All three judges scored it 48-47. Afterward, Henderson turned his attention to recovering WEC lightweight titleholder Jamie Varner.
“Jamie Varner, we got a date,” Henderson said. “Phoenix, Arizona -- let’s do it!”
Varner welcomed the challenge and pointed to a possible December date in Arizona, where both men train.
“Donald Cerrone once again proved that he’s a tough dude,” Varner said. “I thought Ben Henderson’s wrestling would be the deciding factor in this fight, but it was actually his heart and his submission defense that was the deciding factor. My hat’s off to him. It’s going to be a tough fight.”
Henderson raced out to an early lead and held on as a hard-charging Cerrone did everything within his power to claw his way back into the fight. Henderson did his best work while standing in Cerrone’s guard. He repeatedly took that position after takedowns and pounded Cerrone’s body and head en route to a three-rounds-to-none lead on all three judge’s scorecards.
Cerrone had little offense early, aside from a head-and-arm choke/triangle choke combination in the first round and an armbar attempt in the second; he was relegated to defending takedowns and ground-and-pound as Henderson built his lead.
The fourth round was a turning point for Cerrone. He grabbed another head-and-arm choke that clearly took something out of Henderson early in the round. Though he escaped -- and ate a big right hand as he did so -- Henderson was not the same fighter who racked up the points in the first three rounds.
Cerrone, possibly knowing he needed to finish, cut out all the stops in the championship round. He fought off takedown after takedown and sank his deepest submission of the night -- an armbar that had Henderson scrambling to relieve the pressure on his elbow. Henderson regained top position in the bout’s closing seconds, but Cerrone battered him with upkicks. He finished strong with another triangle choke and armbar attempt before the final horn sounded.
“That was an absolute war,” Henderson said. “That’s exactly what I wanted coming in to the fight. Now I don’t ever want to do it again.”
Jansen Stays Unbeaten in WEC Debut
Dave Jansen kept his perfect record intact with a unanimous decision victory over veteran Rich Crunkilton in his promotional debut.
Jansen used superior wrestling ability to fend off Crunkilton’s stand-up attack and repeatedly took him to the mat throughout the three-round bout. Team Quest’s Jansen dominated the positional battle and controlled Crunkilton on the mat. The only time he really found himself in trouble on the ground was after he visibly tired in the third round. Crunkilton locked up a head-and-arm choke, but Jansen defended successfully.
Crunkilton seemed to have swung the momentum his way in the third round. He charged out of his corner and landed a slew of punches and kicks before Jansen caught his leg and deposited him the floor. He then fended off the choke attempt and never looked back. With both fighters showing signs of exhaustion, Jansen dug a little deeper and finished the fight in top position. His final burst may have swayed the judges, who scored the bout 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in Jansen’s favor.
Assuncao Wins Sixth Straight
The Atlanta-based Assuncao took the center of the cage from the opening bell and never allowed Jabouin to control the pace of the bout. Assuncao took the fight to the mat for the first time near the end of the second round and locked up a guillotine choke. Jabouin, however, would not allow him to secure his guard, and he eventually escaped as the horn sounded to end the period.
Assuncao again came close to finishing the fight in the third with repeated rear-naked choke attempts, but Jabouin showed great submission defense in fending off the attacks. A weary Assuncao ate a spinning backfist and a spinning back kick to the body that felled him for a brief moment in the closing minutes of round three, but he recovered to take the battle back to the mat as the match closed.
As the scorecards were read, Jabouin inexplicably won by a score of 30-27 on judge Ruben Carrion’s card. Joel Elizondo scored the bout 29-28 for Assuncao, and Anthony Townsend saw it 30-27 for Assuncao.
Page Submits Campuzano
Bantamweight contender Damacio Page welcomed newcomer Will Campuzano to the WEC with a submission win just 62 seconds into a fast-paced bout.
Page charged across the cage, slinging wild right hands that had Campuzano on the retreat. Campuzano refused to wilt under the tremendous pressure and began to land heavy shots of his own. Page, sensing the tide may have been turning, went back to his wrestling roots and planted Campuzano with a takedown.
Once on the mat, Page was immediately forced to defend a triangle attempt. After wriggling free of Campuzano’s clutches, Page advanced to his opponent’s back and began working on a submission of his own. Page set his hooks and looked close to sinking a rear-naked choke before Campuzano broke his grip. Page would not be denied, however, and reset the choke, finishing the fight.
Click here to read about WEC 43's prelim bouts, including Wagnney Fabiano's stunning loss.