Benson Henderson’s Underwhelming Start with Bellator

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photos via Bellator/facebook

Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson claimed his first win under the Bellator banner on Friday night, but the performance certainly didn’t underline why so many people forecasted him dominating his new promotion when he made his ground-breaking move back in February.

In the era of MMA free agency, Henderson was celebrated widely by the MMA world for his transition to Bellator. Having soared to the top of UFC’s lightweight division and made inroads into the welterweight bracket with wins over Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal, ‘Bendo’ was deemed to be leaving in is fighting prime.

The MMA Universe had been pushing for increased fighter rights, and Henderson’s move was thought to be a massive gesture that would prompt other big names to play the field ahead of singing their next contracts. Ahead of Henderson’s sophomore outing with the promotion, the news broke that Rory MacDonald had signed with Bellator too.

‘The Red King’ will hope to make more of a splash than Henderson has since he made the move.


Henderson completely dwarfed former Bellator featherweight champion Patrício ‘Pitbull’ Freire, which was evident from their face off at the Honda Center on Friday night.

From the first bell, ‘Bendo’ marched the Brazilian down and for the opening few seconds, it appeared as though he was about to go out of his way to show aggression following his loss in his promotional debut in a welterweight title fight. However, Henderson just marched Freire down and even when the former featherweight just stood in front of him, Henderson seemed reluctant to put together any significant offense.

There was no big pay off that coincided with the finish. ‘Pitbull’ looked like he was giving Henderson some trouble as they clinched against the fence in the second round, but when they disengaged, Freire threw a combination and on his exit, he gestured towards his corner and waved the fight off. Referee John McCarthy quickly followed suit.

The crowd’s mumbles in reaction to the finish showed the level of interest there was in the fight that had transpired. By no means was it Henderson’s fault that the bout came to an abrupt end, but there is n doubt that he wanted to make a bigger impression on his new employers.

“We worked on checking kicks after the Anderson Silva whole thing, that was kind of popular,” Henderson claimed credit for the impromptu finish in his post-fight interview.

“Everyone was working on checking kicks. So I was definitely working on checking kicks. I didn’t think I’d ever end a fight by checking a kick. I guess I’ll take a W where I can get it.”

Second Title Shot with Bellator

Henderson has positioned himself for a second title shot since signing for Bellator with the win over ‘Pitbull’. Shortly after the event, it was confirmed that Henderson would meet Michael Chandler at Bellator 163 on November 19 for the lightweight championship.

Although he certainly deserves the opportunities to fight for Bellator’s titles, he will need to be a lot more potent than he was in his first outing against Andrey Koreshkov for the welterweight title. The Russian completely dominated Henderson over five rounds and immediately dispelled any hopes of him having an easy time with his new employers.

Despite claiming his first win with Bellator, Henderson hasn’t really set the world on fire. You can’t help but think Henderson’s first 6 months with the promotion could sway others away from making the move in the future.

Is the Grass Greener?

Everyone applauded Henderson’s move, given that he had worked out a better deal for himself. However, the former lightweight champion’s stock has plummeted a bit since his arrival at his new home.

Before he left the UFC ranks, Henderson was considered at threat at both welterweight and lightweight.

Yet, after two outings with Bellator, we know that he is a considerable distance away from besting their top welterweight, and given his last outing against ‘Pitbull’, it’s hard to know how he will do against Chandler, who knocked out the Brazilian’s brother, Patricky, in one round when they fought in June.

While the financial issue is one of the major talking points surrounds the sport at the moment, other fighters will be very aware that Henderson has not been able to cut through the competition like a knife through butter under the new banner. They will also be aware that the events he has competed in haven’t been pushed in the same way that UFC events are.

With a win over Chandler, Henderson will be able to bounce back from his underwhelming start to life as a Bellator fighter, but in the meantime, a lot of us still have to be convinced that he made the right choice. 


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