Chandler (16-3) swarmed and overwhelmed Henderson landing thunderous single kicks and a couple of huge right hands, punctuated with a violent suplex for a lopsided opening round. It appeared he was in for a short and dominant night, but Henderson’s (24-7) famous toughness and grit weathered Chandler’s initial storm and Henderson appeared to gain energy and confidence as the fight continued.
In round two Henderson shrugged off Chandler’s first round onslaught and came forward, immediately landing several hard knees before Chandler countered Henderson’s offense with his elite wrestling pedigree. Henderson actively threatened submissions from his back while Chandler fought to maintain top control.
Round three and four were no less competitive with the two warriors kickboxing in the center of the cage, Chandler wrestling in top-control, and nearly escaping several submissions from the veteran Henderson including a Kimura attempt and near fight-ending choke.
Behind on the cards, a desperate Henderson began the final round aggressively, landing a solid right hook to the midsection, eventually getting Chandler down, and taking his back. Chandler escaped and used his patented wrestling top control to burn minutes off the clock. Dramatically, Henderson nearly had Chandler in an inverted triangle, but Chandler miraculously escaped. What started as a near first-round wipeout, ended in a closely contested battle with the judges awarding a split decision win to Chandler (48-46 Chandler, 48-46 Henderson, 48-47 Chandler), and a rematch fight fans would love to see.
“Benson’s a heck of a competitor,” said Chandler. “You can’t be perfect in here, you’ve just got to find a way to win. That’s what I did.”
What’s next: Chandler called out ex UFC and Strikeforce lightweight Josh Thomson for his next title defense. If that fails to happen, a rematch with Henderson seems likely.
Lightweight champion Chandler is one of Monster Energy’s elite MMA athletes along with Conor “The Notorious” McGregor, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Chris “All-American” Weidman, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, and Rampage Jackson.