Frankie Edgar could be finding out who the next challenger to his UFC lightweight title will be this Saturday night (November 12, 2011) as two of the top contenders at 155 pounds, Ben Henderson and Clay Guida meet in what promises to be a pivotal lighweight showdown at UFC on FOX: "Velasquez vs. dos Santos."
Ben Henderson emphatically made his case as one of the best lightweights in the world when he completely dominated then-number one contender Jim Miller earlier this summer by simply being more physical fighter. He will make a strong case for a title shot with a victory over fan-favorite Guida on Saturday night.
Clay Guida has won four straight in the UFC lightweight division and nothing was more impressive than when he also defeated the number one contender, Anthony Pettis, earlier this summer by grinding out the WEC champion and earning a unanimous decision victory. Once considered the division's gatekeeper, a big victory over Henderson would definitely give Guida a solid case for a shot at the title.
Can Ben Henderson keep his crazy momentum rolling all the way to a shot at UFC gold? Will Guida's gas tank be the deciding factor in this fight? Who has more heart? Even more, what would be the best plan of attack for each man to be victorious?
Let's find out:
Record: 14-2 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Anthony Pettis (WEC 53)
How he got here: Ben Henderson was a two-time All-American at Division II Dana College while earning a double degree in criminal justice and sociology. Instead of pursuing a career with his degree, he tried out amateur cagefighting, compiling a 2-1 record and loving the sport enough to make it his job. It didn't take him long to be noticed. Henderson was fighting for Mark Pavelich's MFC within 18 months and earned an invite to the WEC just over two years into his professional career.
He was thrown into the fire immediately, earning stoppage victories over Anthony Njokuani and Shane Roller to earned him an interim WEC lightweight title shot against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at WEC 43.
Henderson was still green at the time, but he gutted through a multitude of submission attempts from the former bullrider, using his wrestling to outscore him positionally in what was voted Sherdog's 2009 "Fight of the Year." With the victory, he became the interim WEC lightweight champion.
He unified the titles by defeating incumbent champion, Jamie Varner with a third round guillotine choke and would once again have to face Cerrone for the title at WEC 48, the first and only pay-per-view the promotion ever attempted. In what was expected to be a repeat of their first epic war, the "Smooth" one, choked out Cerrone in less than two minutes to defend his belt.
Henderson would fight one last time for the WEC against the upstart Anthony Pettis. We all know how that played out, with the kick heard 'round the world. What some may forget, was the fight was incredibly close, entirely up for grabs until the final minute of round five.
In his UFC debut, Henderson put on a strong showing against submission specialist Mark Bocek and he followed it up with the most impressive victory of his career, a three round domination of then-number one contender Jim Miller at UFC on Versus 5. With the victory over Miller, he earned a match against Clay Guida, a fight that fans have been demanding ever since the UFC-WEC merger was announced.
How he gets it done: Henderson has the overall skills to keep this fight standing if he wants to, but when was the last time you really saw someone put Clay Guida on his back? If anyone can do it in the UFC lightweight division, it might be "Bendo."
While I feel that the former WEC champ should have an advantage on the feet and in the clinch, he also is strong enough to potentially overwhelm Guida and give him a taste of his own medicine. Also, this wouldn't be the old Henderson who was content to have his position on the ground. Against Miller, he was brutal, bashing his opponent with ground and pound and bloodying him up. If he can score a takedown at any point during the fight, he could definitely do the same thing to "The Carpenter."
In the strand-up, Henderson would be wise to avoid regular exchanges in the pocket as his defense still needs some work. The best plan of action would be to try to corner Guida along the fence where he can explode forward with knees or attack with short strikes that have a much higher percentage of landing.
I believe Henderson is the stronger man, so if he can close the distance and try to tire Guida out with pressure, that could be key for him.
Record: 29-11 overall, 9-5 in the UFC
Key Wins: Anthony Pettis (Ultimate Finale 13), Nate Diaz (UFC 94), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 117)
How he got here: Clay Guida, believe it or not, was once the Strikeforce lightweight champion. He defeated Josh Thomson for the title before losing the strap via split decision to current champ Gilbert Melendez. After a WEC fight, Guida made his way to the UFC where he fought a high energy and fan-friendly style that created incredible fights but also put him in situations to lose often.
"The Carpenter's" UFC record had dropped to 5-5 after a tough submission loss to perennial contender Kenny Florian and he needed to change.
Guida stepped up his training with Greg Jackson and put a focus on his offensive wrestling, footwork, head movement and submissions. The results have been amazing. The Chicago native scored three consecutive submissions against impressive foes like Takanori Gomi and Rafael dos Anjos.
In his last bout with Gomi, he perplexed the Japanese slugger with some of the most ridiculous and frenetic head movement of all time, eventually mixing in takedowns to put away "The Fireball Kid" with a guillotine choke. With the victory, Guida once again entered contender status and he solidified his claim as one of the promotion's best 155 pounders when he ground out an easy unanimous decision over the WEC champion and number one UFC lightweight contender, Anthony Pettis earlier this summer.
He accepted about against another former WEC lightweight champion, Ben Henderson and will duke it out with him this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Clay Guida has the best gas tank in the lightweight division and he'll need to utilize it as best he can if he wants to secure a victory on Saturday night against Henderson. He'll need to constantly be moving, trying to confuse his opponent in the stand-up like he did against Gomi and hopefully that will leave openings for him to land his punches.
Guida doesn't have one-punch knockout power, but if he can create the correct type of openings, he can definitely do damage. Who can forget his brutal uppercut to Roger Huerta, or when he broke Rafael dos Anjos' jaw with a nasty hook? Guida needs to harness his frenetic energy and go full speed for the entire fifteen minutes. He's capable of pushing a pace that even Henderson might not be able to keep up with.
If he can wear "Bendo" down, that will open up opportunities for takedowns later in the fight. I don't believe Guida is a strong enough wrestler to put Henderson on his back early, but he definitely could do it as the fight wears on. Conditioning kills at times, and while the former WEC champion has never had major cardio issues before, he could definitely wilt if pushed to the limit by Guida over the course of three rounds.
Fight "X-Factor:" The X-Factor for this fight is which man has the better takedowns and wrestling? Both Guida and Henderson have utilized their wrestling throughout their careers to dominate their opponents and stand atop the division. Now it could come down who can put their opponent on their back and keep them there for an extended period of time.
Also, if the wrestling cancels out, as it is prone to do when two high level grapplers match up, this fight could come down to who is better in every other facet of mixed martial arts. It could be clinch work, footwork, striking and power that end up being the deciding factor in this fight and that's what makes this bout so special. Both of these men are very evenly matched so the tiniest advantage could be the biggest deciding factor of them all.
Bottom Line: This is must-watch television. Even if this fight isn't going to be aired on the major FOX broadcast, it still has as much implications as any non-title lightweight fight this year. Finally, this isn't a case of the number one contender taking a fight against a non-contender while waiting for his next opponent. This time, it's two men who are both the elite of their weight class battling it out. It would be a shame if the winner of this fight doesn't earn a title shot as both men have the credentials and both men have defeated the number one lightweight contender this year to get to where they're at right now.
This expects to be a high-pace, action intensive battle. Clay Guida has had his best fights of his career when he's matched up with fighters that he can't simply take down and grind out a decision victory, and this fight has the makings of another classic Guida war. Don't miss it!
Who will come out on top at UFC on FOX? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!