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Bendo confirms lightweight rule on enthralling night

ESPN staff
April 21, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Benson Henderson overcame a sluggish first round to defeat Gilbert Melendez in San Jose © Getty Images
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Benson Henderson is now the undisputed lightweight champion of the world after he overcame the biggest test of his UFC career to beat Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox, on a night that was littered with incredible action.

Anthony Pettis will likely feel he can still topple the champion - having beaten him in the past - but for now Henderson reigns supreme after taking out the longtime Strikeforce ruler Melendez via split 48-47 47-48 48-47 decision.

Prior to Saturday Henderson's UFC career had lived up to his "Smooth" moniker, but Melendez bloodied the champ, took two rounds and made the other three close, and would fully deserve a rematch if granted down the line.

The difference, ultimately, was in the volume of strikes landed. Melendez threw heavier and looked more likely to finish, but Henderson mixed it up and won on the stats.

Round one the champion never got going, fighting at Melendez's more sporadic pace, but he picked it up in the second - kicking the legs from underneath the challenger. Rounds three and four were the closest, with Melendez showing great hands and backing his man up, but Henderson continued to land leg kicks, jabs, straight rights and short elbows.

As they emerged for the fifth, Henderson looked to be ahead but the fight had been so close that both men truly needed to press it home in the final five minutes. Melendez did that but it ultimately wasn't enough, allowing Henderson the chance to propose to his girlfriend from the centre of the Octagon.

In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier made a successful UFC debut against former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, pressing the action against the Octagon and dirty boxing his way to a unanimous 30-27 decision. Cormier, who will never fight reigning champion Cain Velasquez, may now target the light-heavyweight division and Jon Jones.

More impressive on UFC return was Josh Thomson, who produced the Knockout of the Night when becoming the first man to TKO Nate Diaz. Lightweight Diaz had only ever been beaten by submission or decision, but a well disguised head kick sparked the end at 3.44 of Round 2.

The pair put on a pulsating war, with Thomson causing heavy swelling to the right leg of his rival with leg kicks, while bloodying him up when he went upstairs. Diaz pushed the pace at the start of the second, rocking his man backwards, but Thomson reverted back to the high kick to stun his opponent, finishing him off with ground and pound as the towel came in from the Diaz camp.

The night was laden with pulsating fights, the best of which came from Matt Brown and Jordan Mein in the Fight of the Night. Brown, who had originally been scheduled to meet Dan Hardy, showed all areas of his game as he stopped Mein at 1.00 of Round 2 via TKO.

Mein had come with much hype after his debut win over Dan Miller, but Brown did not let him breathe, launching assault after assault, landing frequently with his left hook and Muay Thai knees. However, Mein looked to have swung the action his way when he dropped Brown with a nasty body shot, pounding away on the mat only to wind up in a triangle choke as Brown recovered.

Mein could barely walk back to his stool at the sound of the klaxon, so Brown leapt on top of him again at the start of the second. Everything he threw - knees, elbows, punches - carried bad intentions, and he forced the stoppage with a series of elbows to the back/kidney area.

UFC on Fox results

Benson Henderson def. Gilbert Melendez via split decision (47-48 48-47 48-47)
Daniel Cormier def. Frank Mir via unanimous decision (30-27 30-27 30-27)
Josh Thomson def. Nate Diaz via TKO at 3.44 of Round 2
Matt Brown def. Jordan Mein via TKO at 1.00 of Round 2
Chad Mendes def. Darren Elkins via TKO at 1.08 of Round 1
Francis Carmont def. Lorenz Larkin via unanimous decision (29-28 29-28 29-28)
Myles Jury def. Ramsey Nijem via KO at 1.02 of Round 2
Joseph Benavidez def. Darren Uyenoyama via TKO at 4.50 of Round 2
Jorge Masvidal def. Tim Means via unanimous decision (29-28 29-28 29-28)
TJ Dillashaw def. Hugo Viana by TKO at 4.22 of Round 1
Anthony Njokuani def. Roger Bowling by KO at 2.52 of Round 2
Yoel Romero def. Clifford Starks by KO at 1.32 of Round 1

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