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UFC: Benson Henderson will fight for lightweight championship in Japan | Slideshow

Anaheim, Calif. – It’s official: Benson Henderson will fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight championship.

The Decatur High School graduate assured himself a shot at current 155-pound champ Frankie Edgar by man-handling Clay Guida Saturday night at the UFC on FOX extravaganza inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Henderson won a unanimous decision over Guida to earn the UFC’s No. 1-contender title.

Before the fight, UFC President Dana White announced that the Henderson-Guida winner would fight Edgar in Tokyo, Japan, on Feb. 26.

“Frankie Edgar, we got a date. Let’s do it, baby,” a jubilant Henderson yelled from inside the Octagon after beating Guida.

“They are both exciting fighters,” White said about Henderson and Edgar. “Being the main event in Japan, they will put on a great show.”

“I think it’s a great matchup,” Henderson said. “I am as confident as any fighter in the UFC. I just need to do a better job of sticking to the game plan. We match up very well. Frankie and I will put on a great show.”

Henderson (15-2 overall, 3-0 in UFC) and Guida also put on a great show during the UFC on FOX event.  The 2001 Decatur grad dominated a bulk of the fight Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd in Anaheim, which included numerous stars from nearby Hollywood. The three judges scored the three-round bout 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Henderson also earned a $65,000 bonus for winning “Fight of the Night” honors.

“He’s hard to deal with, has a high energy, awkward pace,” said Henderson. “It’s a W and I will take it any way I can get it. But I’m not happy with my performance, to be honest. You guys haven’t seen nothing yet.”

Guida, who, like Henderson, sports very long hair, seemed to have a bulk of the 14,000-plus fans inside the Honda Center on his side when the fight started. But Henderson quickly took control with a couple early right hands that seemed to wobble Guida during the first round. But Guida came back later in the round and applied a guillotine choke hold on Henderson, which he escaped fairly easily.

The final two rounds were also dominated by Henderson’s wrestling skill, along with his size and strength. Henderson, who said he gained about 17 pounds following Friday’s weigh-in, seemed to be bigger and stronger than Guida during the fight. Henderson was able to escape every submission attempt by the scrappy Guida and inflict damage with multiple punches and takedowns.

The most trouble Henderson was in during the fight came in the third round when Guida sunk in another choke attempt. But, like every other Guida attack, Henderson was able to neutralize it.

“I wasn’t too worried,” Henderson said about the guillotine attempt in the third round. “My submission defense isn’t too shabby. It was tight, but as far as me going to sleep, it wasn’t going to happen.”

“Ben’s a warrior,” Guida said. “He comes out to scrap every night. When the cards are against him, he prevails. He earned it.”

Guida had won four-straight matches entering the bout, including a victory over Anthony Pettis in his last match. Pettis handed Henderson his lone defeat as a professional last December to take away his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) lightweight championship belt.

But it was that loss to Pettis that Henderson credits with his impressive three-bout win streak in the UFC. Henderson also won decisions over Mark Bocek in Toronto and Jim Miller earlier this summer. Both Bocek and Miller were considered top contenders for the lightweight title before the losses to Henderson.

In the main event of the UFC on FOX, challenger Junior dos Santos knocked out champion Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds. The dos Santos-Valesquez fight was the only bout broadcast on the hour-long show on FOX. It was the first time the UFC has been seen on network television.

Henderson, 28, began wrestling during his time at Lakota Middle School and continued at Decatur, where he competed under head coach Mike Bressler.

His prep career culminated with a second-place finish at the 2001 Mat Classic state wrestling championships inside the Tacoma Dome, losing to University’s Tommy Owen in the 135-pound title match.

After Decatur, Henderson went on to wrestle at Dana College in Nebraska, where he earned NAIA All-American honors as a senior after finishing in fifth place at 157 pounds in 2006.

Henderson’s performance helped Dana College win the NAIA national championship that year. He actually started MMA fighting a year later after a dare from a couple of Dana wrestlers.

 

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