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UFC on Fox 7 blog: Henderson gets questionable nod, proposes in the octagon

UFC on Fox 7 ties record with eight knockout victories

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Associated Press

Gilbert Melendez, top, punches Benson Henderson during the first round of a UFC lightweight championship mixed martial arts fight in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, April 20, 2013. Henderson won by split decision to retain the championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Updated Saturday, April 20, 2013 | 7:42 p.m.

UFC on Fox 7

Benson Henderson, right, kicks Gilbert Melendez during the second round of a UFC lightweight championship mixed martial arts fight in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, April 20, 2013. Henderson won by split decision to retain the championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Launch slideshow »

Note: Full results from the preliminary card are available at the bottom of the page.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Put UFC on Fox 7 in the record books — literally.

Saturday night's card at the HP Pavilion made history in several ways, not the least of which came in the final moments of the broadcast. After retaining his lightweight championship belt for a record-tying third straight time, Benson Henderson dropped to a knee and proposed to longtime girlfriend Maria Magana.

She started shaking as she said "yes" in front of millions of network television viewers.

"There's bigger things than fighting," Henderson said while still in the octagon. "I had to take care of one of those things now and make sure she stays in my life."

It wasn't the most romantic moment. In addition to Henderson being covered in sweat after a 25-minute war with Gilbert Melendez, the majority of the crowd was booing.

They thought Melendez deserved the victory, but the judges disagreed and sided with Henderson in a split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48). Las Vegas Sun scored the fight 48-47 for Melendez.

It marked the second straight time Henderson defended his belt despite the majority of media outlets, including the Sun, going the other way.

Judges weren't needed for most of the night. UFC on Fox 7 tied a record with eight fights ending in knockout. That included both of the main-card openers as Matt Brown stunned Jordan Mein with a second-round stoppage and underdog Josh Thomson followed with a head-kick knockout of Nate Diaz right after.

Heavyweights Daniel Cormier and Frank Mir broke the streak. Mir ate plenty of shots, but was never in danger of getting stopped. Cormier won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in his UFC debut.

Find round-by-round coverage of the main card below and scroll to the bottom for complete results from the preliminary card. Also, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for extended coverage later tonight.

"There's bigger things than fighting. I had to take care of one of those things now and make sure she stays in my life."

Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez

Fifth Round Melendez establishes his jab early. Henderson whips a kick across the body. Henderson tries a jump kick, but Melendez is still fresh. He steps out of danger. Henderson throws a combination that has Melendez backing up for cover. Melendez comes forward and lands a couple right hands but Henderson grazes him with a knee. Melendez trying to track Henderson down now, but the champion is circling around the fence. Henderson misses on a front kick and then goes to the leg but Melendez pushes him back. Melendez fires a left hook that goes. Henderson backs into the fence and eats another punch as he breaks out. Henderson hits Melendez with an elbow. Melendez lands a couple consecutive jabs. Henderson throws a leg kick with 1:35 to go, but Melendez catches it and pounds Henderson with a right hand to the chin. Melendez throws a flying knee on the other side of the cage and Henderson pushes him away to circle. Melendez catches Henderson with a combination near the middle of the cage with a minute to go. Melendez stays aggressive with a few more jabs. He's throwing everything with anything he has left. The crowd rises to their feet as Henderson tries for a late rally. A spinning back kick is way off. Melendez has just won the title according to the Las Vegas Sun — giving him the last round for a 48-47 victory. But the judges disagree. Benson Henderson beats Gilbert Melendez by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48). He then proposes to his girlfriend in the octagon. She says yes.

Fourth Round Henderson gets a couple early kicks to the body and leg to go. Both look like they have settled in after 16 minutes in the cage together. Melendez jabs his way forward and catches Melendez with a right-hand around the one-minute mark. Melendez catches another kick but doesn't look to take down Henderson. Maybe he should have as Henderson goes to the body successfully. They clinch up momentarily and Henderson lands a knee. He can't get Melendez down, though, as the Strikeforce veteran sprawls. And provides the ensuing brawl with a right hand. Melendez looks to come forward but Melendez's left hook makes him re-consider. They bounce around before Henderson weaves in for a jab. Henderson kicks Melendez to the leg with about 1:45 to go. And then does it again. He's backing away from Melendez and not getting hit much anymore. Henderson chips Melendez down with a leg kick and tries to take his back. But Melendez powers his way up. Melendez counters a Henderson jab with an uppercut. He fires to the body, but Henderson scores with a kick. They exchange against the cage and it looks like Melendez gets the better both in terms of power and volume. Melendez presses Henderson against the fence with 15 seconds to go. He took control late, but it wasn't enough. Henderson wins 10-9 to even the score 38-38 going into the final round.

Third Round Henderson lands first with a combination, but Melendez counters with a right hand. Henderson has more of a sense of urgency in this round as he looks aggressive with his jab. But Melendez starts swinging his right hands hard. Henderson backs away from the first one, but takes another shot to the body. Henderson slices Melendez down with a heavy leg kick. He goes right back to the same spot upon Melendez getting back up. Henderson might have found his range. Hold that thought, as Melendez counters with a pummeling left hand. It was the hardest strike of the round, but Henderson is out-landing him in total. Henderson shoots for a double-leg takedown, but Melendez lets the fence catch him. After some more work, Henderson gets the Strikeforce champion down. Melendez pops right back up. They exchange wildly from the clinch. Henderson lands another loud leg kick. Those could add up to hurt Melendez. Or at least tenderize his legs. Melendez lands a right jab but Melendez counters. Melendez sprawls a Henderson takedown attempt. Henderson kicks to the body, and it looks like Melendez could have caught another one if he wanted. Melendez backs away from a Henderson right hand and counters with a punch of his own Henderson locks up with him against the cage. They break out and go towards the middle. Melendez keeps constant pressure with his punches to make Henderson think before shooting for a takedown. Henderson sends sweat shooting off of Melendez's head with a right hand. Melendez falls from a Henderson leg kick late. Henderson wins the third, 10-9, but still trails 29-28.

Second Round Henderson jabs to get things started, but Melendez establishes his range shortly after. Melendez catches Henderson with a right hand and then another. Henderson stumbles back before advancing forward with a leg kick. Melendez works his jabs and pushes Henderson back with repeated combinations. Henderson just can't find his rhythm. Melendez does take a little punishment for coming forward once as Henderson scores with a knee. He's got that move down, as Melendez eats another. Melendez circles to the other side of the cage and they lock up after a brief exchange. Henderson goes with a left hand to the body. Melendez throws up top with a straight left. Henderson scores with a combination including a jab and a hook. Henderson goes for a head kick, but Melendez checks. Henderson crashes into the fence after an overhand right from Melendez. Henderson shoots for a takedown back in the middle of the cage, but Melendez stays away. Henderson grazes Melendez's chin with an uppercut. He backs out of the way as Melendez comes forward again. Big exchange with 45 seconds left in the round appears to go Melendez's way until Henderson gets a knee to go. They continue swinging in the middle of the cage. Henderson hits with a jab, but Melendez has more power behind a right hand. Henderson knocks Melendez back into the fence before they reconvene in the middle. It was a much closer round, but Melendez probably won another one. It's 10-9 for the challenger on the Sun's scorecard to put him ahead 20-18.

First Round It's a slow 30 seconds to start with both fighters feeling each other out. Henderson fires a leg kick and Melendez counters with a jab. Melendez comes forward with a right hand. He's got Henderson backtracking early. But Henderson lands the biggest punch so far with a straight left. Melendez catches one of his kicks and lands a right hand. Henderson is on his back. Melendez tires to hold him down, but Henderson slides to the fence. Henderson flings punches while sitting against the cage. Melendez lets him up but lands a knee in the process. Melendez ducks under a right hook in the middle of the cage. He comes forward again, but the crafty Henderson gets away from a few punches. Melendez catches another kick and pushes Henderson into the cage. A knee from Melendez finds Henderson's chin. Henderson does the pressuring now with Melendez's back against the cage. Melendez breaks out and hits Henderson with a right. Henderson tries a high kick, but Melendez checks it. The same thing repeats, so Henderson goes low and gets a leg kick to score. Melendez pieces together a left hand and a leg kick. Melendez gets a right hand to go. He's been a little quicker so far. He catches another kick to put Henderson down. Henderson gets right back up and looks for leg kicks again. Melendez catches Henderson with a right at the end of the first round. Melendez wins 10-9.

Frank Mir vs. Daniel Cormier

Third Round Referee Herb Dean towels off both fighters before the start of the round after their corners poured water on them. Mir looks to kick twice in a row, but Cormier catches the second and tosses him on the ground. Mir gets up and Cormier pressures him against the fence. His dirty-boxing strikes land heavy, with one forcing spit to fly out of Mir's mouth. Mir gets loose and hits Cormier hard with a leg kick across the stomach. Cormier backs up, but Mir keeps coming. The crowd gasps but Cormier is fine. He gets back in the clinch. Cormier rocks Mir in the clinch after they break out momentarily. Cormier is hand-fighting, trying to get an opening. But it's taking too long and Dean pulls the two apart. Mir hits Cormier with yet another kick to the body. He gets some punches to go, too but Cormier responds by getting into the clinch. He dumps Mir on his back with a single-leg takedown, but doesn't follow him there. Cormier lets Mir up and bashes him with a couple punches. Crowd boos as they press against the fence some more. Cormier answers Dean's request for more work with a right hand to the body and a left to the head. Dean puts them back in the center anyway. With 20 seconds to go, Mir presses forward. Cormier counters a second attempt and kicks him to the body later. Mir comes forward and lands a right before the end of the fight, but Cormier won easily — 30-27 on the Sun's scorecard. Daniel Cormier beats Frank Mir by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Second Round Cormier moves out of the way from one Mir kick, but takes the second to the thigh. Cormier tries a Karate-type kick that's nowhere close, but the crowd loves it. Cormier jabs and presses Mir against the cage. He's throwing short jabs to Mir's body, and kneeing him to the thigh. Mir isn't getting beat up by any means a minute-and-a-half into the round, but Cormier's strength is keeping him in a position where he can't do much. Boos start and Cormier backs up. Cormier locks up with Mir against the cage again. The crowd is getting restless, but Cormier is winning the fight. Mir goes with a kick to the knee, but Cormier counters a right hand. They wrestle in the middle of the cage. Cormier doesn't take Mir down but puts his back against the wall once again. Cormier steps back and pelts Mir with a combination. He blasts the former UFC champion with three straight uppercuts, but Mir answers with a left hand that gets Cormier to move back. Mir lands his left again, but Cormier turns him around and hits him with a few unanswered punches in a row. They lock up until the referee separates them with 17 seconds to go in the round. Cormier goes up 20-18.

First Round Mir pushes Cormier back with a front kick to the stomach. Mir tries a couple more high kicks and Cormier continues to retreat. It's all kicks from Mir early. Mir lands a jab and knees Cormier as he comes in. But Cormier locks up against the cage and the crowd starts chanting "D.C.". Cormier throws an uppercut from the clinch and bounces out for a right hook. Cormier hits Mir with a straight right as he backs out and then a head kick of his own. But Mir checks the kick with his arm. Cormier unleashes a combination and presses Mir into the fence. Cormier knees Mir to the body and keeps the pressure up. Mir is covering his head, but takes some shots to the body. Mir is holding his stomach now as Cormier keeps hitting in the same spots. The good start from Mir has withered away as the fight hits the three-minute mark. Cormier elbows Mir against the fence and backs up. Mir comes forward with a jab. He catches Cormier with an overhand left, but ends up clinched back up against the cage. Mir is more active this time, though, with his hands free. Cormier backs out and lets his hands go. He slips on a head kick attempt and Mir looks for a choke. It's not there and they are back up with Mir still trying a wide arsenal of kicks. Cormier wins the first round 10-9.

Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson

Second Round Diaz comes forward again and wings a bunch of soft punches. Diaz accidentally knees Thomson in the groin and the fight is stopped. Diaz stays aggressive on the re-start in stalking Thomson. Taunting him, too. Diaz starts trying to kick, but Thomson gets out of the way. Diaz stuffs a Thomson takedown attempt and they go against the cage. Thomson hits Diaz with some dirty-boxing uppercuts. Diaz lands a few punches, too. Thomson breaks out with an elbow and an exchange ensues. It was to the advantage of no one. Diaz powers forward and takes Thomson down. Thomson gets up but Diaz pummels him with shots to the side of the head. Back in the middle now, Diaz's striking is opening up. The "Diaz" chants re-ignite as the crowd favorite has blood dripping down his face from a cut below his right eye. Thomson clinches up again with two minutes to go. Diaz reverses him and tosses elbows. Thomson knees Diaz to the body repeatedly. Thomson lands another head kick and Diaz is hurt bad. He stumbles back and falls. Thomson follows and unleashes punishment. Diaz's corner throws a towel in the octagon. The referee doesn't notice right away, but finally pulls Thomson off. Josh Thomson knocks out Nate Diaz in the second round.

First Round Diaz scowls and comes forward. Thomson swings a couple leg kicks, missing with the first and connecting the second. "The Punk" keeps it up with a few more. Diaz lands a left hand to get on the board. Thomson weaves out of the way of another combination. Diaz appears to say something while eating a soft head kick from Thomson. They lock up and Thomson pushes Diaz away. "Diaz" chants infiltrate the arena. Diaz starts to work his jab and Thomson goes to the body in response. Thomson lands a big head kick to Diaz and the crowd gasps. Diaz keeps coming forward. He yells at Thomson and appears to call him a curse word that starts with a "b". He laughs at Thomson when a punch misses. Diaz catches a Thomson kick and dumps him down. Thomson gets right back up. Diaz flings a few jabs that hit. Thomson scores with a leg kick, but Diaz staggers him in response with a left. They clinch and Diaz works a couple knees. Thomson reverses position against the fence before breaking out. Diaz rushes back in and Thomson hits him hard with a straight right. It looked like it went illegally to the back of the head, but no warning from the referee. They have one wild exchange where both fighters land one or two but miss with most punches. Thomson counters a Diaz jab with a stiff left. They clinch up and Thomson tosses Diaz to the ground. Diaz elbows off of his back, but Thomson answers. He gets back up with Diaz's offense bothering him. Crowd cheers loudly the end of the round, one that Thomson won 10-9.

Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein

Second Round Crowd goes wild, but Mein keeps his head down until the referee motions the fighters forward. Brown scores with his jab. Now Brown uses a combination of elbows and knees to drop Mein. He looks for a choke briefly, but instead smothers the 23-year old. Mein has a bloody nose and the referee instructs him to fight back. He's just covering up now. Brown blasts him with elbows to the kidneys and the official has seen enough. Matt Brown defeats Jordan Mein by TKO exactly one minute into the second round.

First Round After feeling each other out for a few seconds, Brown lands a jab when Mein rushes in. Mein scores a right hand. He's the agressor, but Brown is countering his attacks. Brown slaps a right hook and Mein crashes against the fence. On the other side of the cage now, Brown pelts Mein with a head kick. He goes up top again a few seconds later and lands. Brown continues to close the distance, but Mein lands a nice combination. Brown rocks Mein and the Canadian's mouthpiece flies out and he stumbles back. Brown rushes in but Mein recovers quickly. After a pause for the mouthpiece, Mein circles and Brown follows. Mein throws a couple haymakers but Brown ducks out of the way. Brown lands a right with a rare combination of accuracy and power. Another combination from Brown sends Mein into the fence. Now in the clinch, Brown lets the knees fly. Mein looks OK, but he's taken a lot of damage. Brown catches a leg kick, but then eats a combination from Mein. There's more from Mein now in the center of the cage, and he drops Brown with an uppercut. Mein follows Brown to the ground, briefly looking for a choke before turning to ground-and-pound. Brown looks dazed, but regains his composure. He works for Mein's arm and may have an arm bar. He goes to a triangle choke. It's deep, but Mein escapes. Mein is still on top, but breathing hard. He stands up. Brown attacks and rocks Mein with knees. Mein is in trouble, but saved by the end of a round. In a memorable first round, Brown wins 10-9.

Pre-main card

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the UFC first purchased Strikeforce two years ago, the fighter UFC President Dana White was most excited to potentially see in the octagon was lightweight Gilbert Melendez.

By the time Strikeforce ended its run three months ago, the fighter White most wanted to cross over into the UFC was heavyweight Daniel Cormier.

He’ll get both debuts in one night a few hours from now at the HP Pavilion in the headlining bouts of UFC on Fox 7.

Melendez stars in a legitimate champion vs. champion showdown with UFC king Benson Henderson in the main event. Melendez is a nearly a 3-to-1 underdog, but his former Strikeforce partner is favored in the fight before.

Cormier comes in as a 4-to-1 favorite against Las Vegas local and former UFC champion Frank Mir.

The UFC vs. Strikeforce trend continues down to the other two main-card bouts. One of the most promising young fighters and one of the longest-tenured veterans from the now-defunct organization share the stage with Cormier and Melendez tonight.

Jordan Mein, at 23 years old, rides a three-fight win streak into his welterweight bout with Matt Brown. Josh Thomson, whose first run in the UFC ended nine years ago, represents Strikeforce against recent top contender Nate Diaz in a lightweight contest.

The four fights should provide another piece of evidence in the long-running debate on whether Strikeforce competitors can keep up with their UFC brethren.

Fans and media members have considered Melendez one of the top few lightweights in the world for years. Having him face the UFC champion was long drooled over as a “dream fight.”

Henderson, with his near-welterweight size, doesn’t look like the best matchup for Melendez, but he says he’s put on muscle and gone through an exhaustive camp to make up for the perceived disadvantage.

Cormier wasn’t mentioned among the elite as much as Melendez until recently. White said he wasn’t convinced the former Olympic wrestler was championship caliber until he routed Josh Barnett with a unanimous decision in this same building a year ago.

Now, Cormier is ranked No. 3 in the UFC rankings. Mir, coming off of a loss to then-champion Junior dos Santos, is down to No. 6.

Melendez is justly rated as the top challenger at 155 pounds behind the champion.

Stay locked at lasvegassun.com for a round-by-round blog and scoring of the main card and find full results from the preliminary card below.

Just like his teammates Joseph Benavidez and T.J. Dillashaw, Chad Mendes registered a nasty knockout Saturday afternoon. Mendes knocked out Darren Elkins at 1:08 of the first round in their bantamweight bout. The Team Alpha Male standout blasted Elkins, who had won five in a row, with a right hand to stagger him early and finished with another one later.

In a listless middleweight matchup, the judges sided with Francis Carmont over Lorenz Larkin. Carmont won a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Larkin in a bout where neither fighter contributed much offense. A couple of successful takedown attempts appeared to make the difference for Carmont.

A grappling match broke out early between lightweights Myles Jury and Ramsey Nijem, but by the end, the fight brought the fifth knockout in the first six bouts of UFC on Fox 7. Jury knocked out Nijem at 1:02 of the second round with one punch, a counter overhand right after ducking under an advance.

Darren Uyenoyama grasped his stomach and collapsed to the ground. He could take no more after Joseph Benavidez pelted him with a body kick and then a left hook to the same spot. Benavidez officially won by TKO over Uyenoyama at 4:50 of the second round in their flyweight contest.

Despite being covered in blood from a cut on the top of his head, Jorge Masvidal defeated Tim Means by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in a lightweight bout. Means opened the gash with an elbow in the second round and rallied in the final five minutes, but it wasn't enough to steal the nod.

Bantamweight prospect T.J. Dillashaw delivered a message to anyone still categorizing him as nothing more than another wrestler. Dillashaw knocked out Hugo Viana at 4:22 of the first round in a bantamweight bout, coming back from two early knockdowns to get the victory.

Roger Bowling took a round, so Anthony Njokuani took his head. Njokuani, a Las Vegas-based veteran, knocked out Bowling at 2:52 of the second round. The lightweight fired one punch, a counter left hook, perfectly on Bowling's chin to put him out cold.

Only a few fans had filtered into the HP Pavilion for the first fight of the night, but Yoel Romero made them pay for their absence. He did the same, but worse, to opponent Clifford Starks. Romero knocked out Starks with a flying knee at 1:32 of the first round in their middleweight bout.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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