Fights with massive hype behind them and tons at stake can usually be forgiven when they fall short of expectations.
But no worries about that for Saturday’s lightweight top contenders fight between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida. In what will likely be a strong candidate for Fight of the year, Henderson won a unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC on Fox, the promotion’s network television debut.
After the event in Anaheim, Calif., UFC president Dana White confirmed that Henderson, the former WEC lightweight champion, will be the next challenge for lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. White said the title fight will be the main event of the UFC’s return to Japan, which is expected to be UFC 144 on Feb. 26.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” Henderson said of facing Edgar at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I’m as confident as any fighter in the UFC. I have to do a better job of sticking to the game plan (against Edgar). Clay drew me into his style of fight. Clay did a great job of making it more of a brawl or wrestling match. With Frankie, I match up really well. Frankie and I are going to put on a great show.”
With the Honda Center crowd of more than 14,000 seemingly behind Guida early, the frenetic fighter survived some early shots from Henderson that wobbled him in a wild exchange, then escaped a guillotine attempt only to look for his own late in the first round. Rounds 2 and 3 featured the same back-and-forth pace as the first, including a lengthy choke attempt from Guida late in the third.
But ultimately, Henderson neutralized most of Guida’s wrestling, won more of the standup exchanges and had multiple submission attempts en route to a 30-27, 29-28, 30-27 win on the scorecards.
“Ben’s a warrior,” Guida said. “He comes to scrap every time. We’ve seen him when the cards are against him, and he prevails. I think everyone wanted two more rounds of this fight. (The loss) was a mere speed bump (for me), not a road block.”
Not surprisingly, Henderson-Guida was Saturday’s $65,000 Fight of the Night winner – even though Henderson said he believes he could’ve performed better. And he said he wasn’t worried about the fight airing only on Fox Deportes, Facebook and FoxSports.com.
“I’m happy to get the W, as always,” Henderson said. “Was I happy with my performance? No. I can do a lot better than that. You guys haven’t seen anything yet. As far as putting on a great performance that was going to get aired, I’m pretty sure it’s going to get aired at some point.”