#Brad Katona #Kyler Phillips #UFC Fight Night 128 #Kevin Lee #Edson Barboza #Daniel Cormier #Stipe Miocic #Conor McGregor #Jon Jones #Tony Ferguson #Khabib Nurmagomedov #Alexander Gustafsson #UFC Brooklyn #Nate Diaz #UFC 216

What Is Benson Henderson's Legacy After Bellator 183?

Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Patricky Pitbull (blue gloves) fights Benson Henderson (red gloves) during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

The Bellator career of Benson Henderson has been turbulent. He's enjoyed two title fights in two separate weight classes since jumping ship from the UFC in early 2016, but he lost them both.

After his loss in the Bellator 183 headliner he's split against the Pitbull brothers, first beating Patricio Freire and on Saturday losing an uninspiring scrap with Patricky Freire, he has seen his record in the promotion drop to 1-3. It seems, based on the broadcast and his name recognition, like his overseers were fixing to get him another title shot before too long, but you would have to think the whole thing will be met with some shoulder shrugs and confused looks.

Henderson's legacy, in Bellator and beyond, is complex. There is quite a bit more to it than playing out the string in cage fighting before heading to serve his country in the military, whether that string is going poorly or not.

Bleacher Report Combat Sports Lead Writer Jonathan Snowden and MMA Featured Columnist Matthew Ryder considered that legacy coming out of Bellator 183, and this is what they came up with.



I've struggled with Benson Henderson as an MMA commodity for years. In fact, I would say I've endured more gut-wrenching frustration and mind-bending bewilderment in relation to his career than any other in the sport.

That may seem odd to some considering his place as a respected, longtime UFC champion with a fairly old school, "anyone, anywhere, anytime" mentality, but it remains a fact.

I've felt for years that Henderson built whatever legacy he has on doing just enough to get by, often with the help of borderline blind cageside judges. I don't think he beat Josh Thomson, I don't think he beat Gilbert Melendez and I don't think he beat Frankie Edgar—twice.

Bellator 183 was just another example of the narrow line he's always walked, where he doesn't do enough to win and relies on judges finding a way to give him the fight anyway.

In the alternate reality that exists in my head, Henderson is 20-12. He's the owner of a decent enough career that has left me almost entirely uninspired. He falls a good distance short in practice of what he appears to be on paper, which is a WEC champion and a UFC champion of the toughest division in the sport who defended his belt in both promotions.

Am I going in a little too hard on one of Bellator's marquee talents? Or does he even still qualify as a marquee talent after another loss Saturday?



There is a certain feeling of kismet when a Benson Henderson fight goes to the judges' cards. That's not a hot take—just a statement of fact. Whether you agree with them or not, historically speaking a close scorecard is a Henderson card.

That was the case, at least, when he was in the UFC and the consistent beneficiary of either luck or largess. Bellator Benson, however, hasn't been dealt the same strong hands. Three times he's gone to the scorecards there. Three times he's watched another man's hand raised—twice by split decision.

His guardian angel has seemingly abandoned him, the only remnant the wings tattooed on his back.

None of this can erase the victories written in history's permanent ink. He was UFC champion. He beat legends. We can't take that away from him.

But perception is a trickier thing. And you're absolutely right. Every time Henderson struggles, every time a close decision loss reminds us of a time he was granted an unjust victory, every five-minute round that feels like it lasts a calendar year diminishes him just a little bit more.

Five years ago, B/R named Henderson its Fighter of the Year. The author (a moron, I've been told) asked whether he could be the best ever. That, in retrospect, is a truly foolish question. 

No one is wondering whether Henderson is an all-time great anymore. We're wondering whether he has what it takes to compete in Bellator, the UFC's little brother. And I wonder, Matt, is that a question worth answering for a man who once had such grand ambitions?



My gut, wrenched again with anxiety after watching another thin margin in a Henderson fight, tells me that it is, but for something of a counterintuitive reason, I believe it is his regression to the mean—the market correction for the years he spent "winning" fights without really "beating" his opponents.

The value in answering it comes in seeing that what has happened to him in Bellator is a good lesson for those coming behind him, an illustration that an athlete can only rely on dimwitted judges and guardian angels for so long before it all comes back around.

Inasmuch as I ever feel Henderson looks good in his fights, I thought he looked good in this most recent outing. I scored the fight in his favor, and I thought he won pretty convincingly—again, inasmuch as he ever wins convincingly.

Shows what I know.

Saturday, those dimwitted judges and spiritual entities saw fit to hand the win to Patricky Pitbull, from whom I don't remember a single piece of offense mere moments after the event has ended.

Is it worth answering for a man we thought might be the best to ever do this thing as recently as 2013? Maybe not in relation to him solely. But for others, it could be instructive of how dangerous a career based on riding out rounds and scoring points can be and how quickly it can go bad on you once it starts to turn.

Henderson in happier times, winning a split decision (obviously) over Jorge Masvidal in 2015.
Henderson in happier times, winning a split decision (obviously) over Jorge Masvidal in 2015.Lili Troncale-USA TODAY Sports



The MMA gods punish fighters who try to make a living sucking up to the judges. After all, the sport just wasn't designed with such a fighter in mind.

The original UFC had no judges. A cross between pro wrestling and Brazilian street fighting, it simply didn't need them.

A fight between two warriors couldn't, in those days, be decided by anyone outside the cage. It was over when it was over—and someone either conceded or was incapacitated.

Eventually, the world's final wild-west spectacle was tamed. It became sport. Judges were incorporated. Fighters were developed who never even seemed to think about ending a bout on their own terms.

Henderson is one of them. For years, that sufficed. But those darting dancers can't guarantee long-term success. You win by the judge, and you die by the judge. And Henderson, of late, hasn't been doing much winning.

On Saturday night, none of his strikes were thrown with the intention of knocking another man insensate. His was a game of movement, incessant, unyielding and a little bit annoying. Occasionally he darted in for a quick punch, body kick, or half-hearted takedown attempt, only to continue his endless trek around the cage when he was done.

Patricky Pitbull threw and landed the harder punches. It would have been hard for him not to. It wasn't much—but it didn't have to be.

At 33, and more than 30 fights into his career, it may be too late to change. Henderson is who he is. And in many cases, that's just not enough.



I'm inclined to agree Henderson can't change. Truthfully, I wouldn't imagine he would if he could. I would expect he's delighted with what his approach has garnered for him over the years, what with the cold, hard record of success and championships we've outlined above.

Pro wrestling meets Brazilian street fighting, it ain't.

Arguably no one has understood that better than Henderson. And as you said, he's won by it, and he's died by it. He died by it at Bellator 183, but I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and say he won't win by it the next time we see him.

That's his legacy. It would border on irresponsible to ignore it.

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.


Show Comments

Related News

Champ Ryan Bader reveals planned weight for Bellator heavyweight tourney

  • 28 days ago

Ryan Bader competes up a weight class for the first time in his career when he participates in the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix. read news >>

Bellator 196 staff picks: Is anyone picking Roger Huerta to top Benson Henderson?

  • 20 days ago

Check out our staff’s picks for the Bellator 196 main card in Budapest. read news >>

''Bellator 196: Henderson vs. Huerta'' official results

  • 19 days ago

Benson Henderson looks to snap a two-fight skid when he meats Roger Huerta in the Bellator 196 main event. read news >>

Benson Henderson Submits Roger Huerta (Bellator 196 Results) | MMAWeekly.com

  • 19 days ago

The Bellator cage was in Budapest, Hungary on Friday for Bellator 196 headlined by former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and veteran Roger Huerta. read news >>

Bellator 196 highlights: Benson Henderson finishes, but Adam Borics'' flying knee steals show

  • 18 days ago

As we see in the Bellator 196 video highlights, Benson Henderson and Adam Borics picked up some impressive stoppage victories. read news >>

Logan Storley Continues to Claw His Way into Bellator Title Picture | MMAWeekly.com

  • 12 days ago

Just seven fights into his undefeated MMA career, Logan Storley continues to claw his way into the Bellator title picture. read news >>

Ronda Rousey Opens Up on MMA Career, Talks Conor McGregor in Lengthy Interview

  • 28 days ago

Ronda Rousey has been one of the hottest topics in combat sports over the last few days — but not for her upcoming match at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans... read news >>

Cheick Kongo returns against Javy Ayala at Bellator 199 in San Jose

  • 28 days ago

A heavyweight bout between Javy Ayala and Cheick Kongo has been added to May’s Bellator 199 lineup. read news >>

Bellator''s Muhammed Lawal says belt or no belt, Ryan Bader has been on his radar

  • 24 days ago

Muhammed Lawal would certainly like to get his hands on Ryan Bader’s Bellator light heavyweight title, but that will wait for now. read news >>

Bellator''s Michael Chandler doesn''t think he''ll ever get Brent Primus rematch

  • 22 days ago

Ex-champ Michael Chandler predicts Brent Primus will be stripped or relinquish the Bellator lightweight title before they get a rematch. read news >>

Bellator 196 pre-event facts: Is Benson Henderson a Bellator bust?

  • 22 days ago

Check out the facts, figures and footnotes about Bellator 196, which features a Benson Henderson vs. Roger Huerta lightweight headliner. read news >>

Bellator 196 main-event breakdown: Can Benson Henderson return to championship form?

  • 22 days ago

MMAjunkie Radio cohost Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at Bellator 196’s main event. read news >>

Benson Henderson committed to finishing Roger Huerta at Bellator 196 ''by all means''

  • 21 days ago

Benson Henderson is sick and tired of having close fights, and he intends on doing something about it in the Bellator 196 headliner. read news >>

5 reasons to watch Bellator 196 with hastily assembled Benson Henderson-Roger Huerta headliner

  • 20 days ago

Check out five reasons to watch Friday’s Bellator 196, which features Benson Henderson vs. Roger Huerta in the main event. 1 2 3 4 …5 read news >>

Bellator 196 weigh-in results: Benson Henderson, Roger Huerta set for main event

  • 20 days ago

The weigh-ins are in the books for Bellator’s Friday return to Hungary, and all the fighters on the MMA portion of the card hit their marks. read news >>

Video: Holy moly, this Adam Borics flying-knee knockout at Bellator 196 is hellacious

  • 19 days ago

Adam Borics unleashed a hellacious flying knee in the Bellator 196 co-main event. read news >>