4 Biggest Threats to UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2013

4 Biggest Threats to UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson

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    Fully entrenched at the top of the heap in the deepest weight class in the sport, Benson Henderson has slowly put a stranglehold on the UFC's lightweight division.

    A former WEC champ who was best known for ending up on the wrong side of the "Showtime Kick" before entering the UFC, Henderson blossomed at the ideal time and didn't look back.

    Although he hasn't always executed in spectacular and convincing fashion like Jon Jones, Henderson has gone 7-0 in the UFC, including 4-0 in title scraps.

    A split-decision win over Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7 has left "Bendo" with few bona fide challengers in the near future.

    Here are the four most legitimate threats to Henderson's belt.

Anthony Pettis

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    Anthony Pettis almost definitely doesn't represent Henderson's next challenger, but the former WEC champ could entertain a lightweight title fight with Bendo following his experiment at featherweight this summer.

    Pettis, the last man to defeat Henderson and the inventor of the "Showtime Kick," will challenge featherweight champ Jose Aldo at UFC 163 in August.

    However, in a rather confusing possible scenario, Pettis said he'll bump back up to lightweight for a rematch with Bendo if he can get past Aldo.

    In their first encounter, Pettis earned a unanimous decision win over Henderson to capture the WEC lightweight belt at WEC 53, landing the infamous "Showtime Kick" to Bendo's jaw in the fifth round.

    In an interview earlier this month with Yahoo's David King, Pettis offered up these sentiments regarding a rematch with Bendo: "I want to fight Ben again. I beat him once, but that was a long time ago. People forgot about it already."

Josh Thomson

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    If the adage rings true that the best way to gauge an MMA fighter is to look at his or her last fight, then Josh Thomson genuinely resuscitated his career with one impressive finish at UFC on Fox 7.

    Gracing the Octagon for the first time in nearly nine years, "The Punk" outclassed perennial lightweight contender Nate Diaz, ultimately TKO'ing the 28-year-old former title challenger with a vicious head kick and follow-up punches to garner "Knockout of the Night" honors.

    The win catapulted Thomson to No. 4 on the UFC's list of lightweights. The Punk now only sits behind Gray Maynard, Pettis and Melendez, respectively. 

    Although one UFC win, albeit an impressive one, doesn't merit a title shot, Thomson promptly put himself in striking range to fight for the belt by becoming the first man to serve Diaz a TKO.

Gray Maynard

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    Since losing with the lightweight title up for grabs against Frankie Edgar at UFC 136, life has seemed awfully quiet for budding lightweight Gray Maynard.

    Maynard scored a split-decision win over Clay Guida in a lackluster showdown at UFC on FX 4, a win that only raised his stock marginally in the division.

    However, Maynard's win over Guida got "The Bully" back on track and marked his first since defeating Kenny Florian at UFC 118.

    If Maynard can outshine surging lightweight T.J. Grant at UFC 160, then The Bully will tangle for the 155-pound title for the third time.

T.J. Grant

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    Most would have considered Grant a gross mismatch against Maynard after the Canadian dropped three of five fights in the UFC between 2009 and 2010.

    But a move from welterweight to lightweight has made a significant difference for Grant, and the 29-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt has prevailed in four straight tilts since.

    At UFC 152, Grant earned "Fight of the Night" honors for his unanimous decision win over the favored Evan Dunham.

    Roughly four months later, Grant set up the biggest bout of his career by pummeling a game Matt Wiman at UFC on Fox 6.

    Grant can amazingly make the leap from being on the verge of expulsion to punching his first ticket to a UFC title bout if he can trump the favored Maynard at UFC 160.