The Fight Horizon – Benson Henderson vs. T.J. Grant
Headlining a stacked UFC 164 card in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is lightweight champion Benson Henderson and booming challenger T.J. Grant. Grant defeated Gray Maynard in a title eliminator in emphatic fashion, coming back from a brief daze to finish Maynard with strikes in just over two minutes. That punched his ticket for a date in the Octagon with Henderson, who will be looking to make his fourth consecutive title defense.
T.J. Grant (21-5 overall, 8-3 in the UFC)
Strengths: Jiu-jitsu, very tough
Benson Henderon (19-2 overall, 7-0 in the UFC)
Strengths: Extremely well-rounded, excels in all areas
Weaknesses: Far and few between, hard time finishing fights (nitpicking)
The Date: August 31, 2013 at UFC 164 (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Weight Class: Lightweight
What led to it: T.J. Grant’s stunning destruction of Gray Maynard. Not many were expecting Grant to come out victorious, and probably no one thought Grant would be able to finish Maynard in such violent fashion. Josh Thomson was apparently skipped over for now and Anthony Pettis is set to meet Jose Aldo, which leaves Grant as the next challenger.
Why it matters: T.J. Grant is not ready to take on Benson Henderson right now. Flame me all you want. I’m a fan of Grant and I think he earned a big reward with his performance against Maynard. I’m just not sure if that reward should be an immediate title shot. Your casual MMA fan probably didn’t know who T.J. Grant was before he shellacked Gray Maynard. Your casual MMA fan probably still doesn’t know who he is. When Dana White stated the winner of Grant vs. Maynard would be the next to challenge Benson Henderson, most people just assumed it was going to be Gray Maynard. Grant pulled off a stunner in very impressive fashion, coming back from being dazed to putting Maynard’s lights out. But Benson Henderson is a whole ‘nother story.
A lot of people are probably wondering why Josh Thomson, whose finish of never-been-finished-before Nate Diaz stole the show at UFC on Fox 7, didn’t get the nod for the next title shot. After all, Diaz was just coming off of a title fight loss himself. Thomson did what Henderson couldn’t do in five rounds. Thomson’s finish was arguably more impressive than Grant’s, and Nate Diaz’s status before he lost to Thomson was arguably higher than Maynard’s before he lost to Grant. Add in Thomson holding his own in his last fight against Gilbert Melendez, a fighter who gave Henderson all he could handle, and you have to wonder about this one.
Grant is an elite fighter. He just proved that. Could he beat Benson Henderson? Absolutely, anything is possible. Will he beat him? Most likely not. Henderson has fought the likes of Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz and Gil Melendez and now his next opponent is…T.J. Grant? Hardcore MMA fans know who he is, but most people would say “who?”. It’s somewhat of a difficult fight to sell. Grant probably needs one more fight against another contender, if even just to build up his name and get some more recognition. Look at what Johny Hendricks had to do to get a shot at GSP, he had to knock out top fighters left and right and defeat a former title contender to finally line up a title fight. Grant is a worthy contender, but not as worthy as Josh Thomson. Chances like this don’t come around very often, true, and it’s tough (and sometimes crazy) to turn down a shot at the title. But Grant may be better served by putting off a title fight for now.