Benson Henderson suffered the most one-sided loss of his career Friday night at Bellator 153. Facing a larger man with longer reach and considerably more power, Henderson was rocked early, rocked often, and essentially beat up for five rounds during his main event welterweight title challenge against Andrey Koreshkov.

It wasn’t a pretty fight. “Smooth” — looking very much like a lightweight next to the Russian champion — seemed to have no answer for Koreshkov’s heavy hands and thudding kicks. He was unable to get anywhere near a takedown in the early rounds and was lucky to survive the first, when the champ dropped him with punches, then ended the round with a flying knee and body kicks. Heading to his corner, Bendo looked dazed. Koreshkov looked dominant.

The following frames would bring about more of the same. Offense from Henderson was scarce until the fifth, when desperation set in. At the end of five rounds, it was a unanimous 50-45 win for Koreshkov, marking his first title defense. For Benson Henderson, it will mark his first loss since a close decision against Donald Cerrone back in the UFC.

Many are calling it an upset. You’ll hear voices shortly proclaiming that Bellator’s big free agent signing is a bust. Pay them no heed. Those naysayers are oversimplifying the matter.

Henderson’s debut loss is actually a blessing in disguise for Bellator. For starters, fighting up a weight class is never easy. While welterweight gold would have looked great on Benson Henderson, make no mistake: while we’ve long called him a large lightweight, he’s not a full-sized welterweight, at least not next to the larger end of that division.

He proved he had heart Friday night simply by finishing the fight — heart and a chin. That’s something that had never really been tested to date, as most opponents couldn’t catch him to put it to the test.

The big factor here, however, is one of credibility. Though he lost, though he was fighting up a weight class, Henderson was a credible opponent for Koreshkov, coming off a two fight win streak at welterweight in the UFC. Many were expecting Bendo to coast to an easy win. The fight is now being called a “shocking upset” by some, though the odds were quite close heading into the bout according to Bet365 (popular casino rated highly among punters). In any case, Koreshkov now has the biggest scalp of his career on his record. Suddenly, he’s being looked at in a different light, having beaten a former UFC champion, and not one who was champ a decade ago, but a recent champion, one who many expected to have the upper hand.

For Bellator, it gets better. Not only did Benson Henderson help establish their welterweight kingpin, he’s already itching to get back in the cage again. As he noted in the post-fight interview with Jimmy Smith, he hates losing. He’s looking for his next challenge.

Welcome back to lightweight, Bendo.

Lightweight is arguably the most stacked division in Bellator MMA. Even with the loss of Eddie Alvarez — now plying his trade for the UFC, and facing Rafael Dos Anjos for the title this Summer — the division has the likes of Will Brooks, Michael Chandler, Patricky Freire, Marcin Held, David Rickels, Josh Thompson, Melvin Guillard, John Alessio, and a host of others. In short, there are plenty of good fights for Henderson in the division, and he instantly elevates it even coming off a loss. One win, and he’s ready for a title shot.

It’s conceivable that Bellator may grant him one immediately, welterweight loss or no.

So don’t count Bellator MMA’s big signing out just yet — even in losing, Benson Henderson has paid off for them.

 

 

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.

  • Vlad Bralovic

    I also think this was an upset, Didn’t see that coming…