In this weekend’s UFC on Versus 5 Ben Henderson fought the experienced Jim Miller who was on a 7 fight winning streak. As the (-150) betting favourite, many thought Miller was on his way to a title shot. That was not to be as the underdog Ben Henderson fought his way out of some early submission attempts to put on a dominant display, particularly in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, winning a unanimous decision.
Taking a look at the fight it was almost entirely a grappling battle. Miller has a high school and college wrestling background as well as being a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He has used this skill set with success against top level UFC competition. Henderson has similar wrestling credentials and is a brown belt in BJJ. On paper it would seem that Miller had a slight grappling advantage so how did Henderson manage to win a fight determined by grappling?
Miller is a strong 155-er and has outmuscled some tough competition. However Henderson appeared to match Miller’s strength with an increased level of speed. If you look at the size of Henderson’s legs it’s easy to see why he had so much power behind his shot and why it was hard for Miller to finish his leg lock attempts. With the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts increasing and the standard of its fighters improving, the bar for athleticism is at a new high. It is no longer a matter of being either quick or strong but fighters need to excel at both.
2. Component Training
Many fighters once they make the transition to professional MMA only train ‘striking for MMA’, ‘wrestling for MMA’ and ‘jiu jitsu for MMA’. As discussed by VT1 Gym Head Coach Liam Resnekov in this article Guaranteed Ways to Lose an MMA Fight – Learn to Win! this can be detrimental to your ability to best develop in those areas. Miller is a black belt and Henderson is a brown belt however Henderson as well as fighting in MMA has regularly been competing in pure BJJ competition. In the 2011 World Championships he was the bronze medallist in the brown belt division. This preparation would have helped Henderson to hold his own on the ground with Miller in the fight.
3. Position before Submission
Miller had a number of close submission attempts in the first round including a standing head arm choke, a kimura and a guillotine. It would have been great for him if he had secured them but unfortunately in each case he ended up in bottom position receiving punishment from Henderson. This is a risk/reward scenario and it is up to the fighter to make the decision in the moment. However as the fight went on Miller continued to employ the same strategy with the same results. Attempting the same submissions meant Henderson was only more likely to see them coming and the fact that Miller was tiring throughout the fight meant they would be harder to finish. Although he showed promise in the first round, one judge scoring it 10-9 Miller for the submission attempts, it seemed as though he needed to change strategy in the later rounds because Henderson won the fight from maintaining position and landing his shots from on top.
The future looks bright for Ben Henderson as after defeating Mark Bocek and Jim Miller he is perhaps only one win against top competition, such as Glay Guida or Melving Guillard, from his shot at the title.
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– Jonathan Cooke from VT1 Gym