Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson fought for the third time inside the Bellator cage on Saturday night, looking to win the 155-pound strap in a third major MMA promotion. Henderson earned the lightweight title fight rather dubiously after Patricio Freire was forced out of their title contention fight because of a leg injury.
Some thought Henderson was fighting for the title having never won a round in Bellator, and it showed in the first round. A sharp Michael Chandler came out and swarmed Henderson from the opening bell, landing a couple of big right hands. Chandler landed a suplex that would make Brock Lesnar proud and mixed in guillotine attempts, Henderson showing how tough he was to survive.
What looked like a fight headed towards a quick finish turned into an instant classic. Henderson showed his patented toughness, continuing to weather Chandler's attacks and take the offensive. Henderson took control in the second round, though a drained Chandler relied on his wrestling to hold onto Henderson and avoid letting the fight slight away. Henderson nearly ended the fight in the fifth round with some desperate submission attempts and eventually won the fight by split decision.
Bad blood spilled over in the immediate aftermath of the fight, with Chandler shoving Henderson two different times.
"I think it came down to that first round, dominated," Chandler told analyst Jimmy Smith after the fight. "Benson is a heck of a competitor. You can't be perfect in here, you just got to find a way to win, and that's what I did."
Chandler said he "would love to run it back" with Henderson and "put the pain on him."