With the heavyweight championship headliner tabbed as the only bout to air on Fox at 9 p.m. ET, Fox Deportes has announced that they will broadcast Dustin Poirier vs. Pablo Garza and Clay Guida vs. Ben Henderson, though the entire show's undercard will also stream live on the UFC's Facebook page and Fox.com.
The trio of top WEC lightweights have wasted no time in proving they belong in the sport's elite echelon. Though Anthony Pettis was matched with the stiffest competition right out of the gate, he along with Henderson and Donald Cerrone have made the transition with flying colors. Not only have they all authenticated their status, they've maintained the same level of exhilarating combat that magnetized fans in the WEC.
In all likelihood, the glamorous "Showtime kick" and subsequent fifth-round knockdown was the single, standout ingredient that swayed the score cards in Pettis' favor during the WEC's bon voyage lightweight title fight. Fending off the normally overbearing double leg takedowns of Mark Bocek in his UFC debut put Henderson on the map as a viable contender, and his dominant follow up against the stalwart Jim Miller was a jaw-dropping and career-defining performance.
Hard-nosed workhorse Clay Guida has long been on the cusp of a title shot; now more than ever after a staunch four-piece sequence that's once again elevated him above the pack. Once criticized as a non-finisher, Guida's latest streak is punctuated by three stoppages in Shannon Gugerty (arm-triangle), Rafael dos Anjos (broken jaw), and Takanori Gomi (guillotine choke) along with a commanding decision over Pettis.
With the Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard trilogy in the books and B.J. Penn out of the picture, the stacked 155-pound class is ripe for a new wave of fresh contenders, the first of which will be determined this Saturday night.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
"The Carpenter" has long been stamped as a wrestler. In my opinion, he's made phenomenal strides to prove otherwise.
Hiding amidst a typhoon of flowing brown locks like a ninja in a smoke bomb, Guida has tightened up his boxing game and become unafraid to light off combinations at close range instead of falling back on takedowns.
Though his newly enhanced head movement might be a little more "show than go", his vivacious motion is tough to track and clouds his intentions in unpredictability.
Adding a few kicks to his repertoire signifies that he's rounding out his arsenal and endows him with more offensive options.
The key aspect of his unremitting pressure is the way he continues to pursue even when his shots are defended. This trait actualizes as more of a constant stream of threatening attacks rather than an inability to achieve control.
Normally his frenetic pace is difficult to contend with but Henderson is known for the same.
With no laudable wrestling pedigree to speak of, Guida's prime effectiveness comes through opportunistic aggression rather than raw power or unstoppable technique.
His intelligence, explosive quickness, relentless pace, set ups and basic fundamentals fuel his takedown prowess. He's the type of wary competitor that will create endless opportunities and capitalize in full, punishing his opponents by maximizing on every inch they give him.
That's exactly what we witness to the left. Preying on the slightest mistake, Guida scoops up an errant Pettis kick and swallows up the distance by charging forward with the single leg.
The deciding factor on many of his takedown attempts is the range he's in. Clay does an excellent job of transitioning from striking to shooting and always drives through on the takedown to crumble his opponent's foundation of balance.
He's a submission threat as well, though his catches aren't highly elaborate and typically those conducive to top-side wrestlers (rear-naked choke, arm-triangle, guillotine) excluding two ankle locks early in his career.
In the few takedowns Mark Bocek was able to secure, Henderson's unreal scrambling ability came into play to even the scales.
What makes "Smooth" so unique is his blend of considerable strength and balance with his slippery scrambles. Fighters tend to excel with one or the other, so his mesh of stout power and elusive grappling make for an insurmountable medley on the mat.
While his pace is equally dizzying, Henderson seems to be much more on-balance and in control compared to Guida's wild and untempered approach.
Another aspect I admire is how Bendo's offense is such a predominant facet of his steely defense.
To the left, it's the quick armbar he swivels for that causes Bocek to back off and create enough space to escape. In the blink of an eye, Henderson is on his feet and pouring on a ridiculous amount of violence from the top.
In the first Bendo gif above, even his Thai clinch is compact and his base is wide and strong, yet he's still able to react in a flash with precise movement rather than stay flat-footed.
This ties back into my recurring theme of how Bendo's strength-to-agility ratio differentiates him as such a special fighter.
Guida can be quick and slippery and he can switch to being strong and powerful, but Henderson has an innate ability to wield all those qualities all the time.
To the right we see Miller taking a gutsy dive for a standing arm-triangle. Henderson stays patient and grabs his own wrist to keep his shoulder in a downward position to prevent the choke, all the while holding up Miller's body weight. When Miller readjusts his hooks, he squirms free and commences the attack.
At this point, when you factor in Henderson's freakish aversion to submission attempts and rock-solid chin, I don't see too many avenues to victory for Guida.
I don't think he can out-strike him, I don't think he can knock him out, I don't think he can submit and I don't even think he can out-wrestle him.
My inner voice is reminding me that any time I make such a bold prediction and feel so confident about a high level match up, an upset tends to follow. Guida is a gamer who's earned his stripes and can never be underestimated.
That being said, Clay has a bit of tendency to leave his head upright and his chin extended when throwing his hands, so I see Bendo scoring a stoppage by bombing a monumental flurry of ground and pound, crushing the midsection with knees in the clinch or catching a submission when Guida leaves himself exposed on a furious scramble. While any are possible, I'll venture a guess for the latter.
My Prediction: Ben Henderson by submission
Guida vs. dos Anjos gif via MMA-Core.com
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com