Benson Henderson openly admits he wants to go down as the greatest lightweight in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history. And while the record books may not reflect it -- he might already be there following his victory over Gilbert Melendez in the UFC on FOX 7 headliner.
The 29-year-old edged "El Nino" by split decision after five competitive rounds Saturday night (April 20, 2013) in San Jose, Calif., to tie B.J. Penn's record for most 155-pound title defenses in UFC history at three.
Despite not picking up a stoppage victory in seven UFC bouts (and nine-straight bouts overall), Henderson is doing what is most important and getting his hand raised against the toughest challengers the 155-pound weight class has to offer.
In his next bout, "Smooth" will attempt to take sole possession of the title defense record when he takes on the winner of the UFC 160 tilt between Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant, who UFC President Dana White announced as the next contender to Henderson's throne at the event's post-fight press conference (watch it here).
Henderson's next opponent should be Anthony Pettis; the man who earned a title shot at the winner of Henderson vs. Melendez with a quick and painful destruction of Donald Cerrone last January. Unfortunately, though, "Showtime" has temporarily departed from the lightweight division in favor of a bout with UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo this August.
According to the current official UFC rankings, Maynard is the No. 3 ranked fighter in the division while Grant sits at No. 7, so by no means will the fight be a step down in competition for the champion.
Maynard and Grant both have some solid momentum behind them, have some nice wins on their resume and a victory over the other will be the final push needed to jump into that top contenders spot.
For Henderson, a fight with Maynard would be one fans have wanted to see for quite some time. The heavy hands and strong wrestling abilities of "The Bully" would present serious problems for the champion and moreover, who better for Henderson to attempt to tie the record for longest win-streak in lightweight history than against the man who currently holds the record?
On the flip side, Grant getting a title shot would complete what has really been an incredible story for the Canadian. After putting together an average 3-3 record to start his UFC career, Grant made the decision to drop down from the welterweight division and has looked like a new man ever since.
The 29-year-old has reeled off four-straight victories and should he become just the second man to ever defeat Maynard, would be more than deserving of a crack at the gold.
Henderson enjoys staying active and with Maynard vs. Grant going down in just over one month's time (May 25, 2013), the UFC's next lightweight title bout could go down in late summer of early fall.
Do you think the winner of Maynard vs. Grant is a worthy challenger to Henderson's belt? Or would you like to see the champion face off with someone else? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.