Brown, Thomson steal spotlight at UFC on Fox 7

Published on Tuesday, 4/22/13, at 1:53 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

It was only fitting that the judges sided with the favorite in the main event. On a night when the ‘chalk’ cashed tickets at a 10-2 clip, Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson improved to 7-0 in the Octagon and defended his lightweight strap for the third time by capturing a razor-thin split-decision victory over Gilbert ‘El Nino’ Melendez.

Henderson hooked up his backers as a -300 favorite, while the fight went the five-round distance to hook up ‘over’ supporters at 4.5 rounds (-220ish).

After getting his hand raised, Henderson got on his knees and proposed to his girlfriend as the crowd bood. She accepted. (Cheese Factor: 9.5)

Two judges had it 48-47 in favor of Henderson, while the other scored it 48-47 for Melendez. Yahoo’s Kevin Iole had it 48-47 for Melendez, as did

Neither fighter came close to finishing the other and neither went for broke in the waning moments of the fifth and final round. Like his first title defense against Frankie Edgar, Henderson was fortunate to escape with his belt.

Dana White told the media at the post-fight presser that the winner between T.J. Grant and Gray Maynard at UFC 160 will get the next shot at Henderson. However, if Maynard doesn’t win decisively, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fans bombard Dana with requests for a Melendez-Henderson rematch.

In the past, Dana has had no problems with changing his tune and giving the fans what they want. Whatever the case, Melendez is clearly going to be a major factor in the lightweight division moving forward.

The co-main event was easily the worst fight on an action-packed card that saw eight knockouts, tying a record set at UFC 92. Daniel Cormier captured a unanimous-decision victory over Frank Mir (30-27 three times) as an expensive favorite in the -425 range.

This was a snoozer with Cormier spending most of the fight clinching Mir against the fence while landing shots. Mir’s only offense was several body kicks that solidly landed.

Josh Thomson and Matt Brown got the Fox portion of the card started with thrilling finishes that had the crowd at HP Pavilion in San Jose worked into a frenetic frenzy. Fighting in the UFC for the first time since 2004, Thomson knocked out Diaz after landing a head kick that staggered his opponent. From there, Thomson connected with a pair of hard rights that downed Diaz.

Thomson pounced on his opponent before referee Mike Beltran intervened to end the carnage. Thomson, who is the first fighter to ever KO Diaz, becomes an instant contender in the 155-pound loop with the victory.

The 34-year-old Thomson hooked up his backers as an underdog in the +125 range. A surge of fight-day money on Thomson lowered the price on Diaz from -180ish to around -150.

The Fox opener saw Matt Brown and Jordan Mein punish each other in an electrifying Round 1. Just as I suggested in my preview, Brown was an attractive play as a way-too-generous +270 underdog (paid $270 on $100 bets).

‘The Immortal’ produced the best performance of his career, beating the 23-year-old phenom by second-round KO. Brown, who has won five consecutive fights in the welterweight division, jumped all over Mein from the outset.

After Mein landed a nice standing elbow, Brown went into attack mode. The 32-year-old veteran connected with multiple uppercuts and hurt Mein with a huge left hook that sent the prospect into retreat only 40 seconds into the bout.

Brown swarmed and landed a barrage of shots, including a head kick with 4:05 left. Brown’s relentless pursuit was momentarily stalled by a vicious counter left from Mein, but the punch only seemed to piss Brown off.

He responded with a left hook before going to work with heavy knees to the body from a Muay-Thai clinch. As the fighters separated, blood began to flow from above Brown’s right eye that was undoubtedly caused by Mein’s elbow early in the stanza.

Moments later, the momentum shifted. As Brown continued to come forward, the fighters exchanged several haymakers. One from Mein to the body backed up Brown and then the Canadian landed another combination that included a brutal body shot that floored Brown.

Mein jumped on Brown and began to go for the kill with ground-and-pound punishment. With Brown protecting his body, Mein hammered away with shots at his face. For about 10 seconds, it appeared as if Mein might get the finish.

However, Brown was able to gain wrist control from the bottom while he recovered. Then from out of nowhere, he attacked Mein’s head with a tight triangle choke. Mein was able to slip out with 35 seconds remaining in the round.

Both men were back on their feet 10 seconds later and Brown was clearly back to 100 percent. He attacked with a right, two more big knees, then a left hook followed by a huge elbow that staggered Mein against the cage.

Time ran out on Brown to get the finish, but the late-round punishment had Mein badly hurt and clearly sucked away any momentum he had gained from the body blows. Round 2 was more of the same with Brown swarming and punishing Mein, who got floored before Big John McCarthy called it off one minute into the second stanza.

Brown and Mein won Fight of the Night honors, while Thomson shared KO of the Night with Yoel Romero, who beat Clifford Starks in a middleweight clash after connecting with a gorgeous flying knee.

Chad Mendes won his third straight fight by early first-round KO when he laid waste to Darren Elkins in just 68 seconds. Mendes appears prepared for another title shot.

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