Freelance: Henderson Earns Bellator Lightweight Title Shot

One of the potentially most exciting fights put on by Bellator MMA had one of the most anti-climactic endings last night to close out Bellator 160. Throughout the broadcast, fans were reminded that “Smooth” Benson Henderson was looking for redemption after faltering in his Bellator debut–an immediate title shot at Welterweight champion Andrey “Spartan” Koreshkov’s belt. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire on the other hand, wanted revenge.

Stepping up a weight class to 155 pounds with the hope of facing Lightweight champion “Iron” Michael Chandler to avenge his brother Patricky’s loss to the champion, Patricio took the first round against Henderson and was looking strong.

Henderson looks more tactical through the first five minutes as he takes the center of the cage, but it’s Pitbull landing the punches and scoring points. Both feint for the first half-minute before Henderson goes high with a kick. Pitbull retaliates with a right hand. Henderson connects with a leg kick but slips as he backsteps.

Over two minutes tick off the fight clock before the next punches are thrown, but Pitbull evades. The fans are getting agitated, however, the sheer volume of leg kicks has the Brazilian ahead. He pops the UFC veteran with consecutive rights and draws cheers. Henderson looks for a trio of kick to the ribs before the bell.

There are a few minor shots in the first minute of the second, but so far fans aren’t getting their money’s worth. An overhand right connects for Pitbull with just over 3:30 to go in the frame. Henderson leans in on a left strike and Pitbull turns it into a spin-out takedown. He aims to get Henderson’s back while Henderson attempts a kimura simultaneously.

They work their way out of the position as Pitbull goes southpaw again. Then as he’s bouncing on his feet, he calls off the fight himself. Referee “Big John” McCarthy steps in and makes the official call.

The media later learn that as Henderson checked a kick earlier in the fight, Pitbull suffered a broken right fibula. He later wrote on Instagram that he “felt the bone move” and that he “would be back soon.”

“I knew for sure when I checked two of his kicks, if you watch the replay, he backed away, right away, immediately,” Henderson said to Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith during the broadcast. “We worked on checking kicks after the Anderson Silva whole thing, that was kind of popular. Everyone was working on checking kicks. So I was definitely working on checking kicks. I didn’t think I’d ever end a fight by checking a kick. I guess I’ll take a W where I can get it.”

Henderson will now face Chandler on November 19 at Bellator 163 in an effort to become MMA’s triple crown champion after holding titles in both the WEC and UFC.

“I’m excited. He’s a tough dude. I’ve been looking forward to fighting him for a really long time. People have been talking about this matchup for a long time, so let’s put on a show for Bellator fans,” Chandler, who was in attendance, told Smith in the cage after the fight.