SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Benson Henderson kept his UFC lightweight crown, outpointing Gilbert Melendez with a split decision Saturday night in a fight that lived up to its promise.
Both fighters raised their fists in triumph and pointed to the crowd as the final bell sounded.
When the decision was announced, the crowd roared its disapproval. The fight was that close.
Henderson has won all seven of his UFC bouts and is 19-2 overall, while Melendez, the top challenger, showed he deserves another chance at the title despite making his UFC debut. He’s 21-3 overall.
Henderson left the ring with his girlfriend, who was hanging onto his belt. As he passed the front row of seats, he wiped his forehead, smiled and put his fingers together to indicate how close it was. Then he shrugged and left the floor.
Melendez, who had his seven-fight winning streak snapped, fought as if he studied Henderson’s every move, looking for a counterattack at every opportunity. He seemingly wanted Henderson to make the first move every time.
Henderson appeared frustrated at times, but maintained his composure. He used his athleticism to get him out of several tight spots.
Melendez could match Henderson’s stamina, but not his quickness and agility.
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier beat former UFC champion Frank Mir by unanimous decision in his debut in the UFC. Cormier, who calls San Jose home, is 12-0 overall.
Cormier continually pushed Mir into the ropes and delivered blows. He never allowed MIr to counter punch.
San Jose native Josh Thomson earned a TKO in the second round of a lightweight challenge match, beating Nate Diaz, who lost in a title match, to Henderson, his last time out.
In a welterwight bout that opened the main card, Matt Brown recorded a TKO minute into the second round over Canadian Jordan Mein. Brown (10-5 UFC) won his fifth straight, recording four TKOs or KOs in that span.