MILWAUKEE -- Lightweight champion Benson Henderson has successfully defended his UFC 155-pound title three times in a row. The only other fighter to accomplish that feat inside the Octagon is former lightweight titleholder BJ Penn.
But as Henderson prepares to put his title on the line Saturday night against Anthony Pettis, some have wondered whether he has what it takes to retain the belt a fourth straight time. The concern is raised because of Henderson’s previous loss to Pettis and close calls in recent title bouts.
Henderson has won two of his three UFC title defenses by split decision. And the first time Henderson faced Pettis, in December 2010 while defending his WEC lightweight title bout, he lost by unanimous decision.
That loss, however, and the razor-thin outcomes of his more recent title bouts, don’t worry Henderson. His goal remains the same: just win. It’s that simple.
“What it all boils down to is getting your hand raised,” Henderson told ESPN.com on Thursday during a media conference to promote the title rematch with Pettis. “Whether you do it emphatically, impressively, whether you do it by split decision or whatever the case may be.
“Honestly, if a guy walks into the cage and slips on a banana peel and I win, I will take that win. I don’t care. The way I fight, I’m always out there to beat the guy up. I just want to beat him up. I don’t care about judges’ decisions or this or that, I just want to beat the guy up.”
Improved stand-up boosts Mendez’s confidence
Featherweight contender Chad Mendes has been on a knockout tear since coming up short in his title bid against Jose Aldo at UFC 142 on Jan. 14, 2012. Mendes was knocked out during the first round of that title bout, but he's knocked out each of his opponents in the three fights that followed.
Mendes, ranked fourth among 145-pound fighters by ESPN.com, went into that fight unsure of his stand-up skills -- both offensively and defensively. He wasn’t confident anywhere on his feet then.
As a result, Mendes was vulnerable standing against Aldo and got caught by a knee to the chin. His hopes of leaving the cage a champion that night came ended at the 4:59 mark.
But Mendes is better on his feet now. He is comfortable letting his hands go, and moving his feet and head comes naturally now. And he has developed into a solid power puncher. Mendes no longer lacks confidence standing in the cage.
“It’s not that I wasn’t confident as a fighter, it’s just that the stand-up part of the game wasn’t there for me,” Mendes said. “A lot of people said I took that fight too early in my career. But it’s a title fight; I’m not going to turn it down.
"I believe I was winning the first round until the final second. I’m a completely different fighter now. I know I can hang. I’ve grown and gotten so much better. I want another title shot."
With Wanderlei unavailable, UFC seeking foe for Sonnen
There are two things Chael Sonnen wants more than anything else in his professional fighting career right now: a showdown with Wanderlei Silva and a spot on the UFC 167 main card. But it's very unlikely one of his wishes will be met any time soon.
According to UFC president Dana White, a fight between Sonnen and Silva isn’t happening this year. White said Silva is injured and would accept only a pay-per-view deal to face Sonnen.
Pay-per-view deals are given only to champions, and Silva isn’t close to contending for the middleweight title. That puts the brakes on a Sonnen-Silva fight. Besides, Silva’s injury, which White says is back-related, will keep him out of action for the remainder of this year.
“Chael wants to fight in the co-main event of the [Georges] St-Pierre fight,” said White, referring to St-Pierre’s title defense against Johny Hendricks on Nov. 16 in Las Vegas. “Chael wants it. He wants to fight on that card. He has his heart set on it.”
There have been recent reports of Phil Davis getting the fight with Sonnen. White, however, quashed those reports. The UFC is still seeking an opponent to meet Sonnen at UFC 167. It’s possible that Davis is among the fighters being considered, but White refused to reveal any of the potential candidates.
“There’s nothing done [with Davis],” White said.