The UFC is back on FOX and we have quite the main event to look forward too. Former champions, Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson, are looking to cement themselves at the top of the heap in order to get one step closer to the title shot. Henderson, the former UFC Lightweight champion, returns to the Octagon for the first time since losing his belt back at UFC 164. Thomson, the former StrikeForce Lightweight champion, is coming off a TKO victory over Nate Diaz and wants to keep his winning streak alive.
Today, I compile and breakdown some GIFs of the two main eventers, previewing their battle this weekend.
This GIF is a perfect example of the fighting style Benson employs every time out. Henderson is looking to push the pace, control the distance, and impose his will. Henderson is a very well rounded fighter, with very few holes in his game. In the GIF above, watch as Henderson closes the distance by feinting a 1-2 and throwing a leg kick. As Henderson paws out the 1-2, Pettis is forced to put his hands up, leaving him open for a big leg kick. As Pettis loses his balance momentarily, Henderson is able to latch on to Pettis with double underhooks on the cage. Henderson’s leg kicks are some of the most powerful in the sport. I could have chosen about 5 other GIF’s of Henderson knocking his opponent down with leg kicks. Thomson better have learned from Chris Weidman about the effectiveness of checking a leg kick.
You do not want to get into a dogfight with Benson Henderson. He is simply too accurate with his punches in wild exchanges for his opponent to handle. In the GIF above, watch as Clay Guida rushes in with a right hand that lands. Immediately after, Henderson lands a perfectly timed counter left hook that drops Guida. As Guida quickly gets to his feet, Henderson turns him around and lands another 3 or 4 powerful punches that knock Guida down again. The point of this GIF is that Henderson can absolutely hold his own in wild exchanges, and usually comes out on top. Thomson, who is usually better served to kick box from the outside, loves to brawl, but usually gets clipped in the exchanges. Will he and Henderson throw down like we have seen both men do before? If so, expect Henderson to come out on top.
One of Henderson’s strengths is his scrambling ability. In seemingly every fight he is in, Henderson ends up in a dominant position in every scramble. In the GIF above, Henderson is in full guard and attacks with an armbar. Bocek, who is an experienced grappler in his own right, attempts to pull out of the submission and land back on top. Instead, Henderson scrambles out, and gets on top of Bocek. The GIF also portrays Henderson’s elite top game and ground and pound. Henderson is usually excellent on top mixing up his ground and pound. Expect Henderson to try and get Thomson on the mat, and test his chin.
Thomson is a very savvy striker, but he is basically a technical brawler. He has the kickboxing acumen, but still can’t resist a good brawl. If you have seen any of his fights with Gilbert Melendez, you may recall a few of the wild exchanges the two men have had. At the end of the day, Thomson is usually the more unique striker in his fights as evidenced above. In his title eliminator bout against KJ Noons, Thomson landed a crane kick right to the chin of Noons. This is the kick that Lyoto Machida used to knock out Randy Couture. Thomson fakes a kick with his right foot, and goes high with the left, completely catching Noons off guard. This is a very high level technique, and could pay dividends for Thomson in the future.
As referenced earlier, Thomson is a skilled striker, but he absolutely loves a good brawl. Some important things to note in the GIF above. 1. Thomson’s initial strike is his lead uppercut. He utilizes this strike better than any other punch in his arsenal. If Henderson looks for a takedown early, expect a counter uppercut. 2. Thomson is willing to eat punches in order to deliver punches. Thomson lands the hardest punch in the entire sequence, a hard right hook, but he does eat a few powerful strikes from Melendez as well. 3. Thomson showed a more reserved approach against Nate Diaz his last time out. It will be interesting to see if him and Henderson have any exchanges similar to the one above. If they do, I give the edge to Henderson who has shown a tough chin throughout his career. In the fight with Melendez, Thomson was dropped by a huge uppercut in an exchange similar to the one above. Will he risk a dogfight with Benson Henderson?
Josh Thomson can finish fights, and can do so in spectacular fashion. In 20 career wins, Thomson has 14 finishes on his record. In the GIF above, Thomson makes a successful return to the Octagon by TKO’ing Nate Diaz with a perfectly timed head kick followed up by hellacious ground and pound. This was easily the most impressive performance of Thomson’s career, and has given him a lot of momentum going into this fight. This was the first time Diaz was finished in his UFC career, spanning 17 fights. If Thomson can finish Diaz, he has the ability to finish any Lightweight on the UFC roster.
Final thoughts: This fight has all the makings of a ‘fight of the year’ candidate. As you have seen above, both men are willing to stand and exchange in the center of the Octagon to test their mettle. If they do have those exchanges, I expect Henderson to come out on top.
While Henderson has the more accomplished BJJ game, do not expect to see him submit Josh Thomson. Thomson has never been finished in his career by a submission, and Henderson is not the guy to do it. That being said, Thomson will not be testing out Henderson’s guillotine choke, which is easily his best submission.
Another important factor in this fight is Henderson’s takedowns vs Thomson’s takedown defense. Henderson is a scrappy wrestler who will never give up until his opponent is on the mat. If Thomson can thwart the takedown, he could outstrike Henderson on the feet by utilizing distance.
Both men are very evenly matched when it comes to stand up, but it really depends on the strategy of Josh Thomson. If Thomson utilizes distance like he did in the fight against Diaz, he could hurt Henderson in a similar fashion. If he attempts to brawl with Henderson, he will likely end up on the mat after powerful shot from Benson. Both Thomson and Henderson mix it up on the feet very well, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
In the end, I believe Henderson to be the overall better fighter. He is a tenacious wrestler who always employs his gameplan better than his opponent. I find it extremely hard to believe that Thomson will be able to stay on the outside like he did against Diaz. Henderson is going to try and rough him up on the inside and make this an ugly fight. I believe Henderson will take a 5 round decision in an epic battle.