Photo by Tracy Lee for Y! Sports
Coming into UFC on Versus 5, only two men had ever been able to defeat Jim Miller. Given that those two men are Frankie Edgar (#1 lightweight in the world and current UFC lightweight champ) and Gray Maynard (#2 lightweight in the world) it said something for how tough it is to hang with Miller. Jim had taken a seven fight win streak to the #6 lightweight spot in the world on the USA Today / SB Nation consensus rankings.
Enter Ben Henderson.
Henderson, the former WEC lightweight champion has always looked impressive, but since his loss to Anthony Pettis and subsequent move to the UFC, he has looked like a man possessed. At UFC 129 he brutalized Mark Bocek to earn the major step-up in competition against Miller. Last night, Henderson looked as good as he has ever been as he spent most of the fight manhandling his opponent.
While Miller was able to occasionally look to secure a submission, including one very deep kneebar, Henderson continually survived and worked ferociously from top position, dominating the second and third round. While I think it's absurd that a bout between such high level fighters was only three rounds and not five, it's highly unlikely that the next two rounds would have seen anything different than more domination and possibly a stoppage.
It's also somewhat amazing that Ben looked like he was ready to fight again after the final bell given how physical and fast paced the fight was.
The fact that Henderson (ranked #14 before the fight) was so impressive in his dominance means that he has as good of a case as anyone in the world to face the winner of the third fight between Maynard and Edgar for the lightweight championship.
The volatility of the lightweight division simply means that title shots should go to the hot fighter coming off big wins. Yes, Ben lost to Pettis three fights ago, but many seem to have forgotten that it was a very closely contested fight simply because Pettis landed an amazing kick in the final seconds. The Henderson we've seen in the UFC is a guy clearly deserving of a shot at the title. His size, strength, striking, grappling, incredible ability to survive bad positions and amazing cardio make for a combination unlike anyone else in the division.
The lightweight division lacks a major star in terms of drawing power. But fights like Edgar/Maynard 2 and Henderson/Miller are the kind of fast paced, hotly contested bouts that can turn the entire lightweight division into something that draws money simply on reputation given enough time.
There is simply something special about Henderson and the way that the crowd is almost always on his side by the final bell. The amount of action and high level skill that you would get in a bout between Henderson and Edgar would be something special and possibly legendary.