ANAHEIM, Calif. – There would be no H-bomb for Dan Henderson, but rather a showcase of the elusiveness that is Lyoto Machida.
Machida edged Henderson on the scorecards by dodging heavy punches and delivering surgically placed counter shots.
The light heavyweight bout co-headlined Saturday’s UFC 157 event at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and Facebook.
Whether the performance inspires the title shot Machida passionately campaigned for prior to the bout remains to be seen. At the reading of the scores, a pro-Henderson crowd roundly booed him.
Two judges gave Machida the bout by scores of 29-28 while one dissented for Henderson, who seethed at the decision.
Frustration would be a persistent theme for the ex-PRIDE champ, who attempted over and over again to chase down Machida with his famously powerful right hand. Only once did he find his target when late in the first he landed a punch with less than a minute remaining.
Machida, meanwhile, caught Henderson over and over again with lunging knees that stopped his advance. When Henderson closed, he fired off short, fast punches and escaped unscathed. But mostly, he circled out of trouble before it could ever find him.
FightMetric, the UFC’s official stat keeper, gave Machida 68 significant strikes to Henderson’s 32.
Henderson’s ray of light came in the third round, when he managed to bowl Machida to the mat. But he failed to capitalize on the position when Machida tied him up, and soon, the two were back on their feet.
“I’m sorry the fight wasn’t as good as the fans wanted,” Machida said. “My strategy was to keep away from the right hand and to keep the fight standing up. I thought I won the fight because I frustrated him and kept the fight where I wanted it. I hope I am now the No. 1 contender. I want a title shot.”
“I won the fight, but not officially,” Henderson said. “I hit him whenever he wanted to fight. He ran away most of the time. I thought I won.”
Machida (19-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC), in fact, would land the first takedown of the fight, which came late in the first round.
The ex-UFC champ now boasts back-to-back wins since his submission loss to champ Jon Jones while Henderson (29-9 MMA, 6-3 UFC) goes back to the drawing board after a triumphant decision win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 157 results include:
Lyoto Machida def. Dan Henderson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Urijah Faber def. Ivan Menjivar via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 4:34
Court McGee def. Josh Neer via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Robbie Lawler def. Josh Koscheck via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 3:57
Brendan Schaub def. Lavar Johnson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Michael Chiesa def. Anton Kuivanen via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:29
Dennis Bermudez def. Matt Grice via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Sam Stout def. Caros Fodor via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Kenny Robertson def. Brock Jardine via submission (kneebar) – Round 1, 2:57
Neil Magny def. Jon Manley via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Nan-Shon Burrell def. Yuri Villefort via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)