Decatur grad, Ben Henderson, will defend WEC title in Arizona Dec. 16

Decatur graduate Ben Henderson will defend his WEC lightweight world title against Anthony Pettis on Dec. 16 in Arizona.  - Lance Giles/For the Mirror
Decatur graduate Ben Henderson will defend his WEC lightweight world title against Anthony Pettis on Dec. 16 in Arizona.
— image credit: Lance Giles/For the Mirror

Decatur High School graduate Ben Henderson will defend his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) lightweight championship on Dec. 16 at Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Henderson will take on No. 1 contender Anthony “Showtime” Pettis in the main event at WEC 53. The card will also feature a bantamweight championship fight between champ Dominick Cruz (16-1) and Scott Jorgensen (11-3). The night’s main card will air on Versus.

Henderson is looking for his second successful title defense at 155 pounds and 12th in a row. After winning the interim belt at WEC 43, he scored a submission win over Jamie Varner at WEC 46 to unify the belts. Then, in his first official title defense, the former NAIA All-American wrestler forced a quick first-round tap-out from Donald Cerrone at WEC 48 and earned a “Submission of the Night” bonus in the process.

He now meets Pettis, who’s posted consecutive stoppage wins over Danny Castillo (WEC 47), Alex Karalexis (WEC 48) and Shane Roller (WEC 50) to earn his title shot. Pettis’ only career loss was to Bart Palaszewski at WEC 45.

Henderson, nicknamed Smooth, graduated from Decatur in 2001 as a star wrestler. His prep career culminated with a second-place finish at the 2001 Mat Classic state wrestling championships inside the Tacoma Dome, losing to University's Tommy Owen in the 135-pound title match.

After Decatur, Henderson went on to wrestle at Dana College in Nebraska, where he earned NAIA All-American honors as a senior after finishing in fifth place at 157 pounds in 2006. Henderson's performance helped Dana College win the NAIA national championship that year.

December’s WEC 53 is being held in Glendale after the Phoenix area got hosting duties after claiming victory in a recent fan contest. Glendale is also the current home of Henderson, who moved to Arizona to train full-time.

“Arizona deserved a card like this after winning the Amp Energy Hometown Takedown contest,” WEC General Manager Reed Harris said. “Fans in the Phoenix market voted for over two months and beat out 30 other cities to bring WEC to their area. Now, we are bringing fans two awesome title fights to Arena.”

Here are multiple links to past stories the Mirror has written about Henderson.

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