Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Daily News
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 | 11:50 p.m.
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The widest grin after UFC on FOX 1 belonged to the man who just found out he would fight for a championship belt, not the man who just won one.
After Ben Henderson defeated Clay Guida via unanimous decision at the Honda Center, UFC President Dana White officially announced Henderson was the next challenger for lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Henderson reacted with excitement that only Junior dos Santos, who beat Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight title in the evening’s main event, could relate to.
“With Frankie, I think I match up very well,” Henderson said. “I think if I stick to the game plan, I’ll do a little bit better. I’m very excited for that. Frankie and I are going to put on a great show.”
Henderson will tentatively meet Edgar, who is coming off of a comeback TKO victory over Gray Maynard at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan, on Feb. 26, 2012.
White already had trouble containing his anticipation for the lightweight title scrap.
“They’re both exciting fighters,” White said. “Frankie Edgar, after his last fight, I was texting him for four days like a groupie, man. I was so blown away by his performance and every time (Henderson) fights, it’s exciting.”
Guida and Henderson each earned a $65,000 bonus for putting on the Fight of the Night at UFC on FOX 1.
From the opening moments of the fight, when Henderson dropped Guida in a striking exchange and “The Carpenter” answered by driving his opponent into the fence, back-and-forth action that fans love was on display.
White was on the televised pre-show at the time, but kept turning around in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the bout because of the roar. Henderson said he fed off of the energy. Guida noticed it, too.
“The reason I fight is to put smiles on people’s faces and get people cheering,” Guida said. “I feel my fans with every punch I throw. Every time I get punched in the face, I feel my fans.”
Both fighters sent their opponent to the floor at least once with their striking. They also took turns working on submission attempts in the second and third rounds.
Henderson and Guida each scored takedowns as well. Although it was close, Henderson did enough to win eight out of a possible nine rounds on the three judges’ scorecards.
“I hate decisions, can’t stand decisions,” Henderson said. “But it is what it is. Next time, I will definitely look to finish.”
It’s going to be a daunting task against the champion. In 15 professional fights, Edgar has never lost via stoppage.
He survived first-round onslaughts from Maynard in each of his last two bouts. But Henderson, a former WEC lightweight champion, promised he would come in at his best against Edgar.
“I can do a lot better than that,” Henderson said. “You guys haven’t seen nothing yet.”
Henderson is somewhat of an unlikely challenger for Edgar when reflecting back on the 155-pound division landscape from the beginning of the year. Henderson joined the UFC after dropping his final WEC appearance less than a year ago.
But he’s won three straight since and looked impressive in the process. Henderson dominated potential No. 1 contender Jim Miller at UFC on Versus 5.
A couple of other fighters close to vying for the title, Anthony Pettis Melvin Guillard, also suffered upset defeats to give Henderson the opportunity. Now that he’s got the title fight, no one wants to miss it.
“He deserves that shot in Japan,” Guida said. “I’ll be sitting there, watching close.”