October 11, 2009
Ben "Smooth" Henderson (10-1-0) won by unanimous decision, 48-47, over Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (10-2-0) for the interim lightweight WEC belt on Saturday night. When people talk about the best fights of both the year and the history of the WEC, this bout must be included in the discussion.
It looked as if Cerrone was going to end the fight early, as his fall from a kick caused Henderson to charge in for a takedown early in the first round. Cerrone caught Henderson's head, and first tried a guillotine that then turned into a triangle choke. Both chokes were tight, but Henderson somehow escaped unscathed.
Cerrone applying submissions and then Henderson inexplicably suviving each attempt became the rhythm of the fight. "Cowboy" tried an armbar in the second round, a guillotine in the fourth, and an omoplata to an armbar that turned Henderson's arms in ways arms are not supposed to go. Still, Henderson survived, even giving the thumbs up on the final submission attempt.
The judges rewarded Henderson's toughness as well as his wrestling skills. He was able to take down Cerrone at will early on, but Cerrone was able to stifle more attempts as the fight went on. Throughout the fight, both fighters were able to land strikes. Henderson walked away from the fight with a completely swollen left eye.
Discussion will continue on whether the right winner was chosen for this fight. Cagewriter had the fight scored 48-47 for Cerrone, but the bout was close enough that either fighter could have fairly been called the winner.
The current lightweight champion for the WEC, Jamie Varner, was on hand to challenge Henderson to unite their belts as soon as December. The loss ruins Cerrone's plans for a rematch with Varner, who controversially beat Cerrone in January.
With this bout, the WEC continued its string of amazing headliner fights, starting with Miguel Torres' win over Takeya Mizugaki in April at WEC 40, followed up by Urijah Faber's memorable performance with two busted hands in a loss to Mike Brown at WEC 41. Brian Bowles shocking KO of Torres was the main event of WEC 42. However, the gritty performance of Henderson, paired with Cerrone's technical abilities to apply submission attempt after submission attempt top them all. For their efforts, Henderson and Cerrone were awarded with $20,000 Fight of the Night bonuses, double the other fight night bonuses awarded by the WEC.
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