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Ben Henderson cleans out division, would rather not do it again

Henderson doesn’t want more rematches, but that may be only option until lightweight divisions merge

SACRAMENTO — Ben Henderson came to ARCO Arena Saturday prepared for a marathon.

But he wasn’t the least bit disappointed when it turned into a sprint.

The WEC lightweight champion defended his belt for the first time in Saturday’s co-main event, submitting Donald Cerrone via guillotine choke at the 1:57 mark of the very first round.

It was a big difference from the last time these two met in October, which turned into a 25-minute brawl that left both guys beat up.

“To be completely honest and frank, I was a little surprised,” said Henderson, on the length of the fight. “I definitely went in there expecting a five-round, knockdown, drag out war.

“But I went in there and stayed with the game plan and thankfully it went my way.”

Henderson (12-1) admitted he went into Saturday’s fight with a chip on his shoulder, put there by all the people who said he didn’t deserve the decision the last time he and Cerrone (11-3) fought.

Although Henderson wasn’t expecting the fight to end so quickly, he was determined to not let it go the distance this time.

“There were quite a few criticisms the way the decision went last time,” Henderson said. “Whether I got lucky or how the submission defenses were scored and what not. So, this time I wanted to run through a brick wall and finish the fight.”

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.”

Roller took the opportunity at Saturday’s post-fight press conference to say his desire isn’t necessarily to fight Henderson again, but more so to claim the WEC title.

He also made sure to point out that he had knocked down Henderson in their fight before falling into trouble of his own.

“I want the belt he’s got, that’s what I’m after,” Roller said. “He did finish me in a minute-thirty, but I think he doesn’t want to fight me because I hurt him. I think it’s a great thing and I want a rematch.”

Henderson may not want to fight everybody a second time but until UFC president Dana White makes a decision on when and how to combine the UFC and WEC lightweight divisions, he may be out of better options.

White said he is definitely interested to challenge Henderson against some of the top guys in the UFC and said he believes the WEC champ belongs in the list of top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

The expectation as of now is that the two lightweight divisions will combine once a 125-pound flyweight division is added to the WEC to replace it, although White has been unclear on what his specific plans are.

However it ends up taking place, it does appear fairly certain that Henderson will get the opportunity to fight UFC lightweights in the near future.

“You have to remember the sport is so young, we have a lot of plans and stuff we’re working on right now,” White said. “A lot of these things we’re working on I can’t tell you but it’s just like it used to be 170 pounds. The WEC used to have 170 pounds and then we moved it to the UFC.

“We’re doing what we think is right. You have to look at how long we’ve been dominant in this business. We know what we’re doing.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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