UFC Fight Night 60 from Colorado was an event that was on the verge of being scrapped. Benson Henderson stepped up for the UFC by taking on Brandon Thatch as a welterweight. The former lightweight champ would be fighting in Thatch’s backyard against an aggressive and larger man. The main event was a great battle that we’ll get to, but first let’s recap a couple of the other fights.
Neil Magny versus Kiichi Kunimoto. This fight saw the hometown Magny with a big reach advantage over his Japanese opponent. The first round featured a lot of grappling along the cage and Kunimoto also received a low blow. Magny had a nice flurry of punches land in this opening round. The cage scuffling ended up with Kunimoto taking more damage by the end of the round.
In the second round Kunimoto did a lot of clinching to slow things down. He managed to get a takedown in this second period, but failed at a mount attempt. Magny turned the tide later and had his foe in trouble with a couple of strikes, but he slipped for a second and lost the momentum. Kunimoto ate some nasty body shots in his attempt to lock in a kimura. Not sure that effort was worth the punishment. Kunimoto was lucky the ref let the fight proceed to the next round after he was on the receiving end of a beating with just a few seconds left in the second round.
The reach advantage of Magny showed its face in round three. Magny was too much for Kunimoto as he got a big takedown then took his man’s back and got the tap out with a rear naked choke. That win made it six in a row for Neil Magny. Kunimoto was gassed at the end and in no condition to defend the submission by the winner.
Cole Miller versus Max Holloway. This fight featured a true journeyman vet in Miller and a guy on the rise in Holloway. Miller could have been a stepping stone or a road block to the younger opponent. The first round was a normal feeling out process for a good two minutes. Miller landed a nice kick and Holloway hit the mat with the help of a slip. Hollaway scored points with a big body kick and then a pretty flurry at the end of the round. Miller got taken down as well, but turned that into a couple of submission attempts with his unorthodox style.
Round two saw more of the same as the first period. Miller held his own, but did absorb a nice body kick again. Cole Miller tried another submission on Holloway after a weird takedown move. Miller ate a backfist from the talented Holloway and then the two accidentally butted heads which cut Miller over the eye. He took a breather and then pressed the action afterward. Toward the end of the round the fighters butted heads again, and this time the cut was made deeper. Miller let the ref have it after this second butt, but it was totally inadvertent as best I could tell. Miller let it bother him the rest of the way though.
The third round saw Holloway take more control, but Miller never stopped coming. The cut was a big factor no doubt. Miller invited his opponent to the mat, but was declined wisely by Holloway. No need to grapple when he was tagging Miller and the cut was getting worse. The end of the round saw Holloway put on a nice athletic display with some insane spinning kicks. Miller ended the round with one last punch as Holloway lay on the mat from a slip. This was a decent fight with Holloway getting the unanimous decision at the end.
Main Event: Benson Henderson versus Brandon Thatch. This fight was worth the price of admission for those in Colorado. Henderson was the smaller man as he went up in weight to take the fight, but he was certainly not tiny in comparison to the powerful looking Thatch.
The first couple of rounds saw Henderson bouncing away as Thatch was the aggressor. Henderson countered in and out for the first two rounds. Thatch was throwing some heavy shots at the former UFC Lightweight Champion, which may have contributed to Thatch’s fatigue near the end of the contest. He landed some shots and Henderson was able to get in his blows as well as he picked his spots. I was impressed with Thatch’s power and his kicks were very effective.
The second round saw a nice combination by Henderson, but he was also stunned by a head shot from Thatch who kept up the pace. Later in the round Henderson was flung to the mat not once, but twice by the stronger opponent. Very impressive. I had Thatch winning both rounds one and two.
Round three was another exciting round in a great overall fight. Thatch hit Henderson with a stiff right that stunned him. Just when I thought Thatch was too big for Benson Henderson to take down, he finally managed one. Then Thatch made the mistake of letting the former lightweight champ take his back with ease. Henderson’s corner advice to “shoot like you mean it,” worked out very well with the takedown that was close to turning into a rear naked choke. The two struggled on the mat for a couple minutes as some nuts in the crowd booed the non action. There was in fact plenty of action, as Henderson was about to submit their hometown boy. To Thatch’s credit he survived the round, but he was gassed. A body lock and a two minute struggle against a high level guy like Henderson will do that to you.
As the fourth round began, Brandon Thatch was mouth breathing and looked at the end of his physical rope. Henderson looked fresh. The veteran had stopped running away and was now staying right in front of the tiring Brandon Thatch. Henderson landed a beautiful strike that preceeded an even nicer takedown. The smaller Henderson took side control easily, then took Thatch’s back once again. A powerful fighter becomes decidedly less so once his tank is about empty. Henderson patiently waited on the right time to lock in the choke and Thatch gave it to him as he took a relaxed breath for a second. Henderson applied the rear naked choke and it was game over for the hometown hero. This was a big win for Benson Henderson after losing a tough one against Cowboy Cerrone just a month ago. Not only did he bail out the UFC by showing up against a dangerous guy like Thatch, he put on a great fight along with his opponent.