The Honda Center in Anaheim, California plays host to the UFC’s first foray into network television, UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. The only broadcast fight and main event is one for the ages as heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez (9-0) takes on Brazilian striking menace “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos (13-1). The internet-only undercard will consist of many lesser-known and up-and-coming fighters including featherweights “The Diamond” Dustin Porier (10-1) versus “The Scarecrow” Pablo Garza (11-1). Veteran 145er Cub Swanson (15-4) goes head-to-head with Ricardo Lamas (10-2) while international favorite “Kid” Norifumi Yamamoto (18-4) takes on “BC” Darren Uyenoyama (6-3) at bantamweight. The historic night’s co-main event is being criminally relegated to FOX Deportes and internet streams as “The Carpenter” Clay Guida (29-11) and former WEC Lightweight Champion “Smooth” Ben Henderson (14-2) square off in what will likely determine the next contender for the lightweight title. With their similar styles and equally strong gas tanks, this could be a three-round fight that fans won’t likely forget.
At First Glance: “The Carpenter” has been on his longest win streak since entering the UFC, clocking four straight including a win over the last WEC champ “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (14-2) and three submission finishes before that. “Smooth” has lost only once in his last 13 fights, dropping a rout decision to Guida’s most recent opponent Anthony Pettis. Ben has rebounded well since the title loss, winning his first two UFC outings, most notably his vicious destruction of serious contender Jim Miller (20-3) at UFC Live 5. Against Miller, Benson looked absolutely unstoppable and could have easily beaten any lightweight in the world that night. The bosses took notice and lined Henderson up with Guida for their first FOX show. For Clay, there is much more on the line this Saturday. He has traded wins and losses over his five-year career with the UFC and another loss in a high profile fight could spell the end for his hopes at a title run. Henderson is a relatively young gun to the UFC and merely has to make a strong showing to keep his name in contention talk. At first glance, both fighters seem to provide the same strengths: strong wrestling, slick submissions, and gorgeous hair. There also won’t be any cardio issues as both have shown time and again that they can outlast most any opponent. Expect this to be a war of who strikes first and hardest, and who can keep the other one from imposing their relentless attack.
In Depth: With a high rate of submissions between the two of them and their dominant top games, expect “Smooth” and “The Carpenter’s” submission games to be cancelled out. Guida has recently emerged as the antidote to submissions from the back, shucking off countless attempts from Jiu-Jitsu specialists while pouring on a grinding dose of ground-and-pound. “Smooth” has taken many-a-foe out with his vast array of chokes, but don’t expect him to be sinking them in against the slippery Guida without seriously stunning him first. Ben’s big advantage over Clay will be his power, both on the ground and standing. Guida has teased the idea of featherweight while Henderson has always looked to be on the heavier side of lightweight. Being caught by Ben’s superior striking can spell a disaster if Guida finds himself on his back against a much larger, stronger opponent. If Ben lands on top, expect a violent barrage of strikes that could very well overwhelm Guida. Ben will be comfortable wherever the fight lands, but will likely look to coast on the feet against Guida, whose striking has never overly impressed. Clay’s tireless footwork and head movement will have to be top notch Saturday to keep away from this nightmare scenario. If Guida can use his angles to paw combinations he can set up takedowns and at the very least, keep Benson backing up for most the round. Ideally Clay will look to take Ben down and keep him there. Guida’s scrambles and chest-to-body control make him very effective on top. Clay can repeat this drill for hours and even if heaved off by Henderson’s powerful legs will charge right back in, easily frustrating “Smooth” and leaving him helpless against the cage for three rounds.
Wild Card: Because of their similar styles it is hard to find the glaring x-factor that could turn the tables. Ben however, has power on his side and a vastly expanded stand-up game compared to Guida. Clay has shown himself to be susceptible to leg strikes and Henderson walks around with two tree trunks attached to his hips. A perfectly timed knee to Guida’s head as he comes in for a takedown could spell the end for “The Carpenter”. Clay also shows no regard for the many high kicks that have ruined his night before. Ben may very well show off his striking in this fight, knowing he will have reach and technicality on his side. Expect Henderson to rush forward with heavy combos to keep Guida from getting set, ideally keeping Clay’s back on the cage and cutting off his angles, nullifying his reaching shot. If Ben shows superior takedown defense he can pick Clay apart on the feet and make a lasting impression with the UFC brass and fans.
The Verdict: For Clay Guida, this is a must-win. Another trip back down the ladder will likely send him to featherweight. He can’t afford to let Benson unload strikes on him. Expect “The Carpenter” to look for a less-than-popular smothering game plan, keeping Ben against the cage. His cardio may be the only thing that can win him this fight because he will have to wrestle non-stop to hold off “Smooth’s” attack. Henderson probably feels very confident coming into this contendership fight. He holds advantages in size, and striking. He is basically a bigger, badder version of the lovable Guida and will use any tool in the shed he can throw at the relentless UFC vet. Expect him to find and keep his range against Guida and unload heavy punches. Kicks may come with more frequency if Ben feels like he can stop Guida’s shot. A perfectly timed strike will floor Guida late in the fight and Ben will move in for the kill and seal his title shot. Henderson via T(KO), Round 3