Benson Henderson, a 2001 graduate of Decatur High School in Federal Way, retained his UFC lightweight crown, outpointing Gilbert Melendez with a split decision in San Jose, Calif.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Benson Henderson retained his UFC lightweight crown, outpointing Gilbert Melendez with a split decision Saturday night in a fight that lived up to its promise.
Henderson (19-2) is a 2001 graduate of Decatur High School in Federal Way. The 29-year-old has won all seven of his UFC bouts.
Both fighters raised their fists in triumph and pointed to the crowd as the final bell sounded at the UFC on Fox 7 event at HP Pavilion.
When the decision was announced, fans roared their disapproval.
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Each of the judges scored the fight 48-47, with Henderson ahead on two of the three cards.
Melendez (21-3), the top challenger, showed he deserves another chance at the title despite making his UFC debut. The 31-year-old wrestled at San Francisco State and has had nine MMA fights in San Jose.
Henderson left the ring with his girlfriend, who was hanging onto his championship belt.
As he passed the front row of seats, he wiped his forehead, smiled and put his fingers nearly together to indicate how close the decision was. Then he shrugged and left the floor.
Melendez, who had a seven-fight winning streak snapped, fought as if he studied Henderson’s every move, looking for a counterattack at any opportunity. He seemingly wanted Henderson to make the first move each time.
Henderson appeared frustrated at times, but maintained his composure.
He used his athleticism to get out of several tight spots.
Melendez could match Henderson’s stamina, but not the champion’s quickness and agility.
Meanwhile, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier beat former UFC champion Frank Mir by unanimous decision in his debut in UFC.
Cormier, who calls San Jose home, is 12-0 overall.
Cormier continually pushed Mir into the ropes and delivered blows. He didn’t allow Mir to counterpunch.