Riding a seven fight winning streak heading into Sunday’s co-main event, UFC President Dana White said a victory would earn Jim Miller a lightweight title shot. The same opportunity was not extended to his opponent, Ben Henderson. Maybe it should have been.
The 27-year-old Henderson thoroughly dominated Miller throughout the fight, earning scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 30-26 from the judges to collect a unanimous decision victory. Much like former WEC rival Donald Cerrone used his bout earlier in the evening as his UFC coming out party, Henderson made his trip to Milwaukee a showcase of his skills, inserting himself into the title picture in the treacherous 155 pound division.
Though Miller had his moments and offered numerous submission attempts, he was no match for Henderson. The seemingly unsubmittable former WEC champion fended off every hold with relative ease, and punished Miller for trying with each escape. Whenever he got Miller pinned on the canvas, Henderson rained down a torrent of punches and elbows, splitting Miller open and battering him. The more athletic of the two, Henderson was also the stronger man in the cage, fighting off takedown attempts and not allowing Miller to bulldog him the way he had most of his previous seven opponents.
Henderson didn’t let off the gas at any point in the fight, pushing as hard through the final round as he did in the opening frame. Despite memorable bouts in the WEC with Cerrone and Anthony Pettis, this was easily the most impressive and complete performance of Henderson’s career, and makes the title picture in the lightweight division even more difficult to decipher.
In dominating Miller, Henderson eliminated the man who was next in line for the winner of October’s trilogy bout title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. That leaves Clay Guida, Melvin Guillard and Dennis Siver as the top three options in the division right now, and no member of the trio has as significant a victory as Henderson collected Sunday night in the land of Laverne and Shirley.
The dominance of his performance may make the UFC reconsider Henderson as a potential title contender. After a solid showing against Mark Bocek at UFC 129 in Toronto, Sunday’s showing against Miller leaves no doubt that Henderson is one of the elite competitors in the lightweight division, and puts should put him on par with the likes of Guida, Guillard and Siver.
He fell to the background a little after losing the WEC title to Anthony Pettis in the final fight in WEC history, a bout remembered for Pettis’ sensational “Showtime Kick.” While Pettis since dropped a decision to Guida at the Ultimate Fighter Finale in June, Henderson has now earned back-to-back wins and climb into contention.
Anyone that still believes the WEC didn’t have a talented crop of lightweights was proven wrong tonight.