Critical MMA Skills With Benson Henderson
The UFC Lightweight title has been the most competitive title in Mixed Martial Arts history. Jens Pulver fought Caol Uno to become the first ever Lightweight champion. That didn’t last long as Pulver had a contract dispute and was stripped of his title.
Dana White thought “No Problem, we just hold a tournament of the top 4 lightweights and determine a new champion. Caol Uno and BJ Penn fought to a DRAW! So no new Champion.
Then Sean “The Muscle shark” Shirk becomes champion, he defends the title once and that seems to be par for the course except for two former champions. The first man to ever defend the Lightweight title three times is former welterweight champion BJ Penn.
The only other man to do it was Benson Henderson. Some people will argue that Frankie Edgar defended his title three times but the would be wrong. The “Truth” is a great champion but his first fight with Gray Maynard was a Draw. A draw does not count as a defense as he technically didn’t win the fight.
By this time Henderson was already a former champion in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) where he had beaten Cowboy Cerrone twice, and former Champion Jamie Varner.
When he stepped up to fight Champion Frankie “The Truth” Edgar most UFC fans had any idea who he was. They soon found out why they call Benson “Smooth”.
Frankie Edgar is one of the toughest lightweight fighters of all time, and Benson made him prove it that night. Benson stalked forward and paid no attention to the world class wrestling of Edgar. He was just smooth through the entire fight.
He Was announced the new Lightweight champion. Frankie Edgar wasn’t done and came back for more, and Smooth put it on him again. Retaining the title. Then came legendary Nate Diaz. More of the same. Constant pressure and unique striking opportunities.
After Diaz came an very aggressive, very strong and very talented Gilbert Melendez. Again Benson showed his resilience and pressure to win the fight tying him for most title defenses of the UFC lightweight championship with Hall of Famer BJ Penn.
So what makes “Bendo” so dangerous?
For starters he is a world class Tae Kwon Do (TKD) Black belt, it lends power to his kicks and his movement. Sprinkle in that he was a two time All American Wrestler for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). To round everything out Benson has his Jiu Jitsu Black Belt as well. Making him a true Mixed Martial Artist.
When you put all those ingredients together in a fighter you find that he has solid fundamentals in striking, wrestling and submissions. Yet what sets Henderson apart is his special brand of striking. He finds openings that others may not see. He exploits them kind of like the flying knee at the end of the first Edgar fight. Just out of nowhere boom Flying knee.
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Benson fires elbows off the clinch really well. He has opened plenty of cuts but is normally clinched on a wall. Other fighter defending the takedown and BOOM ! Elbow into the mush!
Here is a video of how Benson likes to set up elbows in the clinch.
This is obviously a MMA setting for this type of set up. Naturally Benson will have head control, but try’s to go knee tap, back to clinch. Hand on an outside elbow grip and he snaps his shoulders back and down to clear his opponents neck control. Then going quickly forward and over the arm Benson throws the elbow. Benson pulls his opponents head in while throwing the elbow to create maximum damage.
Obviously you can work the clearing of the arm in practice, but not many training partners are going to agree to getting elbowed in the face. Even if there was a few that were willing, they would quickly become in short supply as elbows are like razor blades when they connect to the face.
You can work the same drill on a mannequin bag (slam man) or just a standard heavy bag if you know what you are doing. Using the same foot work but shadow boxing the arm, pull back then elbow hard into the bag. Make sure you are pulling in while driving through.
This sequence is all about the foot work, and position to be able to create explosive separation, then closing the distance with heavy power.
Most fighters will not allow you to clinch them in open space though. You need a barrier, like a wall or fence. Many fighters neglect that the fence can be used offensively. Or as a point of leverage. Khabib Nurmagomedov uses the fence well, pinning people against it and taking them down. Then beating them senseless.
Benson has been known to pressure people into the fence and get in some dirty boxing and keep people in danger. He knows that once he has established the barrier, half of his opponents movement options have been taken away and he can now dictate the fight.
Benson is a stand up fighter and human being. He doesn’t drink, smoke or live as he calls it “The Club life” making him an excellent role model for young fighters. Being a role model often involves teaching, and Benson does it well.
He has made two instructional series. One that teaches the fundamental kicking power he has. It showcases his excellent and vast knowledge of TKD Kicks and strategy.
Then he has one that is solely focused on using the cage to your advantage. It is championship level stuff, chain wrestling off the cage, going from grappling to striking and back again, Takedowns. You name it and he has tried to cover it.
These are both skills aspiring MMA Fighters need. Check them out here!