Heading into last weekend's (May 25, 2013) UFC 160 lightweight clash between Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant, both competitors stepped into the Octagon with the added pressure of knowing a victory would earn them a shot at Ben Henderson's division title.
127 seconds later, "Smooth" knew who he would be defending his strap against as Grant blitzed through "The Bully" en route to a "Fight Night" bonus-winning knockout (KO) of the former No. 1 contender.
The only problem for Henderson, is that he doesn't know a whole lot about the FitPlus standout after the Canadian slowly but surely made his mark in the lightweight division. And while Grant doesn't necessarily have the household name (yet), he proved he does indeed deserve a shot at the title after earning his fifth straight victory since making the drop down from welterweight.
According to Henderson, he was already preparing for a bout against the heavily-favored Maynard, but now has to quickly learn all he can about Grant as he prepares to defend his title for the fourth consecutive time.
His words during a recent appearance on "The MMA Hour:"
"I am a little bit surprised. I think most people had Gray winning. Most people picked Gray to win and not only did T.J. prove everyone wrong, but in the manner and in the fashion that he did it, pretty impressive performance for him. I did (think Maynard was going to win). I thought Gray was going to be the next guy I faced. I was already kind of preparing for that and now I got a new guy to prepare for. I don't know a whole lot about T.J. to be honest. I know he's 5-0 at 155 now, he used to be a 170 pounder. From what I've seen of him, from the promos and highlights and stuff, he doesn't seem too flashy. He's one of those guys, a grinder, good fundamentals and solid. It is going to be my job to learn about him the next month or so to get ready for him."
Benson admits his previous bouts weren't the best of his career. He does, however, vow to have a better one against T.J. and says he doesn't necessarily have to get a finish; he just needs to be on his "A" game to walk out with his strap.
"I don't think I need a finish. I think I need to have a great performance. Again, hats off to Frankie and hats off to Gilbert, but (against) both of those guys I don't think I had my best performances. Against Nate Diaz I think I had a pretty darn good performance. I think I had like a nine out of a 10 performance or an eight out of 10. Against Frankie the first time, I think I had like a seven or eight performance. Against Frankie the second time, he did a great job of keeping me from having a great performance. He did a good job of making me not do well, that's his job, is to keep me from looking good. I think I had like a four out of 10 in the performance. Against Gilbert, I think I had like a five or six out of 10. I didn't have my best performance. But, hats off to Gilbert though, he made me not have a good performance. Against T.J. Grant, as long as I have like an eight or nine or 10 out of 10 performance, the rest will take care of itself. Whether it's a knockout or submission or whatever, it doesn't matter to me. I don't care if I have 25 decisions in a row as long as I have great performances each time."
Since winning the belt from "The Answer" back at UFC 144, Henderson has won three straight decision victories with his fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 150 and his scrap against Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7 being ever so close.
He did manage to dominate Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5, however, "Smooth" wasn't too thrilled with his own performances against "El Nino" and "The Answer" and says when it comes time to face Grant, he will be looking for a near-perfect outing.
He's on the right track so far.