The friends, family and fans of Benson Henderson would have been better off looking the other way.
Henderson found himself woefully outgunned in his bid to unseat Bellator MMA welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov in the Bellator 153 main event, as he bowed to the Russian in a one-sided unanimous decision on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. All three cageside judges saw it 50-45 for Koreshkov, giving him a clean sweep on the scorecards.
No one previously had bullied Henderson for such an extended period of time. Koreshkov squashed the MMA Lab rep’s takedowns and systematically dismantled him from the outside, utilizing his superior height and reach. He had Henderson teetering on the brink more than once, nearly finishing him with a flying knee on the button late in the first round. Only Henderson’s guile and heart kept him around for the full 25 minutes.
In wake of Bellator 153, here are five matchups that ought to be considered:
Andrey Koreshkov vs. Douglas Lima: With Ben Askren having flown the coop for One Championship long ago, Koreshkov looks like a man among boys in Bellator’s welterweight division. The Russian brute has rattled off six consecutive victories, none of them particularly competitive, since he succumbed to punches from Askren a little more than three years ago. At just 25 years of age, Koreshkov still has room to grow into his body and talents -- a frightening thought for the other fighters populating the 170-pound weight class. Lima will meet Chidi Njokuani at Bellator 156 on June 17. A win there would likely put the former champion in position for a rematch with Koreskhov, a man to whom he lost a unanimous decision in July.
Benson Henderson vs. Michael Chandler-Josh Thomson loser: It turns out that Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal might have done Henderson a disservice. “Smooth” shined at 170 pounds in his final two appearances under the UFC banner, as he submitted Thatch with a rear-naked choke and eked out a split decision over Masvidal. Koreshkov was another animal altogether. Considering the lopsided nature of the defeat and the reasons behind it, one has to think Henderson would least consider a return to the lightweight division, where he and not the opponent would hold most of the size and strength advantages. Chandler and Thompson will collide at Bellator 154 on May 14.
Patricio Freire vs. Daniel Straus: Freire remains one of Bellator’s most consistent high-level fighters. The Brazilian submitted Henry Corrales with an arm-in guillotine choke, as he won for the eighth time in nine appearances. Freire appears to have cleared the last remaining obstacle standing between him and Straus, the reigning Bellator featherweight champion. The two men have already fought three times, with “Pitbull” holding a 2-1 edge in their head-to-head series. However, Straus walked away from their most recent encounter with a five-round unanimous decision at Bellator 145 on Nov. 6.
Evangelista Santos vs. Djamil Chan: Santos was the beneficiary of some ill-timed aggression from Brennan Ward. Thought to be a fading force in the welterweight division, “Cyborg” instead sprang the upset and tapped Ward with a heel hook just 30 seconds into round one. Santos had not executed a successful submission in MMA competition since he dispatched Makoto Takimoto with an Achilles lock at a Sengoku event more than eight years ago. Chan dazzled in his promotional debut on the undercard, as he knocked out Richard Patishnock 3:09 into the first round to extend his current winning streak to seven fights.
Brent Primus vs. Jordan Parsons-Adam Piccolotti winner: Whether it was warranted or not, Primus found favor with the judges. The 31-year-old Sports Lab export kept his perfect professional record intact with a controversial split decision over Gleristone Santos in their three-round lightweight showcase. After finishing his first five opponents inside one round, Primus has settled for split verdicts in each of his past two appearances. Parsons will face the undefeated Piccolotti at Bellator 154 on May 14.