Ben Henderson successfully defended his UFC Lightweight title tonight at ‘UFC On FOX 7’ against Gilbert Melendez, but he had to fight tooth and nail to do so in an extremely close fight from start to finish.
A feeling out process starts the first round with the two exchanging low leg kicks. Melendez goes for another leg kick, but Henderson lands a punch that knocks Melendez backwards.
Henderson tries a kick, but Melendez catches it and uses it to bundle him onto the mat. He gets on top, but Henderson scoots to the cage and gets back up with Melendez landing a knee on the way up.
Melendez catches another kick and looks to strike, but Henderson clinches and pushes Melendez up agains the cage.
It’s not long before they break apart though and reset in the middle of the Octagon with Henderson trying a couple of high kicks that miss before landing a solid one of to the leg.
Melendez misses with a couple of punches and lands a leg kick of his own. Little combination of punches and leg kicks from Melendez.
Henderson tries a kick and again it’s caught by Melendez who puts him down with it and then lands a solid knee as Henderson gets back up.
In the final few seconds of the round Melendez catches another kick and tumbles him to the mat just after the bell sounds.
Henderson feels out with the jab to start the second round, but Melendez is the one who really initiates first with a brief flurry of strikes.
Melendez almost catches another push kick from Henderson and afterwards there’s an even exchange of strikes.
Melendez pushing the pace and works nicely to the body and then the head. Henderson with a brief flurry of his own.
A quick charge forward with a couple of punches from Henderson before backing out of danger. Melendez swinging hard and puts his opponent in reverse gear.
Henderson tries to close the distance and try a takedown, but it doesn’t pay off.
In the middle of the Octagon they start to exchange hard punches back and forth with Henderson the instigator, but Melendez matching him strike for strike.
This, the most heated action of the fight so far, brings the round to a close.
Onto round three then and Henderson lands a couple of straight punches before backing out. Melendez trying to get his own punches going, but he’s overreaching a little as he tries to find his opponent.
Huge low kick from Henderson takes Melendez right off his feet, but he’s right back up again.
Another quick flurry from Henderson. Melendez lands a counter. Henderson ducks down for a takedown against the cage and he’s able to scoop his opponent’s legs out, but Melendez gets back up quickly.
They get into another exchange close-in, this time both landing body shots before getting distance between each other again.
Nice little exchange and then good takedown defense from Melendez to keep the fight standing. Melendez is sporting a lump on his shin and a lot of red marking around his calf where he’s been kicked, but if he’s in pain he’s not showing it.
Yet another frantic little exchange of strikes and neither man wants to give an inch in this battle.
In the final 10 seconds of the round Henderson lands another big low kick that knocks Melendez to the canvas and he immediately pounces on top and lands some solid elbows to the head, with a couple landing after the bell.
Round four underway and both men still look pretty fresh all things considered. Little exchange in close with a knee from Henderson the best strike and the referee warns them not to clash heads.
Big straight punch from Melendez finds a home, but Henderson’s fine. Henderson tries to land a knee to the midsection, but Melendez catches it. He doesn’t opt to take him down from it this time though.
Another leg kick from Henderson and one to the other leg to follow. Henderson looks for the takedown, but Melendez stuffs it.
Very close fight here. Henderson steps in with a nice elbow. He resets and then a couple of straight punches land. Melendez lands a couple of his own shortly afterwards. A couple of leg kicks from Henderson.
Another one of those huge leg kicks from Henderson puts Melendez on the canvas and he pounces on his back. Melendez escapes immediately though and back to the striking we go.
Melendez pressing forward, but he’s pawing in the air, not really landing anything. Henderson steps forward with a couple of punches then backs away again.
Good body shot from Melendez. He lands a couple more strikes before the round comes to a close.
We’re onto the final five minutes. Henderson lands a low kick. He attempts a high kick, but it misses. Inside leg kick does land though.
Melendez starts to push forward and lands a looping punch and tries to follow up with more, but Henderson backs away.
Nice left hand lands for Henderson. Front kick misses from the champion, but he gets the inside leg kick and steps in with an elbow.
Melendez trying to hunt him down and throwing when he can, but he’s not making strong contact.
Melendez catches a kick and pushes Henderson against the cage as he comes in with a punch. Soon after he lands a nice knee to the midsection. He’s trying his best to make an impression in this last round and in the final minute he’s the one who’s getting the better of the striking exchanges.
Neither man’s willing to go all out for the win in the final few seconds though and they stay apart and will leave it to the judges to decide this one.
Undoubtedly a close fight from start to finish and that’s highlighted by the judges split decision, but Henderson gets the win (29-28 x2, 28-29).
Another big, albeit close, win for Henderson and to cap off his night in style he then proceeded to propose to his girlfriend live on air. (Thankfully she said ‘yes!’).