Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: 5 Fights for Benson Henderson to Take Next
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ben Henderson left no doubt that he's the rightful UFC light heavyweight champion, but it might take a few more title defenses to establish him as the best in the sport.
Fortunately, that's the great thing about new title runs.
In a division as deep as lightweight, there's still a huge amount of matches to make, especially given that "Bendo" is a relatively young fighter who always stays healthy.
Here are the five fights that make the most sense for him and the lightweight division right now, as the champion prepares to make his third title defense in the UFC.
Pictured: Donald Cerrone
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports
If you weren't a fan of World Extreme Cagefighting, you missed some of the greatest lighter-weight fights in mixed martial arts history.
One of those was the first clash between Ben Henderson and Donald Cerrone at WEC 43, as Cerrone made his pitch to win the interim WEC lightweight title. It was a gripping, thrilling, back-and-forth battle that was hailed as a "Fight of the Year" contender.
Despite the fact that Cerrone is 0-2 against Henderson (losing the rematch at WEC 48 by first-round submission), Cerrone has still steamrolled his UFC opponents with a 6-1 run.
If he can beat Anthony Pettis at UFC on Fox 6, there's no better time to sign Henderson vs. Cerrone 3.
Photo Credit: UFC/Zuffa
On the other hand, if Anthony Pettis defeats Donald Cerrone in January, a rematch with Bendo will be just as easy to sell to casual viewers for a free TV fight card.
All the UFC has to do is play footage of Pettis' legendary off-the-wall kick over and over.
That moment from the final WEC card alone will do dividends for playing up the rivalry between the current UFC lightweight champion and the last WEC lightweight champion, especially since Henderson has previously snubbed Pettis for losing his UFC debut against Clay Guida.
Getting past Cerrone won't be an easy task, but even if the win is close, it should clinch "Mr. Showtime" his once-promised title shot.
Seriously, what's the holdup with signing former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez to the UFC?
Unless "The Silent Assassin" is asking for "Anderson Silva money" and getting the runaround, it's hard to fathom that Dana White and Joe Silva aren't attempting to make this matchup a superfight.
Maybe the problem is that Alvarez is pitching for an immediate title shot.
Making this match as soon as possible should be a priority for UFC brass. Then again, they might not want to advertise Alvarez so quickly, since he's not far removed from his Bellator career to most fans.
Pictured: Gilbert Melendez
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Melendez pulled out of two Strikeforce cards with injuries, but something tells this author they aren't the kind that'll keep him out of action if the UFC comes knocking with a title shot.
"El Nino" is a credible lightweight champion of the world due to his dominant record, a win over Shinya Aoki, plus two avenged losses over Josh Thomson and Mitsuhiro Ishida.
But even though Ben Henderson is the lineal champion with an arguably better record than Melendez, this is still a hot superfight to make.
Melendez is a known quantity to hardcore fans, and the UFC can give the soon-to-be former Strikeforce champion no better introduction than a title fight against its own belt holder.
Winner of Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon
Pictured: Joe Lauzon
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
OK, let's be realistic. Out of the four men that we've listed on the slideshow so far, at least one of them is going to turn up injured within a few months.
Sorry, but those things just happen in MMA sometimes.
But what if the unthinkable happens?
Should Cerrone, Pettis, Alvarez and Melendez turn up injured or otherwise unable to compete, the winner of the Miller vs. Lauzon matchup at UFC 155 is a worthy replacement for two solid reasons.
With Jim Miller, you've got a rematch built in that the UFC can push, especially with claims that Miller walked into his first fight with Bendo under illness. But if Joe Lauzon wins, you've got "Mr. Fight/Submission/KO of the Night" on the bill for a main event, which is a unique selling point that the UFC just doesn't use very often.
Just imagine—one highlight reel from all 11 of Pettis' award-winning fights would be highlight-reel gold for pre-fight promos and preview shows.