Benson Henderson stops Josh Thomson in UFC lightweight bout
Josh Thomson, left, and Benson Henderson trade punches during their UFC lightweight bout on Saturday night in Chicago. (Paul Beaty / Associated Press / January 25, 2014)
UFC's No. 1 lightweight contender won a split decision over Josh Thomson in the five-round main event of the UFC on Fox 10. The 30-year-old's speed and stamina were too much for his opponent before a crowd of 10,895 at the United Center.
“Another close win, but I'll take them any way I can get them,” Henderson said. “I made a few mistakes, but I don't think he did any damage and I didn't lose control. I ended on my back a few times, but I thought the ‘W' was clear.”
Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Thomson, who broke his right hand in the first round, shortened the match early. The San Jose, Calif., native wrestled and controlled much of the first two rounds, but he had a tough time punching.
He strongly disagreed with the decision.
“It's frustrating, when the things you want to do you can't do out there,” Thomson said. “You train this hard, for this long, such a long camp. I see my title shot just disappearing. It's really irritating.”
The momentum swing came in the third round when Henderson notched 29 strikes to Thomson's four, according to UFC.com. For the match, Henderson (20-3 MMA, 8-1 UFC) was plus-66 in the total strike differential, and plus-seven on significant strikes.
“The plan was simple: win,” Thomson (20-6, 1 NC, 3-2) said. “I could not, but that doesn't mean I failed. We know that's the risk when you leave it to the judges' decision. But, I'm satisfied with my performance. It was a great fight.”
Henderson lost his lightweight championship to the now-injured Anthony Pettis (left knee surgery) in August and has said he wants all comers until the champion is healthy. Pettis is hoping for a July return.
“As far as who I fight next, that's up to the UFC,” Henderson said. “My opinion matters as much as it does in my household.”
The 35-year-old Thomson (20-6 1 NC, 3-2) left the UFC in 2004 and returned in 2013. The tough decision might be the final fight of his career.
“I was ranked No. 1, No. 2 in 2003, 2004,” he said. “I feel like I'm still in the top-5 right now. I have no regrets in my career. This has been great. This whole ride has been great.”
In a UFC heavyweight match, Stipe Miocic continued his ascent up the ranks.
In a unanimous-decision victory over veteran Gabriel Gonzaga, Miocic (11-1, 5-1) had a 63-29 significant strike advantage. The result was a familiar end for Gonzaga, who has gone the distance only once as a professional.
“I was trying to hit him with everything I had,” Miocic said. “I got him to the ground in the third round. He was on the ground and I had to keep going. He was tough, but it was fun. He hits hard and can take a punch.”
Gonzaga (16-8, 11-7) said he broke his hand in the first round, which “changed everything.” Miocic's superior stamina, length and athleticism then took center stage. The Cleveland-area native grabbed control, going plus-19 on significant strikes in the round.
“Even though he was faster than me, I couldn't fight well because of the pain I felt in my right hand,” Gonzaga said.
Miocic, the UFC's No. 8 heavyweight, was confident entering his matchup with Gonzaga. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder was coming off one of the more dominant performances of his career, a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson on June 15. In that bout, his plus-83 strike differential was the third-largest in a UFC heavyweight fight.
Gonzaga had won five of his previous six bouts, including four of five in the UFC.