We’re in the middle of a mammoth fortnight for the UFC. Last week began the build up to last Saturday night’s UFC on Fox 10 and this week, we get ready for next Saturday’s UFC 169 in New Jersey.
The first big show of the year saw Benson Henderson take on Josh Thomson. Josh had been given a Lightweight title shot against Anthony Pettis, though when Pettis got injured, Josh decided to take another fight rather than wait. Pettis, who beat Benson for the title last August, could still be out until the latter part of this year.
If Thomson won on Saturday, it would have reaffirmed his position as number one contender for the title, whereas if Benson won, it would be unlikely he would get another shot at Pettis, having lost to him twice already.
Benson Henderson is a big star in the UFC, though his fighting style is seen by many as being "safe". He doesn't go for big finishes, but rather looks to control the fight with his leg kicks and takedowns. Those of you who are familiar with Benson know that he has had some close wars of late and some extremely controversial judging decisions in his favour. Three times in his last five fights, the decision could have gone the other way, and twice the wider public and media thought he should have lost. Pettis eventually beat him by first round submission, leaving no room for doubt.
UFC president, Dana White, often tells fighters to "not leave it in the hands of the judges". He must mean, "… Unless you're Benson Henderson", because unfortunately on Saturday night, it happened again!
What made this occasion even more unfortunate was that Josh Thomson broke his hand in the very first round. He fought the remainder of the fight with one hand, exercising that warrior spirit that many UFC fighters seem to possess in spades and that UFC fans love more than anything. With one hand he fought, with one hand he beat the former UFC Lightweight Champion; or so we thought!
By yet another split decision, Benson Henderson was awarded the victory. The deciding judge scored the fight four rounds to one, which made it even more difficult to understand. Benson certainly had landed more strikes but he had been controlled on the ground and in the clinch. Boxing judges had yet again scored the fight as a boxing match and not an MMA fight.
On the undercard, a previously undefeated Sergio Pettis (Anthony's 20-year-old younger brother) succumbed to a third round submission by Alex Caceres. The undoubtedly talented Sergio, is now in danger of being seen by many as just Anthony's younger brother, rather than as his own man and fighter.
Stipe Miocic and Donald Cerrone also earned important wins.
On we move then, to this week. Next Saturday we have the first UFC pay-per-view event of the year, UFC 169. Every year the UFC looks to hold a big event on Superbowl weekend in the same city as the Superbowl itself to capitalise on the occasion, and this year is no different. The interesting thing going into next weekend however is that there is serious concern over the weather on Sunday in New Jersey, which could provoke the NFL moving the Superbowl to the Saturday instead. This would of course collide with UFC 169. The UFC have stated that, in this unlikely situation, they would move the UFC event to Sunday. One can only imagine the work going on behind the scenes with the venue and television providers to ensure all bases are covered.
UFC 169 features two title fights. It should have seen the return of Dominic Cruz after being absent as Bantamweight Champion for two years due to injury. He was due to defend his belt against Imterim Champ, Renan Barao. Due to further injury Cruz has had to pull out and his old foe Urijah Faber has taken his place in the bout. The winner will be official UFC Bantamweight Champion as the division looks to move on following the Cruz hiatus. In the co main event, Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo looks to defend his belt against Ricardo Lamas.
It's another stacked fight card. Tune in…. Drama is bound to unfold!