On Saturday, December 8, Benson Henderson (19-2) defeated Nate Diaz (16-8) via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45) to retain the UFC lightweight title. It was Henderson’s second consecutive title defense.
I had a feeling Henderson would win this fight. His style is a good matchup for Diaz, even though the challenger entered the bout with a six-inch reach advantage. Diaz has always had problems with grapplers, and Henderson is probably the best wrestler in the UFC’s lightweight division. Diaz is also the slower fighter, which made it hard for him to strike with the champion. Henderson did an outstanding job moving away from Diaz’s punches, and he used his range to land multiple leg kicks.
The truth is that Diaz didn’t have much to offer Henderson. His jiu-jitsu mattered little against a fighter who was too elusive for him to grab on to. Diaz attempted multiple submissions from the bottom, but he proved unable to force Henderson to tap out.
Henderson, on the other hand, gave the best performance of his UFC career. He entered the cage with a smart gameplan, and he followed it throughout the fight. Henderson constantly pressured Diaz while controlling the cage. He took the fight to Diaz instead of letting his opponent stalk him and pick him apart with his boxing.
Furthermore, Henderson didn’t succumb to Diaz’s mind games, even when the challenger flipped him off multiple times throughout the fight. He didn’t fall victim to an opponent’s strategy. Henderson bent Diaz to his will, and that’s what won him the fight.
I wonder who the UFC will match up with Henderson next. Diaz was supposed to be a huge challenge for Henderson, but he was clearly outclassed by the champion. With Strikeforce being folded, I have to think that Gilbert Melendez is among the few challengers for the lightweight title.
In fact, the only other person who I think could give Henderson a run for his money right now is Frankie Edgar, and he’s preparing for a title fight in the featherweight division against Jose Aldo. That’s how dominant Henderson was against Diaz. He proved that he’s the top lightweight on the planet, and I think that’s going to be the case for quite a long time.
Derek Ciapala is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor for MMA. He has been published on GatewayMMA.com, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.