David topples Goliath: Henderson taps Thatch in Colorado headliner
Benson Henderson pulled off the improbable Saturday night, taking out Brandon Thatch with a fourth-round rear naked choke to win his UFC welterweight debut after taking the fight on just two weeks’ notice.
The former lightweight champion showed tremendous heart standing up to Thatch in the main event of the UFC Fight Night card at Broomfield, Colo., finding a way to win with an inspirational performance in enemy territory.
Henderson took the fight as a replacement for the injured Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, even though he’d never fought at 170 pounds in the UFC. But he jumped at the opportunity to fight Thatch, a former top prospect who hadn’t fought since 2013 due to injuries, and came out of the gate showing no fear of his much bigger opponent, who had an advantage of several inches in both height and reach.
The former lightweight champion got right in Thatch’s face in the early going and stuck the Colorado native with heavy body shots while trying to work in quick combinations.
When the horn sounded at the end of round one, it marked only the second time in Thatch’s career that he went past the first five minutes, but he came out stronger than ever in the second frame.
Thatch found his range and started to tag Henderson with big shots as his confidence grew. Henderson remained the faster fighter, but Thatch was clearly more powerful. Thatch was able to bully Henderson around the Octagon and dictate the pace of the fight as the seconds ticked away until the third round began.
Henderson refused to back down in the third after nailing Thatch with a heavy body shot and it eventually led to his first takedown before quickly transitioning to back control. Henderson ended up bruising Thatch and putting a big mouse under his right eye before trying for an armbar just as the round came to an end.
Thatch seemed to regain his composure in the fourth, but Henderson again found a way to slip under and put him on the mat before quickly transitioning to take his back.
Henderson wasted no time working for back control again, and this time he had worn down Thatch with his constant barrage of offense, and Thatch had little left to fight off his advances. Henderson slipped his arm under Thatch’s chin, wrapped up his other arm and in a matter of moments earned the tap.
Henderson showed once again why he remains one of the best fighters on the planet, whether he’s at 170 pounds or in the lightweight division.
Henderson "has the heart of a champ," Thatch said after the fight.
Afterward, Henderson offered to step up to face Canadian welterweight Rory MacDonald, who needs an opponent for UFC 186. While it’s not likely the fight gets made, the fact that Henderson offered shows once again why he is one of the most game competitors on the entire UFC roster.