henderson’s case, this really did feel like a career misstep. He just fought Donald Cerrone in Boston less than a month ago, and lost on the scorecards. He had flirted with the idea of welterweight in the past, but to debut in a new weight class on 15 day’s notice, against a guy with a case of stifled greatness, fighting in that guy’s hometown, at altitude, well…none of this felt like something you might call smart. It felt more like wild impulse. Admirable, yes, but also a little reckless.

In other words, just the right kind of ballsy.

The circumstances being what they were sort of made the fight a drama-grab on Saturday night. The former champion Henderson was glaringly smaller than Thatch, and there were a couple sequences where he was just kind of manhandled. Two examples of this came in the second round, when Thatch tripped Henderson in close and dropped him on his shoulder blades. He also had moments where he used the reach advantage to strafe Henderson from other orbits. Henderson, though, was just elusive enough to avoid any real damage, and just aggressive to initiate (and win) his share of the exchanges.

Then it got wild.

Henderson took Thatch down (!) and snatched his back (!!). Though he couldn’t secure the choke, the smaller man took the third round. When Thatch came out in the fourth, he had a mouse under each eye and a look of bewilderment. What makes a fight like this fun is when the man giving up the advantages has the tables turning for everyone to see. In this case, Henderson had intercepted the narrative. Crazy? No, Henderson wasn’t crazy to take the fight with Thatch. When he got the call from matchmaker Joe Silva he simply leapt and counted on the net to appear.

Here he was proving it. He sank the rear-naked choke late in the fourth round, defiant of any trepidation people had, and tapped Thatch out. He did it all with a toothpick in his mouth, like the whole thing was taking place at a billiards parlor. If there are to be repercussions for taking the fight, it’ll be because of that toothpick, not because he was outmatched by the bigger fighter. We were on Henderson’s terms.

You know what that fight did, too? It earned Henderson a new level of respect. Back in the day he was the champion, but on Saturday night he showed the heart of one. Sometimes you need to see something beyond technique to get a point across, and that’s what "Smooth" did in Colorado. He gave power to the blowhard concept of "no hesitation." Afterwards he even called out welterweight contender Rory MacDonald, because why not? When the barriers are down, might as well treat possibility as the important thing that it is.

Possibility, after all, is oftentimes all you need when thinking about fights.

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