Henderson unifies lightweight title, defeats Varner
Cageside by Andreas Hale
Photos courtesy of Josh Hodges, WEC
Benson Henderson’s resiliency has made him an enigma in the world of WEC. His threshold for pain and clever escapes from danger helped him earn the interim lightweight title when he defeated Donald Cerrone last October. His ability to withstand opposition again came into play as he suddenly submitted Jamie Varner in the third round of their unification bout at the Arco Arena in Sacramento to become the WEC’s only 155-pound king.
It wasn’t as exciting as Henderson’s all action affair with Cerrone, but it got the job done.
In some ways, Henderson’s fight with Varner did mirror the battle with “The Cowboy” as Varner put “Smooth” in some very dangerous predicaments throughout the fight. The first round saw Varner lock in an extremely tight guillotine choke that may have sent any other fighter to dream street. However, Henderson isn’t any other fighter and he proved that, once again, he’ll hang around any fight as long as his heart is still pumping as he somehow managed to escape danger and keep fighting.
From that point on, little action between the two kept the 10,055 inside of the Arco Arena yearning for a fight. Varner looked to oblige as he continuously tried to punch his way inside but got caught in Henderson’s clutches as they wrestled to a stalemate.
The second and third rounds featured Henderson keeping his distance from Varner by using some hard body kicks. When Varner would decide to punch his way inside, Henderson simply clinched with Varner along the cage and denied him the ability to explode with a slam. This clearly had Varner flustered entering the third round and his frustration forced him into a mistake.
With the boo birds floating about the arena, Varner shot in for one of his trademark slams but left his neck out in the open with a big “welcome” sign attached. Henderson’s eyes lit up as he sank in a guillotine and wrapped his legs around Varner with little room to breathe - literally. Before Varner could consider a slam, his consciousness began to slip away and, with no other choice, he tapped out at 2:41 into the third round and gave Henderson the victory and the title of undisputed WEC lightweight champion.
It was the former champion’s first loss since losing to Hermes Franca back in 2006. Since then, Varner had been on a rampage as he dispatched of opponent after opponent until the controversial split decision victory over Donald Cerrone left Varner benched for nearly a year with several injuries. He showed no ring rust in his return but simply couldn’t find a way to beat Henderson.
Henderson continues his trek though the WEC as he remains undefeated with his fourth consecutive WEC victory. As always, Henderson gave all praises to God and praised the tough as nails Varner.
Varner, however, couldn’t say the same and perhaps has cemented his place as WEC’s villain.
"I came to fight, Ben came to grapple," Varner said as the Sacramento crowd showered him with boos.
For Henderson, this may line up a return match with his Fight Of The Year candidate dancing partner Donald Cerrone. But “Smooth” let it be known that he is open to all challengers.
"Whoever the WEC says, whoever Sean Shelby, whoever Reed Harris, whoever they say," said Henderson. "Let's dance!"
The California Kid Returns; Leaves Fans Happy With Victory
“The California Kid” Uriah Faber lined up a shot at recently crowned champion Jose Aldo after dispatching the once beaten Raphael Assuncao with a rear naked choke tap out victory in front of a raucous hometown crowd.
After being sidelined with two surgically repaired hands, the Sacramento fans welcomed their hero back to the cage and Faber gave them what they wanted as his battle with Raphael Assuncao kept the Arco Arena on the edge of their seats.
The previously once beaten Assuncao proved to be no pushover return bout for Faber as the Brazilian gave “The Kid” all he could handle for three rounds. The first round saw a rather tentative Faber caught in the clutches of Assuncao as the Brazilian looked to keep Faber’s hands from becoming dangerous weapons. It was a round that could have went either way but Faber managed to build some momentum going into the second round. After taking Assuncao down, Faber worked lightening fast elbows from inside the guard and later cinched in a guillotine that nearly coaxed a victory. The rest of the round went Faber’s way as a chopping lead right melted Assuncao to the mat but the Brazilian remained resilient and wouldn’t allow Faber to finish him off.
Sensing that he needed something sensational to finish off Assuncao and keep the decision out of the judges’ hands, Faber went back to work in the final stanza as he snuck another right hand that landed squarely on the chin of Assuncaio and sent him to the mat. Assuncao would rise but “The California Kid” took his back and locked in a tight rear naked choke that forced Assuncao to tap out at 3:49 in the final round.
The Arco Arena exploded with its approval as Faber set himself up for a showdown with undefeated champion Jose Aldo later this year.
“It feels great. I’m ready to get that belt,” Faber said. “We’ve got a great champion right now. Jose Aldo is a phenom. He’s talented and creative, and I’d love to get that belt.”
Aldo was ringside and hopped into the cage to answer Faber’s challenge.
“I have respect for Urijah, but no one’s going to take my belt,” Aldo retorted.
“In my mind,” Faber replied, “that’s my belt.”
Let the hype begin.
Brown’s Return To The Cage Successful
Mike Brown’s return to the cage after dropping the featherweight title to Jose Aldo was successful as he dominated Anthony Morrison en route to choke out victory. It was a fight many expected Brown to win and he proved everyone right by using his power to methodically take Morrison out. The Philly fighter tried to keep the former champion at bay by using kicks and punches but Brown would work his way inside and take down Morrison from the clinch. The rest was elementary as Brown transition from a crucifix, to the top and then methodically worked his way to Morrison’s back before locking in a rear naked choke and forcing the tap out at 1:54 in the first round. With the victory, Brown looks to force his way back into featherweight title contention. A rematch with Aldo is clearly what Brown wants, however, he must stand in line behind Urijah Faber after his victory against Assuncao. Either way, Brown showed that a blemish wouldn’t slow him down and that the Aldo defeat may have been merely an aberration.
“I just needed a win. I just wanted to win so badly,” Brown would say after the fight as the Sacramento crowd forgave him with a showering of cheers even though Brown defeated their hero Faber two times. “It’s very important you don’t drop two in a row. I’m back on track.”
Shalorus Shuts Down “The Fugitive”
Dave Jansen saw his undefeated journey derailed as he was upended by Kamal Shalorus en route to a unanimous decision victory. “The Fugitive” simply couldn’t get anything going against the stronger Shalorus. For most of the night, Jansen and Shalorus stood in front of each other and exchanged punches with the muscular “Prince of Persia” landing the heavier blows. Surprisingly, Shalorus never attempted to utilize his wrestling background and traded leather with Jansen. The awkward game plan seemed to work as every punch landed by Jansen had little to no impact on Shalorus but the Iranian’s wild counters had a visible effect on “The Fugitive.” It also didn’t help that Jenson had a nasty habit of walking right into the windmill known as Shalorus. As the minutes went by, the punishment began to show on Jansen, but he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and he continued to try and press the action and find a way to get the fight to the ground. However, Shalorus’ wrestling background stuffed each of Jansen’s takedown attempts and cruised his way to a 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 unanimous decision victory.
Taurosevicius Hands “The Menace” First Defeat
In the first televised fight on Versus, Deividas Taurosevicius proved to be too powerful for jiu jitsu specialist Mackens Semerzier en route to a unanimous decision victory. Semerzier was looking to remain undefeated in his mixed martial arts career but ran into a Lithuanian buzzsaw with a name that gives journalists nightmares. Semerzier’s strategy was obvious - get the fight to the ground. However, Taurosevicius countered his strategy by muscling Semerzier around the cage and scoring with multiple slams.
Coming off of an impressive victory against Wagnney Fabiano, many assumed that Semerzier’s submissions would eventually fold the Lithuanian. That certainly wasn’t the case as Taurosevicius, a former IFL fighter, was simply too strong for “The Menace” to control. With two rounds in the bag, Semerzier tried to mount some offense and find a way to steal a victory in the final round. A hard body kick and a jumping knee attempt appeared to send things in motion for “The Menace” but Taurosevicius countered the advances with a pair of takedowns. A last ditch kimura attempt by Semerzier failed as Taurosevicius earned a unanimous nod with scores of 29-28 across the board.
Valencia Kicks His Way To Victory
Charlie Valencia extended his winning streak to three after defeating Akitoshi Tamura by split decision in a very close fight. Ontario, California’s Valencia had the crowd behind him as he and Tamura exchanged kicks for three rounds. “The Ironman” Tamura nearly submitted Valencia several times in the bout but Valencia’s aggressiveness and striking earned him the split decision victory. One judge had it 29-28 Tamura while the other two judges saw it in favor of Valencia 29-28.
Fabiano Smothers Godfrey
A ground game of chess ended up in favor of Wagnney Fabiano as he smothered Clint Godfrey en route to a unanimous decision victory. The Brazilian grappler looked to get back on track after his surprisingly quick upset loss to Mackens Semerzier back in October. Clint Godfrey was looking to get his WEC career started quickly but was completely smothered out by Fabiano’s ground game from the outset in a very slow paced fight. The second round saw Fabiano trap Godfrey in a crucifix after a successful hip toss and land a few shots but nothing substantial before Godfrey would buck his way to a top position but would then be swept by Fabiano shortly after. The fight continued in this manner as Godfrey couldn’t keep Fabiano off of him as all three judges saw the fight 30-27 in favor of Fabiano.
Hominick Submits Caraway
In featherweight action, Mark Hominick spoiled the WEC debut of Bryan Caraway with a first round submission victory. Caraway looked to take away Hominick’s hyperactive stand up by swiftly taking down his opponent early. Unfortunately, Caraway couldn’t inflict any damage from inside the guard and Hominick found an opening that would soon spell Caraway’s demise. As Hominick went for a sweep, Caraway looked to keep Hominick on his back but left a limb out as Hominick locked in a nifty armbar and forced the tap out at 3:48 in the initial frame.
Wineland Spoils Roop’s WEC Debut
In Bantamweight action, George Roop’s WEC debut featured him swinging and missing more than the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds as Eddie Wineland did just enough to earn an easy unanimous decision victory.
Roop flailed away with his longer arms and limbs but looked slow and sluggish as Wineland ducked nearly all of Roop’s advances while bouncing right hands off of Roop’s head often throughout the duration of the fight. The entire bout stayed upright but the slow pacing and lack of offense brought the boo birds out at the Arco Arena. Wineland finally hurt Roop bad with a right hand in the third round but couldn’t finish off a clearly shaken Roop and instead cruised to a 30-27 sweep on the judges’ scorecards.
Campuzano Controls The “Ox” In Exciting Opener
In the first fight of the evening, Coty “Ox” Wheeler and Will Campuzano electrified the crowd with a knock down, drag out brawl that saw Campuzano defeat “Ox” via unanimous decision. The first round featured exciting back and forth action as both fighters put on a dizzying display of spinning back fists, jumping knees and an assortment of strikes. But the tide turned in Campuzano’s favor late as an ill fated takedown attempt saw Campuzano pound “Ox” with a bevy of hammer fists from inside the guard to close the round. From that point on, Campuzano took control and never looked back. Wheeler proved to be game but his face would slowly become a bloody mess from the jumping knee strikes and various head kicks delivered by Campuzano. In the end, Campuzano’s performance was both crowd pleasing as well as successful as he earned the victory with scores of 30-26 and 30-27 twice.