Former UFC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson Moves On Up

Former UFC Lightweight Champion, Benson Smooth Henderson will test himself tomorrow as he faces Brandon Thatch as a newly minted UFC welterweight (170 lbs.).

Henderson (21-5) will meet the scrappy Brandon Thatch (11-1) at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado for what could be yet another epic Henderson battle.

After a stellar early career, Smooth made a huge impact in the sport when he defeated Donald Cowboy Cerrone in October 2009 to secure the World Extreme Cagefightings Interim Lightweight Title (organization now defunct). The fight would yield Henderson a fight of the night and fight of the year honors in addition to a new nickname based on his amazing physical flexibility during duress: Bendo.

The pair would eventually have a trilogy of battles, the most recent being Cerrones unanimous decision win over Henderson last month at UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver. Henderson is 2-1 in their close matchups.

The win parade stopped dramatically when Henderson faced a then up and coming Anthony Pettis who shocked the world with the Showtime kick; launching his foot off the cage and into Hendersons face without touching the floor. In true form the battle received Fight of the Night and Fight of the Year honors, sending Henderson into the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

It would take 7 straight wins and three years before Henderson would face Pettis again, and this time it was on the sports biggest stage, the UFC Octagon for the Lightweight Championship. What transpired was a 1st round verbal submission by Henderson from a perfectly executed arm bar by Pettis. Pettis is still currently the UFC Lightweight Champion.

Since then Henderson has gone 2-2 in his last four outings, his last two being back-to-back losses to Cerrone and Raphael Dos Anjos via KO, the first such loss in Hendersons career. Then a move to welterweight was announced, an ambitious move for the 59 athlete seeking to reclaim his winning ways.

Up next for the Bendo challenge is Brandon Thatch who boasts an impressive 8 KOs and 3 submissions resume in his 11-1 career. His last win was a notable first round KO of UFC veteran Paulo Thiago via a vicious knee to the body that stopped the seasoned Brazilian.

Said Henderson to UFC.com on the move up in weight class:

“I dont expect fighting at 170 to make that much of a difference for me. I have thought about 170 for a long time and [John Crouch] and I have planned for it. We have sparred with plenty of guys at that weight and Ive always held my own.”   

If history is any indicator it is probably a certainty that this fight will rank up there with the rest of Hendersons other battles with equally impressive strikers/submission artists. However, with new UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler at the end of a long line of bigger, stronger fighters that Henderson is not traditionally used to, the welterweight division just became extremely interesting.

And interesting is what Henderson will have to be in order to compete in his newly entered division.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.