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UFC: Federal Way's Benson Henderson wins lightweight championship over Frankie Edgar
Benson Henderson wasn't lacking for confidence heading into Saturday's UFC lightweight championship fight against Frankie Edgar.
As it turned out, Henderson's swagger wasn't just false bravado. The 2001 Decatur High School graduate beat up Edgar Saturday in the main event of UFC 144 at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. An ecstatic Henderson won a unanimous decision to become the UFC lightweight champion.
"This is what I've envisioned and to have it actually happen is pretty surreal," Henderson said. "The biggest thing I envisioned was (UFC President) Dana White strapping the belt around my waist. I saw that moment in my head 700 times in the past two weeks."
Edgar (15-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) held the lightweight title for nearly two years and successfully defended the belt twice with a draw mixed in.
But Edgar’s recent wins over UFC legends B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard didn't intimidate Henderson. The Federal Way native has also defended a world title several times. Henderson held the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 155-pound title for over a year before his 10-fight win streak was stopped by Anthony "Showtime" Pettis in December 2011.
Henderson landed several powerful kicks and knees during the five-round fight. Judges had it scored 49-46 twice and 48-47 for Henderson.
The biggest kick and moment came late in the second round when Henderson broke Edgar's nose with an upkick. He also shut Edgar's left eye by landing several jabs.
Edgar tried to use his more polished boxing and movement, but Henderson used his size and strength to control the middle of the ring, landing the more powerful shots.
As expected, Edgar thought that he won the fight and was shocked when ring announcer Bruce Buffer called out the decision for Henderson. According to CompuStrike, Edgar did outland Henderson, 124-114.
“I thought I landed more strikes and I got more takedowns,” Edgar said. “I don’t know.”
Henderson, who now lives and trains in the Phoenix area, looked like the much bigger fighter Saturday night. According to published reports, Edgar doesn't have to cut much weight at all to make the 155-pound cutoff. The New Jersey native "walks around" near 155 pounds, while Henderson is more in the 180-pound range, he said.
"I wanted to use my size to my advantage," Henderson said. "Making weight is really (a struggle) for me ... so I want to make sure my opponents feel that pain when we have 25 minutes inside this octagon."
It's still up in the air about who will be next for Henderson. There could be an immediate rematch with Edgar or possibly another championship fight against Pettis. Pettis knocked out Joe Lauzon during a UFC 144 preliminary fight Saturday in Tokyo.
"It really doesn't matter to me," Henderson said. "I want to defend (the belt) however many times Anderson Silva does, plus one. So whoever it happens to be, whether it's Frankie again. Anthony Pettis, I see you doing big things. He is a great fighter, very spectacular. There's a long list of guys and I want to do every single one of them."
According to White during the post-fight press conference, it looks like Pettis might be the first in line to try and take Henderson's UFC lightweight belt.
"Pettis is absolutely ready for a title fight," White said. "I think he's going to get it."
"I'm the last guy to beat him, so it makes sense for us to have a rematch," Pettis said. "I took his belt in the WEC and it looks like I'm going to do it again. We got some unfinished business."
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.
"I live this this," Henderson said. "This is what I do. I live this lifestyle. I'm a fighter."