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Exclusive: Henderson hidden, but hunting for title shot

Benson Henderson has turned his back on the UFC.
Roar Guru
12th November, 2011
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Spare a thought for Benson Henderson today. In the night the UFC makes history by making its debut on US network television, he will meet Clay Guida in a bout that could very well decide the next challenger for Frankie Edgar’s lightweight title.

While that doesn’t sound like much to gripe about, the fact the UFC will only be broadcasting the heavyweight title bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos on Fox means his landmark bout will be relegated to the Facebook stream.

This wasn’t the initial plan for the bout, and the UFC has promised that they will find a way to air this fight but it still is dramatic drop off in terms of viewing potential.

In an interview with The Roar, Benson shared his disappointment with the decision but took a philosophical standpoint on the UFC’s decision.

“When I first heard that it was going to be on Facebook instead of Fox I was a little bummed out. But not everything in life can go your way.”

Despite the low-profile placement of the fight, it should still prove to be an incredibly entertaining fight for the division’s number one contender spot.

Benson’s opponent, Guida is riding an impressive four fight win streak that includes a submission win over Takanori Gomi and most recently a title-shot derailing unanimous decision victory over the last person to beat Henderson, Anthony Pettis.

It is Guida’s style of wrestling combined with his ridiculous level of pace and cardio that has seen him rise in the lightweight ranks. This is a style that is also shared by Henderson and why this fight should prove to be a ridiculously frenetic and compelling affair.

The topic of cardio is one that always gets brought up when anyone fights Guida. Guida is not half as gifted skill-wise or athletically as half the people he has beaten in his career but the pace he keeps is such that it simply grinds down these opponents until they are simply exhausted shells of their former selves.

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This doesn’t faze Henderson though.

“Cardio has always been something I relied on and used to my advantage since I was in friggen Junior High. I know he is known for his great cardio and pushing the pace but it’s going to be another story when we get in their Saturday night.”

They seem like bold words from Henderson but they are just those of a confident man who is gradually coming into the peak of his powers in his career.

Back in August, Henderson wasn’t given much of a chance against resident UFC lightweight contender, Jim Miller. Miller was riding a seven fight win streak over impressive competition and was closing in on a title shot.

He was expected to be too much of the former WEC titleholder. That was definitely not the case as Henderson put down a statement, beating down on Miller for three impressive rounds.

The casual MMA fan might of seen that Miller victory as Henderson coming out of nowhere to strike it big over night. Don’t let Benson hear that though.

“A lot of guys want to say, “oh this guy got better over night” or even for musicians, “oh this guy blew up over night and he’s super popular and famous over night,” but people don’t see and don’t realise the friggen four years, five years, six years, ten years before that of people working on their craft getting better on it.

Same thing for fighters, you don’t all of a sudden show up out of nowhere and just get good in a fight all of a sudden. It takes a lot of training and practice to get to that point.”

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So what does Benson attribute to his dramatic rise up the lightweight rankings to? In his days as WEC champion, he showed great cardio and wrestling as well as a knack for contorting himself to avoid submissions but nothing that would suggest he’d make an immediate impact on the UFC title picture.

According to Henderson it was a just a matter of getting comfortable.

“It’s like being a stand-up comic. You start off comfortable doing smaller shows with like 75 people in the room. Then you get comfortable with 100 people in the room and it keeps building and building up and eventually you’re doing stand-up comedy in front of 15,000 people.

“It’s the same thing for fighting. Once you get that comfortableness of being inside the Octagon you can let go a little bit and actually showcase what you do inside the practice room inside the Octagon when the lights are on and the cameras are on, and when it really counts.

“As far as Jim Miller, I don’t think it was a huge improvement but I was just more comfortable.”

To draw on Henderson’s stand-up comedy analogy for today’s fight, the platform of a US network television audience could have been the optimum next platform for Henderson to showcase his comfortableness inside the Octagon.

It was not to be though which unfortunately means the Henderson/Guida fight won’t get the attention or the audience it deserves. Which, as Henderson points out, is a bit of a “bummer”.

Guida: 29 years old | 5’7″ | 69″ reach – Fight guide: W – Anthony Pettis (UD) | W – Takanori Gomi (Sub) | W – Rafael dos Anjos (Sub)
Henderson: 27 years old | 5’9″ | 70″ reach Fight guide: Henderson: W – Jim Miller (UD) | W – Mark Bocek (UD) | L – Anthony Pettis (UD)

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