Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight standouts Benson Henderson and Jorge Masvidal will clash this Saturday (Nov. 28, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 79 inside Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul, South Korea.
After a pair of tough losses at lightweight, Henderson jumped up a weight class on short-notice opposite Brandon Thatch, who had a great deal of momentum behind him at the time. Henderson looked great in that fight, and he'll look to build from that win here.
Similarly, a controversial decision loss sent Masvidal to welterweight. He's had just one fight as well, which he finished with a sudden knockout. As a longtime veteran of the sport who's fought pretty much every where, Masvidal is hoping this change will propel him to the title.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory in this bout.
Key Wins: Brandon Thatch (UFC Fight Night 60), Frankie Edgar (UFC 144, UFC 150), Gilbert Melendez (UFC on FOX 7)
Key Losses: Anthony Pettis (UFC 164, WEC 53), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 49)
Keys to Victory: Though he possesses a number of excellent skills, Henderson has mostly been working as a range kicker as of late. At the distance, Henderson punishes his opponent with seriously hard kicks, and he puts an extra emphasis on knocking his opponents around with low kicks.
And, if that doesn't work out, Henderson can always fall back on his excellent wrestling and grappling.
In this bout, volume will be extraordinarily important for both fighters. Considering the toughness and well-rounded fighting style of both men, a finish is unlikely, so being ahead on the judges scorecards is vital for both men.
In order to assure that he's ahead on the scorecards, Henderson needs to ensure that he's throwing and landing more strikes. In particular, his low kicks will be a great tool here. For one, Masvidal often fights like a boxer, which can leave his lower body vulnerable.
Additionally, Henderson is often able to off-balance his opponent by timing it perfectly or kicking to the calf. Even if Masvidal is unfazed by the shots, it will be an impressive-looking moment for the former champion.
Key Wins: Cezar Ferreira (TUF 21 Finale), Tim Means (UFC on FOX 7), James Krause (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Rustam Khabilov (UFC Fight Night 31), Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal)
Keys to Victory: On the whole, Masvidal is similar to Henderson in a number of ways. He's an extremely well-rounded fighter who prefers to strike but can adjust on the fly, rarely loses his composure, and has been in a number of fairly controversial decisions of his own.
However, the main difference is that Masvidal is the more effective striker. He's not necessarily better -- though we'll find out soon -- but Masvidal is the technically superior striker and definitely lands with more impact, as evidenced by his 11 knockout victories compared to Henderson's two.
To make use of that advantage, Masvidal needs to force boxing exchanges by closing the distance and cutting off the cage. On the outside, Henderson is at an advantage with his kicking expertise, but Masvidal's hands are far sharper, and he's more likely to hurt Henderson than vice-versa.
While he's not quite as potent offensively as Raphael dos Anjos, Masvidal should look to emulate the Brazilian in how he forced Henderson to exchange.
As mentioned in Henderson's section, volume is important. If Masvidal is unable to drop or significantly stun Henderson and the "Smooth" fighter throws more strikes, he'll likely end up on the wrong side of a close decision.
Therefore, Masvidal needs to keep his activity high. Hurting Henderson with strikes would be great, but it's far from an easy task and should not be Masvidal's sole path to victory.
Bottom Line: Even beyond their stylistic similarities, both fighters are in almost the same position. The two most controversial decisions -- according to MMAdecisions.com -- of the year sent them up a weight class, and now they're looking to become contenders.
For Henderson, welterweight is really his last option. He holds a violent loss to the champion and a pair of losses to the number one contender at lightweight, which means that making a title run would be extremely difficult.
There's a clear reason why he left lightweight.
If Henderson wins, he keeps his championship dreams alive. It will be difficult, but there's no proof yet that Henderson cannot go on a run at welterweight. On the other hand, a loss here largely shuts down that idea and leaves Henderson without a clear path forward.
While Masvidal doesn't have any losses to the top of the division -- in fact, it could be argued that he's unbeaten inside the Octagon -- he repeatedly failed to get high-profile match ups despite campaigning for them. Masvidal is likely in his prime right now, so he can't afford to waste time fighting people below him when he should be scrapping with the elite.
Masvidal hoped to fix that with a weight class move, which would also ease the abuse on his body and extend his career longevity. At the moment, it has worked out, as Henderson is the biggest name he's ever fought. However, he absolutely has to capitalize here, otherwise he's not likely to earn any more chances like this.
At UFC Fight Night 79, Benson Henderson and Jorge Masvidal will throw down in the main event. Which fighter will have his hand raised?