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UFC’s ‘Controversial’ Finish Not All That Controversial


Benson “Smooth” Henderson stands at the center of the Octagon, arms raised as Bruce Buffer announces him the winner. Dropping to one knee, he (awkwardly) proposes to his girlfriend, Maria Magana, to a chorus of boos from the San Jose crowd. She inevitably says “yes.”

The scene itself isn’t exactly vintage UFC, but that what came before it is.

The 2012 fighter of the year emerged victorious from Saturday night’s UFC lightweight championship defense against Gilbert Melendez with his title in tow.

The two top-ranked fighters in the lightweight division put on a show for fans, battling for a grueling 25 minutes before handing the decision over to the judges. The final score: 47-48, 48-47, 48-47. Henderson took the split decision over the former Strikeforce champ. Cue outrage.

The crowd – partisan to San Francisco native, Melendez, it must be said – was vociferous in its objections. Both Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann, sitting in the Fox analysts seats beside Curt Menefee, lamented that they had the fight go the other way. Internet fans, sports radio junkies, and anyone with an opinion worldwide, threw their two cents into the mix.

Once again the UFC was faced with a questionable outcome to a high-profile bout, and this time on national television.

But was the decision that controversial?

In reality, while plenty were quick to voice their support of Melendez – who looked really sharp in his first ever UFC outing – the fact of the matter is that the decision was hardly an outrageous one.

During the 25 minutes the two combatants kicked, punched and elbowed each other, fans crammed into the HP Pavilion and those watching at home were treated to an enthralling bout, and one that you really couldn’t pick a winner at the end.

But Melendez was the winner. Wasn’t it obvious? Pipe down!

Melendez will be heartbroken but if he watches the fight back, he’ll see – like everybody else – that this bout could have gone either way. The two-time Strikeforce champ got the better of the opening  two rounds as Henderson looked somewhat out of sorts. Henderson then took the next two rounds, going on the offensive and connecting with some hard strikes. As for the fifth round, you can take a crowbar, vat of lubricant, and an industrial-sized pulley system and you still won’t separate the two.

The judges ultimately went in favor of Henderson, who landed considerably more significant strikes that Melendez, even if they weren’t of the lethal variety. Can you blame a judge for that? He also won the rounds closer to the end of the bout and, as we all know, the memory likes recent events more than those it has to root around for.

So, Henderson is champion. Melendez is second on the list of lightweights. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The UFC has already deflected suggestions of an immediate rematch – there are other events brewing under the surface (see below) – so we’re not likely to see these two go at it again anytime soon, mores the pity. Which leaves us with Saturday’s bout to remember.

Rather than remember it as a ‘travesty of justice’ or a ‘judge’s mistake’, this one deserves to be remember for what it really was; a fantastic fight between two of the best in the business. No controversy necessary.


MMA Bite Size

An update of the latest rumblings in the world of mixed martial arts.

  • After Saturday’s UFC on Fox 7 event, the returning Josh Thomson (20-5, 1 NC) jumped into the No. 8 spot on UFC’s ranking of the lightweight division. Thomson handed Nate Diaz (16-9) a nasty TKO defeat in San Jose, one that saw Diaz’s corner throw the towel in (although referee Mike Beltran stepped in a split second before). Diaz slips two places to No. 6 on the list.
  • UFC_159The Octagon will be busy again this weekend as UFC 159 arrives at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. UFC’s flag bearer Jon Jones (17-1) will make the fifth defense of his UFC light heavyweight crown in main event, taking on Chael Sonnen (27-12-1). Sonnen was running his mouth Saturday as he provided analysis for Fox, guaranteeing victory in the Garden State. Nearly a year on from his last fight, a loss to 185-pound champ Anderson Silva,  Bovada doesn’t fancy his chances though. Odds of the challenger leaving with the belt currently stand at 5/1 while Jones is favored at 1/8. After Saturday’s controversial finish, Dana White and the rest of the Zuffa crew will want a decisive victory. It’s hard to see that coming from anywhere but the Jones camp.
  • Cain Velasquez (11-1) is favored to successfully defend his UFC heavyweight title against Antonio Silva (18-4) when the two meet at UFC 160 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 25. Bovada currently has Velasquez at 2/13 and ‘Bigfoot’ at 17/4.
  • Anderson Silva (33-4) makes the 11th defense of his UFC middleweight championship at UFC 162 on Jul. 6. The six-year champion will be the favorite (5/13) as he takes on undefeated Chris Weidman (9-0) at the MGM Grand.
  • Finally, spare a thought for Johny Hendricks. Having added Carlos Conduit to his list of victims at UFC 158 – a sixth straight victory and one that moved him to 10-1 since joining the UFC – the No. 1 contender for the welterweight championship could have to wait even longer for a title shot. At a press conference last week, Dana White floated around the idea of a super fight between 170-pound champion, Georges St-Pierre and lightweight champion, Benson Henderson. Henderson has already expressed an interest in an ‘occasional’ bout in a heavier class, a move Anderson Silva often makes, which most likely leaves this one in the hands of St-Pierre. St-Pierre opting for the bout would see Hendricks slip further down the list of potential GSP opponents. That’s bad news for anybody that steps in the Octagon with Hendricks in the meantime.
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