It may not have been televised, but the much anticipated lightweight battle between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida lived up to and likely exceeded fan and analyst expectations last night (November 12, 2011) on the UFC on Fox preliminary card.
With a title shot against UFC 155 pound champion Frankie Edgar on the line, both Guida and Henderson put the pedal to the metal for 15 straight minutes.
It was hectic, it was violent and it was one of the best fights of the year.
Apparently that's what happens when a fighter is capable of stopping Clay Guida's takedowns. Ben Henderson, the former WEC champion, did just that and he was able to earn a unanimous decision victory and a shot at UFC gold.
So how did the "Smooth" one pull it off where every other potential number one contender had failed? And what's next?
Despite all the funky footwork, Guida still got clipped by Henderson, getting tagged with a sweet 1-2 combo right when he thought he had his opponent cornered.
After getting dropped, Guida popped right back to his feet, and like a wounded animal, he struck back with a wild flurry of strikes along the fence very reminiscent of when he got hurt by Diego Sanchez in their 2009 "Fight of the Year" bout.
Also take a look at Henderson's beautiful takedown defense. His sprawl was perfectly reactionary and he wasn't content to just stuff takedowns but instead looked to dish out heavy punches as well.
This was a process that would be repeated throughout the fight. Henderson would display incredible takedown defense and balance and he would punish Guida for every attempt to take the fight to the ground with short punches and knees.
With his primary offense stifled, Guida began resorting to more desperate measures, submission attempts. If anyone knows anything about Ben Henderson and his rubber everything, they understand that going for submissions against the flexible wunderkind is simply an exciting waste of time and energy.
Here's another example of some more epic takedown defense from Henderson. He had Guida pinned against the fence but the second he got overaggressive with a knee, Guida caught it, dropped down and exploded forward pushing him across the cage on one leg.
Against 99% of fighters, that would have been an easy takedown, but Henderson stuck with Guida the whole way, hopping on one foot as he got shoved across the cage and then deftly side stepping "The Carpenter" and taking inside position along the fence.What a tremendous display of balance and agility.
The last minute of the bout was as good as it gets for fans of ground fighting.
It featured some of the most entertaining scrambles I've ever seen as Guida escaped a Henderson body triangle, attacked with a guillotine choke, nearly had his back taken again, got swept, ate some vicious ground and pound, escaped out the back door and then attempted a single leg takedown at the final horn.
In the end, though, despite putting on a wildly entertaining performance, it was in yet another losing effort for Guida. Ben Henderson was simply too agile, too strong and too adept at both offensive and defensive wrestling for "The Carpenter" and he was awarded a unanimous decision victory.
For Clay Guida, this bout once again proved that he can be competitive against the top of the division, but if anyone has good enough takedown defense, they should be able to beat him (although they'll have to work for it). He's capable of being an incredibly entertaining fighter whenever he's forced to utilize something more than his wrestling and it's primarily due to his extremely high level of energy he brings in every fight.
I would like to see Guida face someone like Jim Miller in his next fight. Both men lost hard-fought decisions to Ben Henderson and both are still top tier lightweights in the UFC. The winner would be right back in the thick of things. Other intriguing potential opponents include Dennis Siver or perhaps Jeremy Stephens, who both recently lost high profile decisions to some of the division's best 155-pounders.
For Ben Henderson, what more is there to say? He killed it last night yet again. He was just a bit better than Clay Guida at everything. His striking was on point and he was even willing to take some risks with attacks like an axe kick or a superman punch, something we haven't really seen out of him much before. As Forrest Lynn described it perfectly, Henderson is simply one of the rawest fighters out there right now. He's looking to hurt his opponent from every single position and he's got the strength and balance to actually do it.
There's no secret who his next opponent will be. Henderson will battle champion Frankie Edgar for the UFC lightweight title this upcoming February in Japan. That bout has the potential to be even more entertaining than his battle with Guida, and that's not hyperbole.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did the Guida vs. Henderson fight live up to your expectations? Will Ben Henderson offer a credible challenge to Frankie Edgar's title?
For complete UFC on FOX 1: "Velasquez vs. dos Santos" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire pay-per-view (PPV) event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.