Benson Henderson in a close, five-round fight that results in split judges' scorecards -- stop me if you've heard this one before.
Henderson (22-5), as has happened so often in his career, got his hand raised following a competitive welterweight contest against Jorge Masvidal (29-10) at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Seoul, South Korea. Judges Charlie Keech and Barry Foley scored the main event for Henderson 49-46 and 48-47, respectively. Judge Mark Craig saw it 48-47 for Masvidal. ESPN.com scored it 49-46 for Henderson.
It is the 11th decision win of Henderson's career and the fourth time he has picked up a split decision in a five-round fight. The others came at lightweight against Frankie Edgar, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson.
"We had a good fight and I'm thankful I got my hand raised," Henderson said with a smile. "We all know decisions can go either way."
Masvidal, who fights out of American Top Team, was impressive in the loss but generally conceded crucial moments to Henderson. A lack of preparation might have contributed to that, as Masvidal was originally scheduled to fight Dong Hyun Kim in a three-round fight. He agreed to step into the five-round main event on short notice when Thiago Alves, his ATT teammate, withdrew due to injury.
"I'm not happy," Masvidal said. "I want to give thanks to God, win or lose. I got to compete on the biggest stage. I wish I had more time to prepare for five rounds, but that's the nature of the beast. I had about a week to prepare for five rounds. I'll be back."
A former UFC lightweight champion, Henderson, 32, has made a career out of five-round fights. All but one of Henderson's most recent 11 fights have been scheduled for five rounds.
A close first round went to Masvidal on the scorecards, as he took the center of the cage and landed the harder punches in exchanges. Henderson played the role of counterstriker, sticking to the outside of the cage and looking to come over the top of Masvidal's offense with his lead right hand.
In the next frame, Henderson showed more urgency in getting into the clinch and forcing Masvidal to expend energy defending takedowns. Henderson landed several good knees in the clinch, to Masvidal's body and thighs, and opened a small cut near his right eye toward the end of the round.
Masvidal did a terrific job of defending takedowns overall, but struggled to keep Henderson out of the clinch as the fight wore on. According to Fightmetric, Henderson converted 3 of 12 takedown attempts.
Henderson's best work might have come in the fourth, which he ended with a beautifully timed flying knee that stung Masvidal against the fence. He dragged Masvidal down with a single leg and nearly took his back but slid off. In the fifth, Masvidal almost secured a standing guillotine near the fence, but Henderson fell backward onto the canvas and eventually escaped.
"Hat's off to Masvidal for stepping up and giving me this fight," said Henderson, who has Korean roots. "He might not have the biggest name in the public, but hard-core fans know who he is and know he's tough. He gave me a tough battle."
Saturday marked the final fight of Henderson's current UFC contract. Prior to the fight, he declined to speak specifically about his contract situation to ESPN.com, but he is now free to entertain offers from other promotions. Henderson is a longtime lightweight but his past two appearances have been at 170 pounds. He defeated Brandon Thatch in a short-notice fight in February.
Welterweight Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1), of South Korea, made it look easy against late replacement Dominic Waters (9-4), securing a TKO finish at 3:11 of the first round. Kim hip-tossed Waters to the ground early and moved immediately to a full crucifix, where he landed short punches until referee Leon Roberts stopped the fight. Afterward, Kim, 34, asked for a rematch against Demian Maia, whom he lost to in 2012.
Welterweight Alberto Mina (12-0) scored a small upset against veteran Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-6) via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29). Mina knocked Akiyama down multiple times in the fight, but could barely stand in the third due to a steady diet of Akiyama leg kicks. He improves to 2-0 in the UFC. Akiyama drops to 1-5 in his past six.
South Korean featherweight Doo Ho Choi (13-1) dropped Sam Sicilia (15-6), of Spokane, Washington, with counterpunches twice in the opening round en route to a TKO finish at the 1:33 mark. Choi, 24, extends his winning streak to 11, including nine knockouts.