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Henderson wins split decision in UFC lightweight bout

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Benson Henderson has made a career out of tight decisions. But he rarely has had a closer shave than the one he had Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

The UFC lightweight champion took on longtime Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez in Melendez's home arena in the main event of a nationally televised fight card. After a tight, tactical battle, Henderson sent the crowd home deflated by claiming a split-decision victory.

It was the seventh straight win and 16th in 17 fights for the fighter from Glendale, Ariz. All six wins on the champ's current streak have come via decision.

"Gilbert's a really tough fighter; I have a lot of respect for him," Henderson (21-2) said. "I know this isn't what you guys wanted to see, but we gave you a good fight."

Henderson partially turned the crowd around after the bout by proposing to his girlfriend, who accepted.

Melendez (21-3), a San Francisco resident, had a seven-fight win streak snapped, his first loss since 2008. All three judges' scores were 48-47, with two going in Henderson's direction.

In the heavyweight co-feature bout, undefeated Daniel Cormier scored a unanimous decision over former UFC champion Frank Mir.

Cormier, a 2004 U.S. Olympic wrestler who trains in San Jose, gave up four inches and 20 pounds to Mir. But Cormier overpowered his bigger foe throughout the bout, dominating Mir in a Greco-Roman clinch and mixing up his strikes in close.

While Cormier never came close to finishing the fight, Mir (16-7), a Las Vegas native, never got his offense untracked. All three judges scored the bout 30-27 in favor of Cormier, who improved to 12-0.

"I'm not happy with my performance. I was nervous and I can't explain why. It must've been this big-fight feel," Cormier said. "I didn't fight how I wanted. I controlled the fight, and I thought I landed some good punches. At the end of the day, I stay undefeated and move forward."

The lightweight battle between Josh "The Punk" Thomson and Nate Diaz featured a rollicking atmosphere, with the crowd's loyalty split between San Jose's Thomson and Diaz of nearby Stockton, Calif. In the end, Thomson's fans were rewarded, as the former Strikeforce lightweight champ finished Diaz in the second round with a spectacular flurry after a back-and-forth Brown.

Thomson (20-5, 1 no-contest) caught Diaz flush with a kick to the head, which staggered him. Thomson then put him to the floor with a right and finished the job on the ground, as Diaz's corner threw in the towel at 3:44 while Thomson unloaded with punches. Thomson won for the second time in his past three fights; Diaz dropped to 18-9.

"The first round I felt confident in the clinch, but in the second round he got a little better, so it threw me off," Thomson said. "My whole game plan was to pick him apart and take what he gives me. I see Nate on TV and the dude looks great."

In the opening bout of the network broadcast, Cincinnati welterweight Matt Brown scored his fifth consecutive victory with a second-round technical knockout of Jordan Mein of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Brown (17-11) came out swinging against Mein (27-9), who is known for his striking skills, in a fast-paced first round. This nearly backfired late in the round as Mein tagged Brown with a right hand and dropped him. But Brown turned that to his advantage as well, as he nearly submitted Mein with a triangle choke well on the mat.

In the second round, Brown got the job done, as referee John McCarthy waved off the bout at 1:00.
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