In his last fight as WEC champion with a shot at the UFC title hanging in the balance, Benson Henderson came up just short in his bid as he lost a close decision to Anthony Pettis.
For the second time in his career, Henderson stepped foot in the cage with a title shot on the line, except this time he seized the moment like a contender hungry for gold.
Opposing Henderson was high intensity lightweight Clay Guida, who keeps a pace in his fights that few can match and even fewer have conquered.
As the two fighters met in the center of the Octagon, Henderson and Guida both swung heavy leather, hoping to connect with a knockout shot. In the first exchange, Henderson got the better of Guida, popping him in the jaw and dropping the Chicago area native to the mat.
Guida scrambled to look for a takedown and avoid any more damage. He was successful in his endeavor and actually fired back late in the round, clipping Henderson and stunning him in the process.
Both fighters survived and moved into the second round, which kept just as much of a frenetic pace.
Henderson showed off his wrestling, which he met Guida with head on throughout the fight, keeping his fiery opponent at bay. The former WEC champion was able to push Guida around the cage with his superior grappling and strength for much of the fight.
Henderson also managed to take Guida’s back at one point, almost snagging a rear naked choke, but just couldn’t get the right position to finish the hold.
The third round saw much of the same as the first two, but Guida was able to fire back with some of his own offense in the form of a guillotine choke, late in the fight. Guida got the submission and it looked deep under Henderson’s chin, but the always flexible fighter scrambled, twisted and turned until he got free.
Despite the last ditch effort from Guida to finish the fight, Henderson clearly dominated more of the 15-minute war, which almost assuredly will win ‘Fight of the Night’ when Saturday’s event is over, and maybe ‘Fight of the Year’ for 2011.
Like always after the fight, a humble Benson Henderson paid tribute to his training partners, who helped him get ready for a very tough and unorthodox fighter in Clay Guida.
“Getting ready for Guida, too hard to deal with, has a high energetic kind of an awkward pace and cadence that he has, but my boys who helped me from the very beginning Chris Gruetzemacher, Victor Mesa, Efrain Escudero, all those boys helped me out with their Clay Guida impersonations,” Henderson said after the victory.
The win will now move Benson Henderson into his first ever UFC title shot where he will face champion Frankie Edgar next. The fight is expected to headline the upcoming UFC return to Japan show on Feb 26 from Saitama Super Arena.
There’s no doubt Henderson is up for the challenge.
“Frankie Edgar we got a date,” said Henderson. “Let’s do it baby.”