Ben Henderson Wary of Re-matches, So Who’s Next?

Brett Okamoto of the Las Vegas Sun lays bare the conundrum that the WEC faces in light of Ben Henderson’s first round submission win over Donald Cerrone:

The exclamation point on Cerrone means that Henderson has now finished every lightweight fighter the WEC could legitimately give a title shot to. He submitted Jamie Varner for the undisputed belt earlier this year and has ended fights against Anthony Njokuani and Shane Roller early.

Henderson has expressed a desire not to go through that lineup again, pointing to the logic he’d rather face new opponents than grant rematches with fighters he’s already stopped early.

That includes Roller, who submitted Njokuani during Saturday’s undercard and has the best case for the next title shot given he’s 5-1 in the WEC since 2008. Henderson and Roller fought in April of last year, with Henderson winning via TKO at 1:41 of the first round.

“I did catch Shane’s performance (Saturday) and he had a smart game plan,” Henderson said. “But I’m not looking to rematch people I’ve fought before. If I fight somebody and knock him out in a minute-thirty, do I want to fight him again? No not so much.”

In the article, Dana White gives lip service to matching up Henderson against opponents in the UFC 155 division, but such a match-up remains theoretical until it becomes reality. With the move to PPV for WEC, such a match-up might prove appealing to someone in the mid-level of the UFC’s 155 division. In past instances, UFC 155er’s have eschewed moving over to the WEC 155 division or cutting weight to make the 145 WEC division because of the economics, with WEC meaning lesser paydays, fewer sponsor opportunities/dollars, and lower visibility. One such instance was Tyson Griffin forgoing a re-match with WEC posterboy Urijah Faber. With fighter bonuses (FOTN, Sub, KO of Night) reaching parity and higher show and win money possible through PPV proceeds, maybe a Henderson vs UFC 155’er might become truly feasible. Some attractive options at 155 for Henderson would be a fan favorite like Clay Guida, a fringe Top 10 guy like Tyson Griffin or Jim Miller, or possibly a veteran in need of a change of scenery like Sean Sherk.

Looking at the list fighters that Henderson has already faced in the WEC, the only match-up that might truly move the needle is a re-match with Jaimie Varner, and even that would be of questionable value. Henderson vs Varner 1 as a headliner drew one of the poorer ratings that the WEC has received since it has been on Versus. Outside of Varner going into full Chael Sonnen-mode and doing an uber sell with his mouth, Henderson vs Varner 2 would be a match that would probably still be made but not as highly anticipated.

A re-match with Roller seems redundant, with little left in question from their first fight. Such a fight would also be a hard sale as a main or co-main event on another PPV card. Henderson vs Cerrone 2 had the attendant hype of following on the heels of their first bout, which was tabbed as Fight of the Year in many corners of the internet. That hype gave the bout a hook and storyline that provided a strong semi-main for Aldo vs Faber.

Barring a rematch against those mentioned above, the available fights for Henderson seem at the same time both limited and lackluster. Ricardo Llamas is on a two fight win streak going on but he hasn’t generated the necessary buzz to give a title shot against Bendo the requisite sizzle it needs. The only other option that looks possible on the horizon is a face off with Kamal Shalorus, who would need to get an impressive win over former champ Jaimie Varner in order to put himself in the title shot picture. With the other options mentioned above, either of the fighters mentioned would probably be held as an option of last resort.


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