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UFC: Decatur's Ben Henderson hopes to continue championship climb

Decatur High School graduate Ben Henderson beat Mark Bocek in his first ever fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 129 in Toronto. Henderson won the fight by a unanimous decision and will fight Jim Miller on Sunday at UFC on Versus 5 in Milwaukee. - Courtesy Zuffa
Decatur High School graduate Ben Henderson beat Mark Bocek in his first ever fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 129 in Toronto. Henderson won the fight by a unanimous decision and will fight Jim Miller on Sunday at UFC on Versus 5 in Milwaukee.
— image credit: Courtesy Zuffa

Decatur High School graduate Ben Henderson is set to face his toughest test during his mixed martial arts career Aug. 14.

Henderson will be facing the up-and-coming Jim Miller in the co-main event at UFC on Versus 5, which takes place inside the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The fights will kick off at 6 p.m. on the Versus Network.

“For sure, this is the toughest fight of my career,” Henderson said Tuesday. “My career has gone the way you want to script out a career, as far as every fight being being a bigger fight. So I’m definitely expecting the toughest fight of my career. I expect to go 15 minutes hard at an insane pace.”

Henderson made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut at UFC 129 in front of 55,000 fans in Toronto and dominated Canadian Mark Bocek, winning a unanimous decision.

It was the first time Henderson, who currently lives and trains in Glendale, Ariz., has fought since losing his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) title to Anthony “Showtime” Pettis at WEC 53 in December. Pettis won by unanimous decision and landed a Matrix-esque kick to Henderson’s face that was replayed over and over on SportsCenter.

The loss to Pettis was only the second of Henderson’s (13-2) MMA career. He won the WEC lightweight title with a decision over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone on Oct. 10, 2009, and held it until losing to Pettis.

The Miller fight might be a little more personal for Henderson.

“I’m definitely excited for this matchup because of how high up there he is ranked,” Henderson told U.S. Combat Sports. “(UFC President) Dana White is on record talking about how high Miller is up on the ladder at 155. I’m excited to dance with him.”

“Every fighter is different,” Miller said about Henderson. “He’s a pretty well-rounded guy and has a pretty unique style of fighting.”

The streaking Miller (20-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and Henderson (13-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) will be joined on the night’s card by the other main event, Chris Lytle vs. Dan Hardy. The card airs on the Versus network.

Miller will be looking for a remarkable eighth-straight victory in the UFC and his 10th in 11 fights. The New Jersey native’s last loss came to Gray Maynard nearly five years ago. His only other loss came to UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.

“Jim is a tough opponent,” Henderson told U.S. Combat Sports. “He has good hands, good wrestling, good jiu-jitsu, and doesn’t really have any glaring weaknesses. He is a really tough fighter and a good matchup for me.”

Henderson, 28, began wrestling during his time at Lakota Middle School and continued at Decatur, where he competed under head coach Mike Bressler.

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. He actually started MMA fighting a year later after a dare from a couple of Dana wrestlers.

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