In the ultimate champion vs. champion battle, UFC lightweight title-holder Benson Henderson defeated the last reigning Strikeforce champion, Gilbert Melendez, in the main event of UFC on Fox 7. He won via split decision in San Jose, Calif., Saturday.
To make the night even better for Henderson, he proposed to his girlfriend following the victory. The Arizona Cardinals organization offered their congratulations, and they even offered to host the wedding:
Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals
.@BensonHenderson, congrats on the @ufc win & engagement! Since we're neighbors, @UOPStadium can host the wedding > http://t.co/y1pM9Rc78K2013-4-21 02:39:05
Though Henderson was the one who ultimately had his hand raised, this was an extremely close championship bout that is sure to lead to heated discussion.
Henderson's movement and devastating leg kicks earned him the decision, but Melendez continued to apply pressure to the champion. Considering how close this fight was, this probably won't be the last time we see them match up.
Henderson has once again proven that he is the best fighter in the lightweight division by taking his winning streak to seven fights and successfully defending his title for the third straight time.
This was the defending champion’s first fight of 2013. His bid to repeat as UFC’s Fighter of the Year started off with the kind of victory that will make that goal feasible.
As big as this win was for Henderson and the UFC, this is an even more devastating loss for Melendez. The defeat may have come in his UFC debut—a serious disadvantage in many cases—but the fact that the last reigning Strikeforce champion lost means the company is now officially dead.
Strikeforce closed its doors in January of this year, and Melendez was the last champion to hold an un-unified championship in the UFC. It was that champion vs. champion feature of this brawl that made it even more interesting.
Henderson’s successful title defense against Melendez made the UFC look like the stronger company one last time, and that will no doubt help cement Henderson as one of Dana White’s favorites.
This loss is not the end of the road for Melendez, though. While the star may have lost his UFC debut, the success he had in Strikeforce was no fluke. With the right training, he will begin his ascension back into the title picture.
As for what’s next for Henderson and the title, the thought was that former WEC champion Anthony Pettis would be the next No. 1 contender. But he has reportedly taken on a fight against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo (h/t USA Today).
If there is no fight announced before that title bout, the winner would likely take on Henderson next in a true champion vs. champion divisional superfight.
The lightweight division could get very interesting.