Benson Henderson: The 5 Biggest Threats to His UFC Lightweight Crown

McKinley Noble@KenTheGreat1Correspondent IDecember 10, 2012

Benson Henderson: The 5 Biggest Threats to His UFC Lightweight Crown

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    Two razor-thin decisions against Frankie Edgar were erased after five rounds of dominance from UFC champion Ben Henderson, who steamrolled Nate Diaz in a thorough smashing on Saturday.

    But there's a problem here.

    Diaz was so dominant in his three-run fight to the top of division that it begs the question: Exactly who can topple a man that made the Stocktonian look so out of his league?

    That's a question not easily answered, as Henderson's looked both strong and vulnerable against the UFC's elite contenders—but we have five ideas about that subject, with one surprise entrant few fans are thinking about.

Gray Maynard

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    Just to recap, we didn't include Maynard in our recent countdown of future matches for Bendo to take next as his third title defense.

    Until Maynard returns from a knee injury—an ailment that has crippled plenty of UFC fighters already—we won't know exactly who's wearing the belt.

    But if Henderson is still the champion after early 2013, consider Maynard one of his top threats.

    Maynard gave Frankie Edgar arguably tougher fights than Henderson ever did, almost finishing the former champion on several occasions in incredibly exciting beatdowns. That kind of raw power and strength could very well put Bendo on shaky legs.

Anthony Pettis

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    Former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis is one of only two men to have defeated Ben Henderson in over six years.

    That alone makes him significantly more dangerous than most other fighters.

    Not only does Pettis own a win over the current UFC champion, but he also has the experience of 25 minutes fighting him in an incredibly high-stakes battle. True, Bendo is a vastly more dangerous challenge than before, but it counts for something.

    If he can get past Donald Cerrone, Pettis will be seen as a huge risk for Bendo. Double that statement even more if "Showtime" does something insane against "Cowboy" like a capoeira-kick knockout.

Donald Cerrone

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    "Cowboy" should get some credit for showing the world how to beat Nate Diaz.

    Even though he didn't follow though on his game plan, Cerrone exposed Diaz with heavy leg kicks that could have won him the fight. Unfortunately, his ego took over any sense of reason, and the Greg Jackson MMA fighter willingly went into Diaz's comfort zone.

    But nonetheless, Cerrone has been just as dominant in the UFC as Ben Henderson.

    In fact, Cerrone has seven wins in the promotion to Bendo's six, punctuated further with four amazing finishes—two by knockout and two by submission. Although he's 0-2 against Henderson, Cerrone shouldn't be taken lightly if he gets a future title shot.

Joe Lauzon

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    Knocking out Ben Henderson has proved damn near impossible for everyone who's faced him.

    Moreover, the closest that Bendo has come to losing in 20 fights is by submission, with the current champion enduring guillotines and chokes that would put lesser men to sleep.

    Nate Diaz, an extremely accomplished submission artist himself, couldn't get the job done—but Joe Lauzon just might.

    No matter where the fight goes, "J-Lau" is extremely dangerous, but his grappling is to be feared above all else. Not only does he have the finishing ability to get to anyone in the 155-pound division, but Lauzon isn't just about the guillotine.

    He's finished opponents by triangle choke, kimura, rear-naked choke, armbar, heel hook and ankle lock, making Lauzon as versatile as he is crafty.

    Henderson's wrestling would definitely get the fight to the floor, but his grappling defense would be receiving one of its stiffest tests ever against a six-time "Submission of the Night" winner.

A Single Toothpick

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    Ben Henderson can deny it all he wants, but we all saw it.

    For some weird reason, the UFC Lightweight Champion fights with a toothpick in his mouth.

    Strange? Undoubtedly. Risky? Unquestionably.

    Considering the number of shots to the face that Bendo takes in his fights, it's not hard to think that an errant punch could jam that small, pointy object somewhere in Henderson's face where it would cause a serious, damaging injury.

    Heck, it doesn't even have to be a title fight. By Henderson's own admission, he trains and spars with a toothpick in his mouth due to bad habits.

    Hopefully, Henderson's getting a stern response from Dana White, athletic commissions and especially his own training staff. Fighting like that is illegal and irresponsible, and it needs to stop before some horrible accident befalls "Smooth" and hampers his career.