No one knew quite what to expect in Saturday’s WEC Interim Lightweight Championship battle between Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson. Henderson was known for his dominating wrestling skills, while Cerrone has a reputation as a punishing striker. Instead of being a clash of styles, however, it was an instance where the differing approaches of the two competitors complimented each other perfectly. The result was a ‘fight of the year’ candidate bout that Henderson won by a narrow-yet unanimous-decision.
Henderson opened the fight with a takedown, but quickly got caught in a guillotine choke attempt. He extricated himself from this predicament only to find himself in a triangle choke that appeared for a moment to be a potential fight ending submission. That would not be the case, however, and Henderson would take control in the last half of the round with his powerful takedowns and ‘ground and pound’ punching assault. The almost even first round would prove to be the decisive frame of the fight.
Rounds two and three were all Henderson, as he took Cerrone down almost at will and began to pummel him on the ground. Cerrone managed a couple of submission attempts from the bottom, and did what he could to keep Henderson off of him with upkicks but nowhere near enough to salvage either round.
The tide would turn again in the fourth round, as Cerrone began to time Henderson’s takedown attempts. He became much more difficult to get to the ground, as well as administering punishment of his own after stuffing takedowns with punches and knee strikes. Later in the frame, Cerrone came close to ending the fight when he locked in a nasty and unorthodox choke that WEC commentator Frank Mir described as ‘almost an inverted rear naked choke’. After some tense moments, Henderson was able to escape. Cerrone would also control the final round, evading Henderson’s takedowns while scoring with his striking. He had another potential fight ending submission attempt in the fifth round, as he locked in an arm bar and appeared to have good leverage as he twisted Henderson’s arm into a nasty angle.
The decision itself was somewhat surprising, with Henderson winning all three judges’ scorecards by identical 48-47 scores. He’d clearly won rounds two and three, while Cerrone was the obvious winner of rounds four and five. This meant that all three judges had given the edge to Henderson in the first round, favoring his takedowns and ground punching attack over Cerrone’s two early submission attempts.
Henderson will now face WEC Lightweight Champion Jamie Varner to unify the titles. Varner entered the cage after the decision was announced to ‘cut a promo’ on the winner, and suggested the fight take place in December in Phoenix, Arizona though neither the date nor venue has been finalized.
Ross Everett is a widely published freelance sports writer and respected authority on sports betting odds comparison. He writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sportsbooks and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and an emu. He is currently working on an autobiography of former energy secretary Donald Hodell.