Notes: Henderson cleans up; Garcia thrills
You can follow Dave Doyle on Twitter at @yahoodoyle
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Ben Henderson, like most fighters under the Zuffa umbrella, is a good company man. So when the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion was asked who he’d like to face next in a division that he has all but cleaned out, he gave the stock answer.
“Ask my bosses,” said Henderson (12-1). “They say ‘jump’ and I say ‘how high?’ ”
But it’s unclear who in the WEC’s 155-pound ranks can give Henderson a challenge after his swift victory over Donald Cerrone on Saturday night.
The fight at Arco Arena was a rematch of one of 2009’s best matches. Henderson took the first bout by unanimous decision in a fight close enough that many felt Cerrone won.
But Henderson left nothing to chance Saturday, finishing Cerrone in just 1:57 with a textbook guillotine choke.
“To be completely honest, to be frank, I definitely went in there expecting another five-round, knock-down, drag-out war,” said Henderson, who earned a $65,000 submission-of-the-night bonus for his efforts. “I had a game plan. I wanted to get a feel for him in the first round, work him up against cage, hurt him with knees to the head and body. It came about quicker than I was expecting.”
Zuffa president Dana White has said that the WEC’s lightweight division eventually will merge with the UFC’s 155-pound class. Until then, fans are left to wonder where Henderson would stack up against the UFC’s lightweight fighters.
Henderson, after all, has won all five of his WEC fights, four of them by finish. He has beaten Cerrone twice, stopped Jamie Varner for the title and he already owns a first-round stoppage over another top contender, Shane Roller.
The champ, for his part, has made it clear that he doesn’t find much appeal in fights against opponents he already has finished.
“I’m not really looking to rematch someone I fought before,” said Henderson, who earned a $65,000 fight of the night bonus for his efforts. “If I fought someone and I knocked them out already, do I want to fight them again? Not so much. But if they say to do it, I’ll do it.”
White, when asked how Henderson would fare against the better UFC lightweights, instead went on a bit of a rant about how fighters outside the UFC are, in his opinion, overrated.
“Henderson, where is he ranked right now? If he was in [expletive] Japan, or some other place, you’d have him ranked No. 2. What I need to do is send them somewhere else so they can become ranked No. 2 and then bring them back.”
So until Henderson’s next move is plotted, the champ will take satisfaction in knowing that any remaining doubt from the first Cerrone fight has been erased.
“I heard all of the talk about how the last fight was scored, how to score my submission defenses and what-not. This time, if I had to run through a brick wall to finish the fight, I was going to do it,” he said. “I thought that I won that one, me personally, but I’m a little biased. … This time I wanted to leave no doubt whatsoever.”
Garcia, Jung deliver barnburner
White couldn’t possibly have been any happier with the undercard match between Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung. The featherweight fight was the final match on the one-hour SpikeTV preliminary broadcast designed to pump last-minute buys for the pay-per-view event.
“That was incredible. That was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” White said. “I can put Abu Dhabi behind me now.”
Garcia and Chan delivered with a wild brawl that evoked memories of Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar’s legendary fight, and it had the crowd of 14,144 roaring throughout. While the match certainly won’t be remembered for its technical mastery, it was the sort of 15-minute display of heart and fighting spirit that made fans remember why they were drawn to the sport.
Garcia took a split-decision victory, winning on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28. This reporter and Yahoo! Sports’ Dave Meltzer both scored it 29-28 Garcia, giving Jung the first round and Garcia the last two. Both men earned $65,000 fight-of-the-night bonuses for their efforts.
“These guys both fought their hearts out. I don’t think these guys lost any fans. Everyone who saw that fight was a winner tonight,” said White.
“I think Leonard Garcia is an incredible athlete,” said Chan (10-2), a native of Gyeongju, Korea, who fought in America for the first time. “In the end, I lost. Right after the fight I felt like I won. The decision is made. You can’t turn back time so I accept the decision.”
Garcia took the fight as an injury replacement on three weeks notice and broke his right hand throwing a punch in the first round. “The Korean Zombie” nearly finished Garcia, but the latter willed his way through the round. Garcia was in trouble at several other points in the fight, but he managed to score enough offense in each round of the last two rounds to edge out a decision.
“He’s one of the first guys to come in and go toe to toe with me and I respect him for that,” said Garcia (14-5-1). “I’d love to have a fight like that every month, if my body could take it. I knew everything about him; I’ve watched him fight several times. I felt like it was my responsibility to get people to buy the pay-per-view. I had to fight. There’s no quit inside me.”