Where to from here for Henderson?

Benson Henderson may have won the second fight of his welterweight career, but the dull split decision win against Jorge Masvidal is unlikely to earn him a place in the rankings. We've done some match-making and looked at opponents who could potentially make for an exciting bout and earn Henderson a rankings bump.

Mixed martial arts is arguably the only sport where a victory could potentially harm your career prospects more than a defeat.

As a veteran and former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson will likely be acutely aware of this fact.

But the point may also have been driven home again on Saturday after his cagey, split decision victory over Jorge Masvidal at Fight Night 79 in Seoul.

Henderson was initially set to face dangerous striker Thiago Alves, but the Brazilian was replaced by fellow American Top Team member Masvidal after suffering an injury during the final phases of his training camp.

In Alves, a former welterweight title challenger, situated firmly in the top 15 of the UFC's rankings, Henderson had an opportunity to make a case for more match-ups against the divisions best.

By contrast, Masvidal has had a journeyman's career in the lightweight division and moved up to welterweight to avoid the torturous weight-cut.

Had Henderson finished his fellow former 155-pounder, or even dominated, he could have put himself in line for a crack at one of the division's best.

Instead he took the safe approach; electing to counterstrike, wrestle and fight from the clinch to earn a points win.

While the late change of opponent should be taken into account, the performance will not have done Henderson too many favours and only a victory over another of the top 15 could earn him the right to mix it with the division’s best (if that is indeed his aim).

With this in mind, we've engaged in some match-making and had a look a who Henderson could face next to earn some appreciation from the UFC's rankings panel.

Matt Brown 

“Styles make fights” is usually the idiom used to sum up good match-making in combat sports, and Matt Brown's aggressive muay thai striking could be perfect foil to Henderson's more measured approach.

Brown has suffered two defeats in his last three fights, but they have come against previous champion Johnny Hendricks and current champion Robbie Lawler respectively.

“The Immortal” was set to face Kelvin Gastelum at Fight Night 78, but was also ruled out through injury and a match against Henderson could be the perfect way to welcome him back to the Octagon once he regains full fitness.

Kelvin Gastelum

As mentioned above, Gastelum was also subjected to a late change in opponents before his last bout. However, unlike Henderson he was unable to adjust and went on to lose to Neil Magny by split decision.

The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner will likely be eager to get back in the cage and jump-start his title run after the loss.

Gastelum's boxing ability and solid take-down defence would hopefully lead to an entertaining, sprawl-and-brawl battle between the fighters.

Gunnar Nelson

Iceland's Nelson has been quietly going about his business since signing for the UFC, and will fight sixth ranked welterweight Demian Maia at UFC 194 in what is the biggest test of his career so far.

Nelson's stoic personality means he hasn’t risen through the ranks as quickly as Conor McGregor, his team-mate at Dublin's Straight Blast Gym.

However, his first round rear-naked choke submission of Brandon Thatch, who Henderson submitted in the same way five months earlier, has finally seen him garner some attention.

While a fight against Henderson may be more chess match than street brawl, the bout would pit two excellent grapplers against each other in an intriguing technical contest.

Stephen Thompson

Thompson recorded the biggest win of his career in July, knocking out fellow top 15 welterweight Jake Ellenberger in the first round of their bout.

Once thought of as a potential future champion; “Wonderboy” has racked up six wins in his seven UFC bouts, with the only loss coming in his second fight under the UFC banner against Brown.

Thompson would hold a significant height and reach advantage over Henderson, but the former champion showed against the 6ft 2in Thatch that he has the skills required to work his way inside and do damage or complete a takedown.

Demian Maia

As a decorated Brazilian jiujitsu blackbelt, Maia is another who could offer a serious submission threat against Henderson.

The Brazilian currently riding a three-fight win streak, and has won six of his last eight. Though probably not a big enough name to headline a card, Maia could provide an interesting challenge for Henderson.

Liam Moses

 

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