UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Benson Henderson's debut with Bellator was a rough on Friday night, as he was dominated from gate-to-gate by the bigger, stronger Andrey Koreshkov at the Mohegan Sun.
Henderson wasn't able to get take Koreshkov to the canvas, and he was punished regularly each time he made an effort to do so. He also could never solve the range discrepancy between him and the Russian. Koreshkov kept him at the end of his punches, and Henderson was left swinging wildly at an unhittable target.
And in the aftermath, Bellator president Scott Coker said he saw the same thing that everybody who tuned in on Spike TV saw. That is, a man who was overmatched with a much larger opponent.
"It was a tough fight man," Coker said in a post-fight media scrum. "Benson took a lot of shots. Even from the very beginning he looked like he was a foot shorter than Koreshkov. Koreshkov is no joke, man. He's got a lot of power, and everything is hard. He hits hard with every shot. You saw the fight, it was clearly one-sided. So we'll see what Benson wants to do next."
The 32-year old Henderson was a prized free agent acquisition, who Bellator signed in early February. As the former UFC lightweight champion, many assumed that his first fight might be against Will Brooks, who holds the Bellator 155-pound belt. Instead, Henderson was slotted into fight Koreshkov, and was installed as a favorite to become the next welterweight champion under the Bellator banner by odds-makers.
Coker said that Bellator was yielding to Henderson's preferences in the matchmaking.
"That was really his choice," he said. "He wanted to fight at 170, so we said fine. But he wanted to fight Koreshkov. Now I think he's going to get together with his coach and see what's probably best for his next step. Can he fight guys at 170? Yeah, but Koreshkov's just a big man. He's super-strong and he hits hard. I'm not sure what Benson could have done differently. He took a lot of shots and he didn't have an answer for any of the offensive weapons that Koreshkov had."
Henderson ended his run with the UFC fighting as a welterweight, scoring victories over Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal. The Thatch fight he took on short notice when Thatch's original opponent, Stephen Thompson, fell out with an injury. Masvidal has fought at lightweight for the bulk of his career.
Coker said Henderson might be better suited to go back to 155, where some of his most memorable performances occurred.
"A fight's a fight, anything can happen," he said. "You could see his punches were short all-night long. And that reach that Koreshkov has, I don't think he had an answer for that. I think Benson really had a lot of his better fights at 155, but that's really is choice."
When asked if he'd be okay with giving Henderson another crack at fighting at 170 pounds, should "Smooth" ask for it, he didn't hesitate.
"Yeah, of course," he said.