It has been a tough year for Benson Henderson.

A year and a half ago, he had a near perfect record and was the reigning, defending lightweight champion. Since that time, he has lost the belt to none other than Anthony Pettis, and lost two of his last five outings.

Most recently he fought in Boston against Donald Cerrone, who stepped up on short notice to face Henderson. Previously, the two had a fought under the WEC banner and Henderson had got the best of him on both occasions. With a foe he had defeated twice before stepping in on such short notice the reward out weighed the risk, and he signed the bout agreement. Unfortunately for Benson, he ended up dropping a decision to the surging Cerrone.

Following in Cerrone’s footsteps, Henderson expressed his wish for a quick turn around after the loss. His wish was fulfilled when he got the call to move up to welterweight to face Brandon Thatch following Stephen Thompson’s withdraw from the bout due to injury. Henderson has spoken of moving up to welterweight in the past, and expressed his dislike for the weight cut to lightweight, so this will be a good test for him to see if it’s worth it to move up.

The upside of Henderson taking the fight is that he can get a win quickly after suffering two straight defeats, the down side is he can also have three straight losses within a six month time period. It’s hard to imagine, but he has a very game opponent.

Thatch will be answering the bell for the first time in almost a year and a half, and he is itching to get back in there. Nearly undefeated, Thatch has compiled a professional record of eleven wins and only one loss. The most impressive factor, every victory has been obtained via a finish. The former RFA champion has two fights in the UFC that he finished with strikes.

Thatch’s future is bright, no matter the outcome of this fight. On the other hand, Henderson is beginning to look more and more like he is on a decline. The sport moves quickly, and he may be falling behind the ever present technical evolution that takes place in the Octagon. It is a must win situation, and he has the tools to do it Here are “Smooth” Henderson’s keys to victory.

Slow the Pace

Thatch is aggressive, and he is going to be very excited come fight night. He is facing the biggest name he has ever fought, and he is returning from a long lay off. Thatch has only gone the distance once in a fight, and he dropped a split decision. If Henderson can slow him down and make him fight his fight, his chances increase of having his hand raised increase dramatically.

Mix Things Up

On paper Thatch has the edge in almost every major metric. That said, he hasn’t faced nearly the level of talent that Henderson has. Bendo’s elite level wrestling, and striking are great assets, but his fight IQ is what sets him apart. The name of the game in mma is mixing up every aspect of your game, but Henderson makes it look easy when he is in the zone. Threatening with take downs, maintaining distance with kicks, and capitalizing on opportunities are all part of his arsenal. It doesn’t always lead to the most exciting fights, but it often earns him the win.

Stick to the Game Plan

Henderson has the skills to win this fight, if he sticks to the game plan. In the past he has always had a smile, win or lose he seemed happy. He stuck to the game plan, and was rarely frustrated by his opponents. With high level wrestling and quality striking, he is the complete package. Coming off the loss to Cerrone, he was more emotional than ever. It’s critical that he doesn’t carry that emotion into the cage, because the first mistake he makes, will most likely be lights out.

About The Author

Michael Davis
Director, Business Development/Senior Staff Writer

Michael Davis is a seasoned professional in the world of finance. In recent years, he has worked for Fortune 500 companies and consulted at one of the largest hedge funds in the world. After working closely with a mixed martial arts management company, he realized he could apply his skills to the sport he loved. The culmination of his professional experience and passion for MMA have led him to his role as Senior Staff Writer and Director of Business Development at The MMA Corner.