WEC 53 – Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis 10 Years on

Benson Henderson
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 16: (R-L) Ben Henderson kicks Anthony Pettis at WEC 53 at the Jobing.com Arena on December 16, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Benson Henderson is considered one of the best all-around fighters in the MMA lightweight division. A Tae Kwan Do artist since the age of nine, Benson Henderson began his professional fighting career in 2006 with the WEC.

Henderson joined the UFC in October 2010 when WEC merged with the organization. Holding a 22-5-0 professional record, 14 wins by TKO/KO or submission, Henderson signed with Bellator MMA in 2016, citing problems with the pay and structure of the UFC.

WEC 53: Ben Henderson Vs. Anthony Pettis -The Final Fight

Benson Henderson’s most memorable fight took place at WEC 53 on December 16, 2010. It was the last WEC bout before the big merger and fight fans were excited. Henderson would fight Anthony Pettis, the winner earning a contract to fight in the UFC. Of course, we all know things went awry afterwards and that did not happen.

Henderson was the current WEC lightweight champion, known for entertaining fans and putting on an action-packed show. Pettis, still new to professional fighting, quickly garnered the same reputation. Fight fans knew this meetup would be one to remember, but no one expected what happened that night.

Pre-fight, Henderson told reporters, “I’m going to go out as the last WEC champion ever and then go in as the number one contender for the UFC belt.”

Pettis was just as confident, saying “There’s only one man standing in front of me and all my dreams, and that’s Ben Henderson. Tonight I’m going to go in there, get the WEC title, and head over to the UFC and unify these belts.”

The Mortal Kombat Kick

Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson fought for five rounds, bringing non-stop action for the biggest part of the 25-minute bout. The fight was so exciting it was awarded ‘Fight of the Year’ honours by almost every media outlet covering sports at the time.

With just over one minute left in the fight, Pettis landed a few right hooks and attempted a right head kick that Henderson blocked. And then it happened. The moment none of us ever expected; the moment we will never again see in the world of mixed martial arts.

The clock read 1:05. Benson Henderson, tired and a bit dazed from those hooks, moved back from the cage. Pettis moved forward, jumping off the cage using his right foot. Henderson dropped his hands at the same time that same right foot landed square in his face.

Benson Henderson dropped, stunned by what just happened, but still in the match.

Now, I’m sure Henderson’s stomach hurt worse than mine about that time, but I was stunned. Shocked. In disbelief. Still searching Webster’s for a word telling enough to describe the emotion at that moment.

As screams erupted throughout the arena, Pettis let out the ground and pound action as Henderson grabbed onto the ref’s leg in an attempt to regain composure. The final 55-seconds of the fight are a blur to most fight fans, especially Henderson fans.

A Humble Human Being

After the fight, Henderson maintained his usual level-headedness and humble demeanour. He congratulated Pettis on an awesome fight and win. When asked about the kick, Henderson smiled and told reporters it was something out of ‘Mortal Kombat.’

Before Henderson earned the name he has now, he operated a fansite for MMA Labs. Around 200-300 fans used the site in the same way we use Facebook today. Only, we talked about MMA, MMA Labs, Henderson, and life in general.

Henderson interacted with his fans almost daily on the site.

He was never in a bad mood, never unhappy, never had a bad word to say about anyone or anything. He was hungry for success, to be the best person that he could be. Everyone on the site could feel it.

Henderson made you feel like an old friend as he interacted on the site with all of us. In fact, the last reply he ever left to me was telling me to keep my head up and great things were in store for me. He even sent a package of promo goodies. The autographed poster still proudly hangs bedside.

So, Ben Henderson felt like an old acquaintance. I felt the kick, I hurt for him. I could not cheer and roar like everyone else watching the fight due to that sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach. I knew it was over and sure enough, Pettis won the fight by unanimous decision.

Pettis and Henderson fought a second time in 2013 at UFC 164. Pettis won the fight by way of submission. Although fight fans wanted a third match, Dana White declared that a trilogy would be “illogical.”

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