Saad Awad faced a big step up in competition at Bellator 208 in Long Island on Saturday. And ultimately, former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson was just a little too much for him.
Bellator 208 went down Saturday at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. There, in the co-main event, former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson was looking to put together a two-fight win streak when he took on longtime Bellator veteran Saad Awad. Awad was, without question, facing his toughest test to date. Yet Henderson had struggled since departing the UFC.
There was a lot on the line for both men on Saturday. For Awad, who came in on a four fight win streak, a victory would make him impossible to ignore as a title contender at 155lbs. For Henderson, it was a chance to get back in the mix, perhaps earning an opportunity to go on one last run at gold.
Henderson came out with a thudding kick early, which was answered by a kick from Awad, followed by another. In fact the bulk of the first minute in round one was kicking attacks, with Awad walking down ‘Bendo,’ and Henderson circling. After Awad engaged, Henderson changed levels and shot then completed his first takedown. That saw him land in half guard and look to go to work by the cage, as Awad tried to hold on with overhooks.
Henderson, however, was able to get a body triangle on. Yet not to be outdone, Awad, who had not been submitted in years, reversed, and the pair scrambled. Awad would survive the round, but Henderson was in the driver’s seat.
Round two had Saad Awad waving Benson Henderson forward, but it was doubtful that mind games were about to work on the veteran ex-champion. More importantly, Awad was able to defend Henderson’s takedown attempts in the second. At least briefly. Near the midway mark, Henderson would get his opponent down. Awad would slowly work his way to a crouching position, looking to post up, but wound up eating a big knee to the body for his troubles. Soon enough he was back down and Henderson locked in a arm-triangle choke. Awad, however, made it out of the round.
A knee to the shoulder of Henderson got a big reaction from the crowd in Long Island early in round three. However, Henderson soon had a takedown, and went to work improving his position. He then dropped a few elbows, but had to be careful not to land on the back of the head. For the bulk of round three, it was Henderson in control, with hooks in looking for a rear-naked choke when the final bell sounded.
Saad Awad proved he could hang in there with a former UFC champion at Bellator 208, but it was Henderson getting his hand raised. And Henderson who inched closer to the top of the division.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) October 14, 2018
After the fight, Henderson ripped into UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, without directly naming him, saying fighters have to hold themselves “to a higher standard.” Asking what someone who jumped out of a cage over words would say to their child when the child complained someone was calling them names, Henderson had a clear message — one met with jeers for the crowd in Long Island.
Benson Henderson def. Saad Awad by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)