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Thursday, 05/30/2013, 06:00 am

EDITORIAL | Benson Henderson Has His Hands Full With the Brutal TJ Grant

By JAKE CHASTAIN

| There is no such thing as an easy title fight. Benson Henderson knows this first hand.

That’s part of the reason every single one of Henderson’s UFC title fights have gone the distance. The competition level is the highest of highs when you’re a UFC Champion. Henderson is one of the most well-rounded and athletic fighters in the UFC and his attitude toward the sport also makes him the successful champion that he is.

However, as successful as he’s been, Henderson is starting to catch the label of a ‘boring fighter’. That’s an unfair statement and I’ll tell you why; Benson Henderson has fought only the best fighters in one of the deepest, most talent rich weight classes in the world. That being said, just having an unblemished UFC record (7-0) should be enough to prove to the fans that he’s not putting on boring performances…he’s methodically taking out some of the best fighters in the world while slowing climbing his way into the UFC record books.

Henderson is undefeated in the UFC and is tied with BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar for the most ever lightweight title defenses in company history at 3. If Henderson can win his next fight he’ll stand alone as the most successful lightweight champion in UFC history and that, my friends, is not ‘boring’.

But before we go on talking about record title defenses and becoming a living legend let’s accept the fact that Henderson’s path to that next win is undoubtedly going to be his toughest. With all the great talents that Henderson has already defeated (Gilbert Melendez, Nate Diaz, Frankie Edgar, etc) he has not faced anyone with the grit, size and grind that his next opponent is going to posses. I feel like we use the saying “this is going to be the toughest fight of his career” way too much. But in this case that saying is absolutely fitting. TJ Grant is going to be the biggest test of Benson Henderson’s career.

Grant put on an amazing performance last weekend at UFC 160 when he knocked-out longtime lightweight #2 Gray Maynard. That fight was scheduled as a title eliminator bout and many people, including Henderson, believed that Maynard was going to handle Grant and gain himself a third lightweight title shot.  Oh how wrong they all were.

Grant didn’t only shock many fans, fighters, and critics but he also made himself a lightweight nightmare seemingly overnight. I don’t know why anyone would overlook Grant, as he was my pick against Maynard, considering all that he’s already done in the UFC. Let’s take a closer look at the rise of TJ Grant:

TJ made his UFC debut way back at UFC 97 in 2009 as a welterweight. Grant won in his debut but dropped three tough losses in his first six fights in the promotion. However, going 3-3 doesn’t seem so bad when you look at who he lost to in those fights: Dong Hyun Kim, Johny Hendricks, and Ricardo Almeida. All three of those fighters are huge welterweights that are either still in contention for a title or were at one point. Regardless though, a loss, no matter who it comes from, is a loss. After falling to Almeida, Grant decided to drop to the lightweight division. He made his lightweight debut against the highly touted Oklahoma State wrestler Shane Roller. Grant submitted him impressively and then took out Carlo Prater, Evan Dunham, Matt Wiman, and most recently Gray Maynard. TJ Grant is now 21-5 in his MMA career and has posted 5 straight victories in the UFC lightweight division (5-0). And, unlike Henderson, Grant has finished three of those five fights. I’d say, more than ever before, Benson Henderson has his hands full.

There really is no such thing as an easy title fight. Benson Henderson knows that. But does he know that TJ Grant is going to be his most difficult foe yet? We’ll find out more as that fight nears. What we do know is that is Henderson wants to reach for the record books he’s going to have to get through the brutality of TJ Grant.

There is no set date or event for this fight yet but rumors have started to circulate that the UFC could be eyeing this fight for its main-event slot at UFC on FOX Sports 1: 1 on August 17th.

 For more information regarding Benson Henderson vs. TJ Grant click here.

-Jake Chastain

@jchastain45

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