Former WEC champ faces Frankie Edgar in Japan
“The Kick”? What kick? As far as Ben Henderson is concerned, “The Kick Heard ‘Round the World” is so last year. Literally and figuratively.
Henderson lost his lightweight title to Anthony Pettis in the final WEC event last December in large part thanks to an otherworldly video game-esque kick by Anthony Pettis that the whole world saw thanks to SportsCenter highlights and Fight of the Year clips and motion GIFs attached to e-mails.
Pettis leaped in the air, pushed himself off the cage with his right foot, then used the same foot to clip Henderson across the chin. The ninja move came late in the fifth round of the fight and almost certainly influenced the judges in that round – a round that went to Pettis. Had it gone to Henderson, the decision would’ve been a split win for the champ. Instead, he surrendered his belt and became that guy who got kicked in the face by MMA’s new Next Big Thing.
But all things considered, the year after that kick hasn’t been that bad for Henderson (15-2, 3-0 UFC). He’s gone 3-0 since joining the UFC. He has been mostly dominant in three unanimous decision wins over Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Clay Guida, losing just two rounds in those fights on two judges’ scorecards. He swept Bocek 30-27 in front of Bocek’s Canadian countrymen at UFC 129. He heard a 29-28 called against Miller in August, but also beat him 30-26 on another card. And against Guida, earlier this month at UFC on Fox 1, he got two 30-27s and a 29-28.
The Guida fight earned him a shot at Frankie Edgar‘s lightweight title, a shot that will come at UFC Japan in February. Henderson told Heavy.com fighting for the UFC title was always a part of his plans – but it’s coming even a little quicker than he could have hoped for.
“No, I didn’t really expect a title shot so soon after the merger,” Henderson said. “Of course, me being a confident fighter, I did expect a title shot at some point in time.”
The fact his UFC title shot comes ahead of Pettis likely gives Henderson a short measure of satisfaction. Pettis was to get the shot when the WEC first merged with the UFC, but the Edgar draw with Gray Maynard postponed that. Pettis took a fight with Guida, lost in June and was sent back into the lightweight pack. He’ll fight Joe Lauzon on the same UFC Japan card as Henderson fights Edgar.
And while Henderson won’t deny Pettis’ star power, especially after “The Kick,” he said he’s thankful – or is at least hopeful – that not yet a year removed from being on the infamous end of the most famous kick in MMA history, people may have forgotten.
“I think Pettis is and will be a big star,” Henderson said. “He was shining very bright after our fight and his cage kick. I think fans, and people in general, have something of short memories. So while, yes, Pettis and I will be connected with that kick for a long time, it’s your most recent performances that fans care about the most.
“The UFC is definitely a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business,” Henderson said. “That’s just the nature of our sport and business.”
And what Henderson hopes to do for the UFC next is give it a new lightweight champion.
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