Benson Henderson and Josh Thompson will headline UFC on Fox this Saturday night in Chicago, Illinois. Henderson is coming off his lightweight title loss and looking to leap-frog back into title contention. Thompson’s shot at UFC gold was derailed due to an Anthony Pettis shoulder injury and will have to deal with one tough consolation prize.
This fight is fun to break down on paper because while both fighters are well-rounded, they bring a specialty to the cage. Thompson will carry the striking advantage while wrestling is the trump card in Henderson’s arsenal. Thompson is a better wrestler than Henderson is a striker but Henderson has a more sharpened approach when putting it all together. Finishing fights is more Thompson’s style while the former champion out points his opponents over the course of five rounds.
Josh Thompson has been injury prone throughout his career and comes into fights more banged up than most. He even stated that his training camp for this fight was “terrible” which is either true or Thompson is living up to his nickname “The Punk.” Henderson’s moniker “Smooth” perfectly describes how he seamlessly controls the pace of the bout while frustrating and keeping the opposition off-balance.
Maybe we need to look no further than their individual fights with Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. Henderson and Thompson completely dominated Diaz from bell to bell. The difference is Thompson finished him in the second round while Henderson won a unanimous decision. Both of their bouts with Melendez were super close decisions with Henderson winning the sole encounter and Thompson winning one out of three. This version of MMA math suggests Thompson wins but Henderson is a defensive architect which makes finishing him very difficult despite being tapped out in his last outing.
Henderson fighting for points might be his downfall because Thompson is always looking to finish. And even if the finish can’t be obtained, he makes it awful close which could produce another highly debated decision. Henderson will look to set up the takedown with strikes but he is not going to throw anything Josh Thompson hasn’t seen before. Henderson will secure his share of takedowns but he is going to have to earn every one of them. Thompson will strike first and often but the dynamic and physicality of Henderson’s game will slowly wear down the San Jose native over the course of the bout.
The Pick: Benson Henderson via unanimous decision