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Fighter of the Night: Benson Henderson earns title with swagger

Swagger can help win fights, and that’s what happened when Benson Henderson edged Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 in Japan. He’s the new UFC lightweight champion and he earned the title for more than just scoring more points. It’s as though he knew he was the champ the moment he stepped into the Octagon.

As the fight wore on, Henderson’s confidence grew more and more. Up-kicking the champion late in the second round certainly helped boost his confidence, and it was a clear turning point in the fight.

Henderson smelled the blood dripping from the then-champion’s nose.

What Henderson said in the corner leading into the final round perfectly illustrated his swagger. His coach asked him, “you got five good minutes?” Bendo’s response came with a smirk as if to dismiss the notion that he didn’t have anything left to give.

“I got 15 (minutes), coach!” he declared, which was followed by an emotionally energetic shout toward the crowd as he stood up for the final frame.

And once it was all done, Henderson stood with the referee between he and his badly damaged opponent. The scores were unanimously in his favor, and if you noticed the look on his face, Bendo wasn’t even surprised. He lifted his arms with the body language that said, “yeah, you’re damn right I won.”

Following the win, the new champion went one step further in establishing his swagger. He wants to reign over the 155-pound division like Anderson Silva does at middleweight.

“I want to defend it however many times Anderson Silva defends his, plus one,” Henderson said as he donned a three-piece suit, with no visible damage from the 15-minute title fight he just won.

Next on the newly-crowned champion’s list is a foe who found a way to kill his confidence in the past. Anthony Pettis, who defeated Henderson in the last ever WEC lightweight title fight, stole Bendo’s thunder with what he called the “showtime kick” in December 2010.

If Henderson has it his way, lightning won’t strike him twice. In the meantime, he’s the UFC 144 Fighter of the Night.

Honorable Mention: Tim Boetsch comes back from the dead

Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch went into the third round of his UFC 144 fight with Yushin Okami knowing he was down 2-0. But a headkick early in the last round turned the tides with a thunderous crash of waves.

Everyone counted Boetsch out before that headkick landed, except him. Knowing Okami was on his heels, Boetsch kept moving forward, throwing everything he could muster up at his backpedaling foe. Okami tried keeping his opponent at bay by extending his enormous reach, but Boetsch landed several uppercuts, one of them dropping the Japanese fighter to the canvas moments before the fight was stopped.

With his back against the wall, the Barbarian pressed forward and prevented what was sure to be a unanimous decision loss. With that, Tim Boetsch is the UFC 144 Honorable Mention.

Worth a Mention: Mark Hunt is 3-1 in the UFC

No, that’s not a typo. Mark Hunt has won 75 percent of his UFC fights and three in a row.

Do the record and streak warrant contention for UFC gold? Probably not. The first chance a relatively seasoned ground fighter gets to put Hunt on his back, they put a quick stop to his improbable rise up the heavyweight rankings.

But hey, it sure is fun to watch the New Zealander throw heavy leather for a round or two. Well done, “Super Samoan.”

Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter or e-mail Erik Fontanez.
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