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The Juggernaut MMA News Report 01.23.14: UFC on Fox - Henderson vs. Thomson Preview
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 01.23.2014









UFC Returns to Fox - Bendo vs. The Punk


Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson

While Josh Thomson was originally going to challenge lightweight champion Anthony Pettis last month, this is a great consolation prize for fans. Presumably, the winner between Benson Henderson and Thomson will meet Pettis later this year once he's healthy and back from a knee injury.

Beyond the fact that any fight involving "The Punk" is must-see, this bout marks the return of Henderson after his championship reign ended at the hands of Pettis last summer.

Meanwhile, Thomson is riding high following the second most impressive lightweight performance in the UFC last year, when he finished Nate Diaz in the spring with a textbook head kick. It marked his long-awaited return to the UFC and he settled any doubters quick. Now, the 35-year-old is another upset away from scoring a title fight in the octagon (again).

In the background, this match-up is made more intriguing considering these two men were at one time atop separate promotions, outside the UFC: Bendo in WEC and Thomson in Strikeforce. At the time, there was plenty of debate as to how they and the UFC 155ers (B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, etc.) would stack up against each other and little did we know that over the past three-plus years, we have been fortunate enough to find out with our own eyes.

"The Punk" is durable (he has not seen serious injury since 2011), although for whatever reason, he has gone public in saying he feels overtrained heading into the weekend. He has only been finished once, by Yves Edwards nearly a decade ago. He's been engaged in some of the most classic fights in MMA history with his series against Gilbert Melendez (hopefully they can have a fourth meeting in the UFC before it's too late).

As for Henderson, he too has proven to be exceptionally durable. Beyond his health, never experiencing a long layoff due to injury since his WEC days, two of his three career losses have come by submission. True, Pettis caught him in a beautiful armbar in the first round of their rematch last year, but fighters do not enter the cage and boss him around.

This is scheduled for five rounds and it should easily head into the fourth round or later and consisting of mostly striking, it's a toss-up. On the ground, between Thomson's wrestling and Henderson's wrestling, you cannot pick one over the other to be able to utilize that game to dominate the fight.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Stipe Miocic

Can the resurgence of Gabriel Gonzaga continue? We'll find out Saturday night on Fox as he goes up against Stipe Miocic.

Gonzaga is 4-1 since returning to the UFC in 2012 and all of those fights have ended relatively quickly (the longest lasted a minute into the second round). While he was knocked out by Travis Browne's elbows last spring, he returned over the summer to knock out Dave Herman and then Shawn Jordan in October. Everyone knows full well what kind of submission game the 34-year-old boasts, so he's a significant threat no matter where the fight is taking place.

Turn to Miocic and the 31-year-old is coming off the biggest win of his career after beating Roy Nelson last June by decision. While he's a former collegiate wrestler, he has also displayed technically sound striking and plenty of power in his career (eight of his 10 wins have occurred due to strikes).

Will Stipe look to take the fight to the ground and wear out the Brazilian? Too risky? Standing, protect the chin and grind out a win with bodywork, making sure to avoid Gonzaga's power.

A win for Gonzaga should bring him a top 10 foe in his next go around as he looks to earn his second career shot at the UFC championship. Can he pull the trigger or will Miocic build on the most success he's seen in the sport to date?


Donald Cerrone vs. Adriano Martins

So "Cowboy" Cerrone has decided to stick at lightweight (as opposed to dropping down to 145-pounds) and he's set to meet dangerous Brazilian fighter Adriano Martins.

Cerrone choked out Evan Dunham in November and will seek his first winning streak in nearly two years. If he should drop this fight, look for the talk about featherweight to heat up again.

While, we normally look at him as an offensive attacker with his grappling, he's probably giving up plenty of experience and skills to Martins. The 31-year-old Brazilian is on a six-fight win streak including is UFC debut in November when he finished Daron Cruickshank with an armbar. Prior to that fight in Brazil, he made his U.S. debut in Strikeforce by outlasting Jorge Gurgel in a three-round unanimous decision.

Adriano has only been finished once in his 31-fight career, back in 2008 when Ronys Torres finished him with strikes.

Darren Elkins vs. Jeremy Stephens

It's about time Jeremy Stephens gets the opportunity to fight on Fox and primetime network television for the first time in his long career. The last time he was on a UFC on Fox card, he ended up being knocked out in under two minutes on the FX portion of the show. But, since then, he has reeled off a pair of wins including a highlight reel head kick KO of Rony Jason in November (it took just 40-seconds).

Beyond the platform, this is a huge fight for Stephens because his opponent is considered among the top featherweights in the world: Darren Elkins.

Elkins, the Indiana-native, is fresh off a big win over Hatsu Hioki last summer. Since he moved to featherweight, his only loss came against Chad Mendes and besides that, he has won six fights.

Stephens is famous for his aggressive style of striking, lending itself towards brawls and normally not slower paced technical grappling battles. Perhaps that is where more intrigue fills the picture because since coming to the UFC in 2010, the vast majority (five) of his total wins (seven) have come by decision. Meanwhile, Elkins' three career losses (two TKOs and a submission) came about in a combined two-minutes and two-seconds.






JUGGERNAUT NEWS BRIEFS


- When they fought in November 2011, what resulted was a instant classic that is still regarded as arguably the greatest MMA fight of all-time. Now, Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua have verbally agreed to step back in the octagon to square off again. According to MMAWeekly.com, the pair expect to compete in the main event of a Fight Night special on March 23 in Brazil. For those wondering, their first fight at UFC 139 happened in San Jose.

- Plenty of updates to last week's Bellator season 10 story as the group confirmed a series of big fights, including the season opener.

February 28 - The final Friday of the month is the opener with the light heavyweight tournament in Uncasville, Connecticut, featuring Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. former champion Christian M'Pumbu and "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal vs. Mikhail Zayats.

March 21 - The light heavyweight championship will be on the line as interim champ Emanuel Newton fights champ Attila Vegh.

April 18 - The vacant welterweight title will be decided as Douglas Lima meets Rick Hawn.

Plus, we know there will be weekly shows airing on Spike TV from 2/28 through 4/18 with further dates likely to be announced in the coming weeks.

- Chris Leben officially announced his retirement from active MMA competition. Now, it appears he will turn his attention towards coaching and training others at Victory MMA and Fitness in San Diego. Infamous for his outbursts on the original season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2005 (urinating on another fighter's bed, arguing with Mike Swick about knocking him out in WEC, drunk rampages, arguments with Josh Koscheck and Bobby Southworth), he became a fan favorite through a UFC career that lasted for over eight years. Battling demons as a professional athlete just as he did in his personal life, he was suspended on two different occasions for anabolic steroid use and unapproved painkillers.

He retires with a pro record of 22-11, and while his most famous fight may be his loss to Anderson Silva (in Silva's UFC debut), his biggest wins came via knockout of Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132 and triangle choke over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116.

- In a bit of a weird story, TheMMAReport.com broke the story that the NBC Sports Network initiated talks with Bellator MMA to broadcast their preliminary fights in the upcoming 10th season and beyond. While the NBC property was willing to pay a rights fee for the content, the two sides could not reach a deal and negotiations appear to be dead for now.

This is hardly a positive sign for the World Series of Fighting who have had declining viewership numbers for their shows on the NBC Sports Network. Plus, according to Jason Floyd at TMR, the deal between WSOF and NBCSN is one where the promotion pays for the air time.

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