Born 1983, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and fighting out of Glendale, Arizona, Benson Henderson is an iconic American mixed martial artist who not only has an astounding martial arts career, but maintains strict standards as a 36-year-old fighting professional.
As a former World Extreme Cage fighting (WEC) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight title holder (now fighting under Bellator MMA), Henderson, a practicing Christian, has a subtle but strong stance against smoking, weed and the consumption of drugs and alcohol. This has reflected well as his hard work and drive are evident in his numerous bouts, where he has displayed unwavering discipline and commitment.
Nicknamed “Smooth” and “Bendo”, Henderson was given the name “Smooth” in reference to his technical and striking versatility. This is a nod to his fluid incorporation of combinations and grappling transitions as they’ve been key in racking up points, or edging a victory over a veteran-worthy 37 matches.
Even though Henderson was born in Colorado, he was raised in Federal Way, Washington, by his African-American Father and Korean mother. “Smooth’s” first taste for martial arts came about when he was 9-years old and his mother encouraged him and his brother to participate in the traditional Korean martial art of Taekwondo.
“Smooth” graduated in 2006 with a double major in criminal justice and sociology showing that his exceptional athleticism is not his only strength. In the same year, he would turn professional, commencing a legendary MMA career for the southpaw.
“Bendo” would face and win over a list of dangerous fighters and former champions including Frankie Edgar, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Nate Diaz, Patricio Freire, and Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. This comes thanks to his long- standing professional MMA career where he competed for WEC, the UFC and is now currently signed with Bellator MMA, fighting in the lightweight division.
In the mixed martial arts community, “Smooth” is as well known for his striking and grappling prowess as his hybrid style of Taekwondo, BJJ, Boxing, and submission-wrestling, garnering a stellar record of 5 KO/TKO wins and 9 submissions in his career.
After a few biographical details, let’s get into this intense countdown of his best and smoothest submissions in: Benson Henderson’s Top 5 MMA Finishes (in descending order)!
Henderson’s martial arts successes are vast. “Bendo” has a list stacked with grappling achievements where he competed both in the International Jiu-Jitsu Federation and Arizona State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (AZSBJJF). He became a 2011 World Jiu-jitsu Championship Brown Belt Bronze Medalist and competed once again in 2014, becoming a World Jiu-jitsu No-gi Championship Black Belt Bronze Medalist.
Further to this, he was the 2010 AZSBJJF MVP of the year, two-time Arizona State Championship Brown Belt Middleweight Gold Medalist, two-time Arizona State Championship Purple Belt Middleweight Gold Medalist, and three-time Arizona State Championship Open Weight Gold Medalist.
His slick, effective movements in securing submissions is unmatched with many opponents experiencing his neck-breaking ‘guillotine’ submission. Those submission wins however, would not have happened without Henderson training with his long-time team, ‘MMA Lab’.
For over 15 years, “Smooth” has competed and prepared for fights under MMA Lab where familiar, elite fighters have trained. Fighters such as UFC featherweight Alex Caceres, former UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Jamie Varner, and retired, former Welterweight UFC contender Rick Story, as well as rising young star Sean “Suga” O’Malley. All superb strikers in their own right, even if they don’t quite match the spectacular submission specialist.
I think it’s safe to say, you certainly don’t want to get into a grappling match with ‘Bendo’ under any circumstances! OK, onto the list…
- Vs. Roger Huerta — Bellator 196 (April 6, 2018)
- Vs. Rustam Khabilov — UFC Fight Night 42 (June 7, 2014)
- Vs. Brandon Thatch — UFC Fight Night 60 (Feb. 14, 2015)
- Vs. Donald Cerrone 2 — WEC 48 (April 24, 2010)
- Vs. Jamie Varner — WEC 46 (Jan. 10, 2010)
As the main card for Bellator 196, Henderson would face returning Bellator veteran, Roger Huerta, after his split decision loss against Patricky Freire at Bellator 183. At this point, Bendo had been out for 7 months and this match would determine if he could bounce back.
From the opening round, Henderson was the aggressor and put pressure on Huerta, throwing dynamic shots; including high kicks, low kicks, punches to the leg, hooks to the body and more. “Smooth” was fighting his usual style and his opponent was left almost unresponsive to the majority of his offensive combinations. The first round ended with Huerta already with a bloodied nose.
The next round begins in similar fashion, Henderson goes on the offensive where his signature performance would beat and stun Huerta with a thunderous head kick. Timing Huerta’s leg kick, “Smooth” precisely throws a head kick landing right on his opponent’s head. He follows with a straight left and a hook, the hook misses but Huerta is clearly dazed. Huerta goes in for the takedown and pushes Henderson up against the cage. “Smooth” takes advantage here and goes for a guillotine choke attempt. He secures it and Huerta, unable to escape taps out.
Coming off of a split decision win over Josh Thompson, Henderson was matched with an explosive and powerful Russian mixed martial artist in Rustam Khabilov. A rising contender, Henderson knew he had a tough opponent on his hands but throughout the bout, stayed calm and collected to win in classic “Smooth” fashion.
Rounds 1 to 3 seemed similar as both fighters engaged in all facets of mixed martial arts. Exceptional grappling, pinpoint striking, and fluid movements were demonstrated by both competitors. Henderson maintained distance and moved laterally whenever Rustam would go on the offensive. Henderson would go in for a guillotine and rear-naked choke attempt but failed to secure it, until round 4.
Round 4 started off with Rustam putting on the pressure this time. Both fighters would exchange strikes inside and outside of the pocket, however, both did not suffer significant damage. As the round progressed, Rustam was on the back foot being walked down by Henderson. “Bendo” feints with his left hand and goes in for a right- handed corkscrew uppercut whipping the Russian’s head back. He follows up with a straight left landing right on the chin and seamlessly takes Rustam’s back for the rear-naked choke.
Rustam taps out as the choke is too deep. The Japanese-Brazilian Referee Mario Yamasaki declares Henderson the winner who received a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
After his loss to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Henderson rode a losing streak and needed to secure a victory in his welterweight debut versus Brandon Thatch. The fight was highly praised as both combatants put on a stunning and entertaining performance.
The first round begins with Henderson throwing a leg kick at Thatch. He absorbs the hit and starts to stalk Henderson down, changing his stance and utilizing constant footwork patterns to catch “Smooth” off guard. Henderson throws single shots which do not hit the target. Thatch constantly moves his head, feinting, and stance switching through the round.
They engage in the pocket and trade shots, Henderson catches him but Thatch perseveres and keeps moving forward. The round ends with Thatch throwing a rear hook and catching Henderson, but “Bendo” takes the hit and sees the round through.
Round 2 and 3 would see Henderson overwhelmed by Thatch’s relentless output, however, Henderson is able to evade by maintaining range and distance. Round 2 ends with Henderson being taken down by an inside trip, flooring him and putting him down on the score cards. In round 3, “Smooth” exchanges strikes with Thatch for 2 minutes into the round. Three minutes in, Henderson ducks under a jab and goes in for a double leg takedown which he gets and transitions onto Thatch’s back.
He goes in for an arm bar attempt late but Thatch pushes Henderson’s leg off, getting back to his feet as the round ends. The last round saw Thatch coming out the same way he had begun, stalking Henderson down but you could see he had noticeable swelling from Henderson’s ground punches in the prior round. Henderson trades with Thatch with counter hooks, going on the offensive with uppercuts.
With 2 minutes and 34 seconds left, Henderson shoots successively for the takedown. He wrestles with Thatch on the round and secures his back, going for rear naked chokes proving of no avail until Thatch tries to sit up. Henderson sees the opening and wraps his arms around Thatch’s neck for the submission. He taps as Herb Dean intervenes.
Along with winning, Henderson was awarded another £50,000 Fight of the Night Bonus, well-deserved for such an incredible performance.
After winning the lightweight title in his last bout, Henderson faced Donald Cerrone for a second time in his first title defense. This match would see him win decisively.
From the very beginning, Cerrone is overwhelmed and dominated by Henderson’s ground punches and relentless stand up strikes. He soon secures a guillotine whilst Cerrone is on the ground. His opponent taps within seconds, making “Smooth” the undisputed champion and also winning an extra $50,000 Submission of the Night bonus.
After defeating Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision for the interim lightweight belt, Henderson faced Jamie Varner to unify the titles determine the true Lightweight Champion.
For over three rounds, Henderson beat Varner from pillar to post. Although Varner managed to trade a few shots back, Henderson was too dynamic and once he got a hold of Varner, the match was done.
Varner goes in for a takedown where “Bendo” is pushed up against the cage – however, he immediately goes in for his signature move and executes the guillotine. Varner is completely tied, trapped and cannot get out. While standing, Varner taps out to the submission making Henderson the unified Lightweight UFC Champion.