I had a feeling.
I can't prove it to you, and its going to sound like I'm just joining the bandwagon. So that's fine, but please believe me. Some days at my job its can be very boring and I'm looking for things to past the time. So one day I came up with a list of overrated and underrated fighters, planning on doing a BE fanpost when I got home. Sadly, as a married man, oftentimes the "honey-do" list is waiting for me at home or we have plans (it was easier blogging and hitting the interwebs as a single man). So I never published it. My thought was that these were fighters with talent - not cans, that's easy - but talented fighters who were artificially blown up because of a lack of good competition and/or simply being one-dimensional. I had names like Jason Miller, Shane Carwin, and Lil' Nog. I had the opposite, too - names like Ricardo Arona, Nate Diaz, and Chris Lytle for underrated fighters. Two other names popped up - Jim Miller and Ben Henderson.
I had forgotten it too until I looked through my wallet today and pulled out the folded paper with the lists I had made. But ti made sense. The biggest thing with Miller I looked at was his level of competition. His best win was probably Matt Wiman, but for a guy that really went after WEC lightweights the roster of fighters he's fought looks like that of the WEC. Kamal Shalrous, Bart Palaszswki, Duane Ludwig, Steve Lopez, David Baron. Half of the fighters in Miller's eight fight win-streak aren't even sniffing the top 25 of lightweights in MMA. Again, its not about his skill set. Joe Rogan is right to call Miller a savage. But the only time in the UFC he has fought top tier competition, Gray Maynard, he lost.
Then there is Ben Henderson, smiling through his improbable rise. His run through the WEC was never really suppose to happen. The lightweight title in the WEC belonged to Rob McCullough and Jamie Varner. Donald Cerrone was suppose to be the next one. Henderson forced himself into the picture. His first fight against Cerrone is one of my all-time favorites, and like last night, everyone was surprised that Henderson won. And he kept winning. And, in my opinion, an ESPY-nominated CGI kick from Anthony Pettis lost him that belt. Henderson, more than any other fighter, seemed to have been the biggest question mark about going into the UFC.
But watch Henderson's WEC fights. Its a carbon copy from last night. Why are people surprised? Does anyone remember what he did with Donald Cerrone in that first fight? When he destroyed Jamie Varner? He is vicious, an endless gas tank, unsubmitable defense, and an absolutely unrelenting top game. Its amazing, this guy cannot be submitted. Miller had that leg lock. How many submissions has he escaped? And his top game was what surprised me. He knew Miller was going for submission after submission and he just shrugged it off. Instead of technique, he used punishment to get out. When his arm was in trouble, he ripped Miller's ribs with rights and elbows to the hea with his free arm. In the clinch, he was using a weird ax-kick.
Sometimes one performance really makes you say, "holy shit." For me, it was Henderson-Cerrone I and this Miller fight just confirmed it. This is a bad man with a smile. He is relentless, moves forward, eats submissions like cereal, and has a diverse offensive arsenal of elbows, takedowns, and submissions (Varner and Cerrone II).
I think Ben Henderson might be the most complete fighter not in the UFC 136 main event. The fight fan in me wants to see Henderson and Cerrone go one more time. But honestly, Cerrone is further down the totem pole than Benson. Some want to see Benson and Melvin Guillard go. That would be fun. What about G-Sot? Meh, he's damaged good. Denis Siver? A possibility? But for me, I think Benson Henderson should fight a returning Sean Sherk next. A healthy Sherk, a proven former champion and a name fighter. Henderson vs. Sherk would give Ben Henderson a chance to make a name for himself and gives Sherk a chance at one more big fight.
Ben Henderson is going to a problem in the lightweight division. His skill-set is hard to deal with. Because it appears he can't be submitted, it allows him to move forward and go for the kill over and over. Pettis beat him by being just as reckless as Henderson and using an uncanny athleticism. Jim Miller fought the wrong fight, trying to prove he could do something nobody else has. And honestly, I'm not sure how seriously Miller took Ben. But he could never get off his back. Henderson put him down and kept him down from round 2 and on. I look at Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar and I think Henderson, if he can get through this division (which is like getting through a hedge maze) he matches up well with these guys.
But then again, he could be put down with one fight and there will be a plethora of BE posts about "the next guy." (I'm looking at YOU, Gilbert Melendez)
As for me, Ben Henderson's violence with a smile I think will breathe new life in a division that has been stagnated by injuries and a talent pool that is very high but very even which causes the mess we are in now. As soon as a guy gets hot, he runs into someone else. Look at guys like Florian, Sotiropolous, Dunham, and Pettis - all were poised to make the final leap but kept got knocked off by "the next guy."
The test for Ben Henderson is if he can avoid that. His timing is perfect, because he's coming along after both Edgar and Maynard had healed up so he doesn't have to wait around and take dangerous fights. We will see.