(Video by Budo Videos)
Last week, UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson was just one month away from a nationally televised title defense against Gilbert Melendez, but he still managed to get in a couple Jiu Jitsu matches in one of the world’s most prestigious grappling tournaments. Henderson competed in the brown belt ability division of the BJJ Pan-Am Championships last week and, though he was eventually eliminated and did not place, he showed that he could hang with guys who spend all of their time training in BJJ’s weird set of gi rules, despite doing it just as a hobby.
In the above match, Henderson takes on Brazilian Pedro Alcantara in the middleweight division. The action comes in spurts but the match is very closely contested with Alcantara threatening with omo-plata shoulder locks and sweeps off of his back, and Henderson defending, working for take downs and passing guard.
The two start the match feinting with shot attempts before Alcantara pulls full guard. It doesn’t take him long to pull in Henderson’s right shoulder and work for triangle chokes, which the fighter shrugs off, and then shoulder locks. Initially, Alcantara is able to use the lock to sweep Henderson, earning points.
Henderson hangs tough and refuses to let Alcantara pass his guard. Eventually, Henderson is able to stand up and score a take down. On the ground, he proves better at passing than Alcantara was and pressures and angles until he secures the side mount and earns more points.
Recovering his guard, Alcantara threatens more with the shoulder lock, but this time Henderson will not be moved, and effectively stops both the submission and sweep attempts. The match ends and Henderson has won on points.
Some professional fighters, like Henderson, routinely compete in grappling competitions in between training camps for fun, to stay sharp, what have you. But it is a bit nuts for Henderson to compete in a high level international competition during his training camp, just weeks before defending his world title. That’s straight Jeff Monson territory right there.
Can’t imagine that the UFC would have taken kindly to their champion and Fox television headliner twisting an ankle and pulling out of his title fight so soon to the event. Maybe Henderson has a “love of the game” type clause in his contract. Back in the 80′s, Michael Jordan made the Chicago Bulls put so-called clause in his contract so that he could play pick up games, as he was said to do in inner city Chicago during his early pro years, or participate in summer leagues.
We love the passion for competition that guys like Jordan and Henderson show. We’re also glad Benson apparently came out unscathed and that we still get to see him fight Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez on April 20th.