In a surprise turn of (main) events, Benson Henderson actually finished a fight… and he was so pumped up about it, he yelled at the crowd for approval.
I’m sorry… I must have misunderstood. Henderson was apparently yelling at the members of the media sitting in their designated area in the crowd.
So what was the reason for his anger? The media is being mean to him for pointing out what a predictable and boring fighter he is, something he expanded on during the UFC Fight Night 42 post-fight press conference (watch here), claiming:
“A lot of times, your guys’ job is to tell a story and say this and say that, and you want us to say this and say that…I’m on to your guys’ tricks. Don’t doubt. We’re fighters. We’re smart guys, too. We’re not all Neanderthals. So I’m on to your guys’ tricks, trying to get us to say this and say that, and I just want to reiterate, I do my talking inside the Octagon. So if any story you want to write, anything you want to say, judge it off my time inside the Octagon.”
I’m not sure what being “Neanderthals” or using “tricks” to criticize someone has to do with not finishing fights. Henderson is trying to play the victim (poorly, I might say) and seem like he’s devoid of criticism, simply because he’s a top-ranked fighter. More to the point, however, anyone who watches sports knows that the fundamental thing every team should do is finish their opponents, and not leave any doubt in their minds that they can come back. For example, if you’re playing any sport, and you have the lead in a game, regardless of the margin, it’s probably not a good idea to stay complacent and assume that you’re going to get the win, just because you’re winning at that point. As a professional athlete, who apparently is putting 100% effort into being great, you always try to close out the game convincingly, because you never know if the other team is going to play harder and be more aggressive to try and win at the end.
What Henderson seems to think is that a win is a win, no matter how you get it, even claiming that it doesn’t matter if you do it via knockout or submission (emphasis mine):
“Getting the ‘W’ is the same as all the other ‘Ws,'” he explained.
“I’m just after good performances, whether it’s a submission or it’s a knockout, sometimes you guys in the media don’t understand what it is to win. Like, I don’t know how many times you guys have competed at a high level wrestling or tennis or football in high school or something like that. But you’re after good performances, whether you get a knockout off of it or a submission off of it.“
Last time I checked, nobody was criticizing Henderson for getting too many knockout or submission victories (because he doesn’t), but for his habit of pulling out decision wins. He conveniently spins the words of his critics to make it seem as if they are demanding that he wins in different ways, which is not the case at all. Has anybody ever criticized Chuck Liddell for getting too many knockout wins (13 times) in his hall of fame career? Has anyone gone after Frank Mir for submitting most (9 times) of his opponents in his storied career? No, because those are all considered “good performances“, to use Henderson’s words, where the fight was finished with no doubt left in the eyes of anyone watching. What he fails to acknowledge, unfortunately, is that he doesn’t really put on a lot of good performances. From the casual observer, most of Henderson’s bouts are lackluster snooze fests, where he basically puts his opponents up against the cage, while inflicting good/minimal damage. That’s not something fans, or the UFC brass, like to see. In fact, it’s hard to promote someone who they’re afraid is going to do the same thing in every fight.
Henderson also goes on to say, “Sometimes you get finishes, [and] sometimes you don’t. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.” Okay… well, with that mentality, it’s no wonder that the media criticizes him. He doesn’t really seem care what the win result is, as long as it’s a win. Henderson actually has as many wins by decision (10) as he does knockouts (2) and submissions (9), combined (per Wikipedia). In fact, before he came to the UFC, he was fighting in the WEC (as well as a few other promotions), and from 2006 to 2010, he was 12-2, with only three of his fights coming to a decision (one was a loss). Going from 3 decisions in four years to 8 decisions in three is pretty drastic. So, maybe one can figure to make the case that he was facing tougher competition. Wrong. That excuse doesn’t fly here, especially since Henderson had already been facing a lot of the same type of fighters in the WEC as there are in the UFC today, including talented guys like Donald Cerrone and Anthony Njokuani, and champions like Jamie Varner and Anthony Pettis (the latter whom he lost the title to twice; once in WEC, once in the UFC). It should also be noted that among his eight decision wins, only two of them were given “Fight of the Night” honors.
Amidst all this criticism, as well as his blaming of the media, the question now becomes: Does Benson Henderson actually care about being a good fighter, and entertaining the fans, or does he just want to get through the fight and earn his purse? I’m sure in the opinion of many people, including UFC President Dana White, if you truly cared about having “good performances“, you would actually perform better in each fight. In response to criticism of fighters like Henderson, some would say “well, Georges St. Pierre has had a lot of boring fights“. That’s true, and there is a lot to criticize the former champion on, but he a) always tried to evolve his game and diversify his tactics, and b) never blamed the media, or other critics, for what they think of him. He plugged along, kept his head down, and did his job. Period.
Following Henderson’s impressive submission win at UFC Fight Night 42, maybe this is a turning point for the talented lightweight. But will he continue that outstanding performance with more in the future, or just settle for the win, again?