ANAHEIM, Calif. — Benson Henderson got his first Bellator victory Friday night when Patricio Freire quit their bout in the second round with a right leg injury.
After Freire (25-4) appeared to win a dull first round at Bellator 160, he abruptly turned away from Henderson following an exchange in the second. Henderson walked around the cage shrugging his shoulders at the booing Orange County crowd while Freire sat on a stool and received medical attention on his leg, which apparently was hurt while kicking Henderson.
“I guess I’ll take a W any way I can get it,” Henderson said.
Although Henderson (24-6) got handed this win, the former UFC lightweight champion rebounded from a loss in his disappointing Bellator debut earlier this year.
Immediately afterward, the promotion announced Henderson will face Michael Chandler for the 155-pound title Nov. 19.
After losing to welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov in his first Bellator appearance in April, Henderson is hoping to recharge his career by ending his three-fight stint at 170 pounds and moving back down to a familiar weight.
Henderson won the UFC lightweight title in February 2012 by beating Frankie Edgar, and he defended it with narrow decisions over Edgar, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. After losing the belt to Anthony Pettis in August 2013, he scuffled through a 4-3 stretch of UFC competition before leaving for Bellator early this year.
Henderson is Bellator’s biggest free-agent signing to date as the promotion pursues parity with the industry-leading UFC, but he was officially joined Friday night by Rory MacDonald, a possible future opponent. MacDonald, the former UFC welterweight title contender, announced his decision to sign with Bellator as a free agent during the show, walking into Honda Center in front of a huge Canadian flag.
“Bellator gave me an offer that nobody in the world can match,” MacDonald said. “They believe in me, and I’m ready to put on a show for you guys. ... I’m taking over. I’m the king of this division.”
Henderson joined Bellator six months ago with similar expectations of dominance, but he struggled in his first bout against the larger Koreshkov. He subsequently decided to cut down, and he will be rewarded with a bout in San Jose, California, against Chandler, one of Bellator’s top talents.
Freire, who shares the nickname “Pitbull” with his older brother, Patricky, has been a Bellator staple since leaving his native Brazil to sign with the promotion in 2010. The former Bellator featherweight champion has lost two of three following a seven-fight winning streak.
Southern California-based fighters A.J. McKee and Georgi Karakhanyan opened the Spike TV portion of the card with impressive stoppages. Two more local fighters put on an entertaining co-main event, with Carlsbad’s Derek Anderson getting a unanimous decision over San Bernardino’s Saad Awad.