19 Jan Cerrone versus Henderson 3: Close Call or Bad Decision?
Well the fight’s over and there are no bonuses for both Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson. This bout had none of the drama that unfolded in the main event of UFC Fight Night 59, although the fight itself was so close, it could have been called even. But it was not.
UFC Fight Night 59 wasn’t the first time Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone faced Benson “Smooth” Henderson inside the ring. The two previously fought two times in the WEC promotion. Their first fight at WEC 43 was a classic five round grinder where Ben defeated Cerrone for the interim WEC lightweight title. That bout won Fight of the Night honors. Six months later, they met again at WEC 48 on January 2010 and this time around, Henderson made short work of Cerrone whom he submitted via guillotine in the very first round. Again, that fight won a post-fight bonus, this time for Submission of the Night. As the WEC merged with the UFC, Cerrone and Henderson traveled separate paths. Cerrone fought five times in 2011, losing in his final bout of the year to Nate Diaz. On the other hand, Henderson fought thrice and beat Clay Guida for the title eliminator in November 2011. Henderson went on to win the lightweight title and defend it three times in 2012. As Cerrone continued to climb the ranks, he suffered a loss to Anthony Pettis on January 2013. That loss led to Pettis’ title shot at UFC 164 where he dethroned Henderson. After one more loss to Rafael Dos Anjos in August 2013, Cowboy Cerrone racked up six straight wins that led to the third fight with Benson Henderson. It wasn’t even planned. Henderson was set to face Eddie Alvarez, but the latter backed out due to personal reasons. With just two weeks notice, Donald Cerrone took the fight not because it was against Henderson but because he said he loved to fight. Their history gave the fight a storyline and Cerrone’s fifteen day notice made an interesting sidelight. But there was no doubt this was a fight between two of the best in the 155 weight class.
Too Close To Call
The look on their faces says it all. Cowboy had a naughty grin while Bendo had a surprised look. Henderson had a reason to be surprised. Fightmetric stats showed that he outlanded Cerrone in significant strikes (86-57) and total strikes (93-58). He also out-landed Cerrone in every round via 27-19, 34-16 and 25-22 in significant strikes landed. Yet in the end, the judges gave the nod to his opponent, unanimously at 29-28:
Cerrone vs. Henderson scorecard pic.twitter.com/9hq0tzF5hB
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) January 19, 2015
Henderson’s reaction was obviously saying that he was robbed, although he didn’t say it. He wasn’t alone:
The judges are blind today!!
— Rafael dos Anjos (@RdosAnjosMMA) January 19, 2015
Cerrone didn't do enough. Benson barely did enough, but deserved win.
— TJ Grant (@TJ_Grant) January 19, 2015
There were more. But then the fight was close, really close that others agreed:
This Cowboy vs Ben Henderson fight should be called a draw.
— Cole Miller (@colemillerATT) January 19, 2015
— Court McGee (@Court_McGee) January 19, 2015
So amidst all this controversy on the scoring, how did the fight go?
What Actually Happened
Statistically, Henderson outlanded Cerrone and there was no doubt about that. But if you take a look at his previous fights, Bendo was always a complete fighter and that was supposed to be his advantage over Cerrone. We were used to seeing Ben as the pressure fighter who forced his opponents to the fence and pounded them with vicious knees and clinch shots. But that never happened. Henderson didn’t force Cerrone to the fence nor the clinch. In fact, he only was 2-4 in significant strikes in the clinch. Henderson is the better wrestler and that is proven by his 2.46 average takedowns landed per 15 minutes according to fightmetric. Prior to his fight against Cerrone at UFC FN 59, there were only three fights in Henderson’s UFC career where he didn’t score a takedown: his recent loss to Rafael Dos Anjos and during his split decision wins over Frankie Edgar and Gilbert Melendez. So it’s safe to say that Bendo does struggle when he fails to take the fight to the ground. Against Cerrone, he was 0-1 in takedowns and was content to striking against Cowboy primarily using his leg kick to the thigh as a statistical jab. Yes it landed a lot, in fact of the 86 total significant strikes landed by Henderson, 55 came from leg kicks and majority from those jab-like kicks. They scored yes and while Cerrone connected on fewer strikes, he landed the more telling blows. No, Henderson was never in trouble but neither was Cowboy. In the end, while we saw a new aspect of Henderson’s game-the side kick to the thigh, it was as “boring” as Floyd Mayweather‘s jabs. Cerrone did score a takedown in Round 2 and in a close round, that could have spelled the difference although he didn’t do damage on top. Round One was close, and it was the round where Cerrone landed his jabs and Henderson started a little tentative. Rounds one and three were really anybody’s round, and it was no surprise if the judges gave it to Ben.
Said Cerrone after the fight, via yahoo.com:
It was a tough fight. I couldn’t unload like I wanted to because the dude’s a stud. He’s been at the top of the game. My hats off to the guy. I took him down in the second round. I felt that was good. Only the judges know. The only thing I can do is fight. Win or lose, I’m here every damn time.
And Henderson, despite obviously being disappointed with the verdict:
It is what it is. You’ve got to go back. You’ve got to accept it. You’ve got to man up and move on.
Cowboy had a final word:
Five rounds with Ben is what we always need. We’ll do it again.
There were talks of a Cerrone bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov already floating around, but yeah why hell not: A five round main event between Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson? Ben said he was ready to fight in a week. You don’t have to ask Cowboy that.