CHICAGO - Former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion Benson Henderson is developing quite a reputation for his controversial decision victories.
That’s just fine with him.
Henderson bounced back from losing his title in August to win a split decision over Josh Thomson in the main event of the UFC on Fox 10 card Saturday at United Center.
It was the third split decision victory for Henderson in his past five fights.
“Getting a ‘W’ inside the UFC? You’ve got to take that any way you can get it,” Henderson said. “I like ‘Ws.’ I like getting my hands raised by any means. Slip on a banana peel, skin of my teeth. I’ll take it.”
Henderson, whose two-year reign as champion ended with a first-round submission loss to Anthony Pettis, appeared to be in danger of losing a second straight fight.
Thomson wrapped up Henderson and got him to the ground on several occasions. He held Henderson on the ground for much of the first round and slammed him back there just before the bell.
It was Thomson’s best round, though he had periods of success throughout the fight. But there was good reason he was most effective in the first five minutes — he broke his thumb in the round.
“I had no idea until I got back to the corner after the first round,” Thomson said. “When they were adjusting my gloves, I noticed my thumb was bent back all the way to my arm. It was really bugging me. My corner was yelling, ‘Fight the hands, fight the hands.’ But I couldn’t grab anything. It was irritating to know you couldn’t do the things you want to do and that you trained so hard for. You see your title shot going away, and it’s a terrible feeling.”
Henderson took advantage with strong rounds in the third and fifth. Thomson’s strategy became clear in the final 20 minutes. Unable to throw many punches, he would try to dodge Henderson’s shots, then wrap up and try for takedowns.
“The whole strategy went out the door once the hand got hurt,” Thomson said. “I really couldn’t punch at all because the thumb would just pop out.”
Still, he thought the revamped game plan worked enough to get him the victory. Thomson was fairly certain he had won the first, second and fourth rounds.
The judges disagreed. Sal D’Amato gave Henderson the final four rounds, while Brian Puccillo gave Henderson rounds three through five. Gabriel Sabaitis dissented, giving Thomson rounds one, four and five.
The Review-Journal scored the fight 48-47 for Thomson, with rounds one, two and four going his way.
“My opinion doesn’t matter, as you can tell,” Thomson said. “The only people’s opinions that matter are the three people around the cage. I felt like I won, and I won with one hand. I beat the guy that was the UFC champ for two years. I’m the better fighter. That’s why this is so hard.”
Thomson, 35, said he will consider retiring after he returns home to San Jose, Calif.
Also on the card, lightweight Donald Cerrone knocked out Adriano Martins with a headkick knockout with 20 seconds left in the first round, and heavyweight Stipe Miocic outlasted Gabriel Gonzaga en route to a unanimous decision.
Martins had success early against Cerrone, but the veteran abruptly ended the bout with a headkick that knocked Martins cold and ended his six-fight win streak.
Miocic wore down Gonzaga and had his way in the third round when Gonzaga looked completely gassed.
In the main card opener, Jeremy Stephens brutalized Darren Elkins’ midsection on his way to a unanimous decision in a featherweight bout.
Alex Caceres stole the show on the undercard, winning bonuses for submission of the night and fight of the night in a third-round victory over Sergio Pettis.
Ex-World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champ Eddie Wineland knocked out Yves Jabouin in the second round, rising to 7-3 in his past 10 fights.
Lightweight Daron Cruickshank knocked out Mike Rio with a kick with four seconds remaining in the second round. Heavyweight Nikita Krylov needed 25 seconds to knock out Walt Harris.
George Sullivan, Hugo Viana and Chico Camus won decisions.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.