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ANAHEIM, Nov. 12 - It’s almost impossible to out-Guida Clay Guida, but Benson Henderson somehow managed to beat the hyper-energetic grinder at his game over the course of 15 minutes in the UFC on FOX co-main event Saturday night. The reward for Henderson’s unanimous decision triumph is immense, and the Arizonan made that abundantly clear afterward when he declared to the crowd at Honda Center: “Frankie Edgar, we got a date. Let’s do it, baby.” Watch post-fight interview with Benson Henderson
While Henderson’s stingy takedown defense was key – the newly crowned No. 1 contender is a former collegiate wrestler, after all – his most amazing saving grace came in the waning 60 seconds of the all-out, back-and-forth scrap. Guida sunk in a deep guillotine choke. Everybody in the arena watched the struggle with bated breath. Would Henderson tap? Or would he go unconscious?
But once again, as he did against Donald Cerrone in their epic first fight, “Smooth” Henderson displayed an almost supernatural resilience to chokes. Trapped in a narrowing vise grip around his carotid arteries, Henderson is somehow able to breathe and move when no one else could. Guida squeezed with everything in that final minute and Henderson always somehow managed to change the angle on the choke ever so slightly, allowing him to breathe and eventually wiggle free. The Houdini-esque escape proved the dagger for Guida, whose gutsy performance could not overcome having Henderson take his back in both the first and third rounds and arguably get the better of their standup exchanges, as reflected in judges scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
“He’s hard to deal with, has a high energy, awkward pace,” said Henderson, the former World Extreme Cagefighting champion who is now 15-2 and boasts back-to-back wins over Jim Miller and Guida.
Guida had won four straight entering the bout, largely on the strength of his smothering and overpowering takedowns and ground assault. He was clearly the crowd favorite, with fans chanting “Guida! Guida! Guida!” for portions of the bout, especially early on, when he and Henderson elected to stand and trade toe-to-toe. But where other foes could not stop Guida’s explosive takedowns, Henderson was able to. Never was that more evident than in the third round, when Guida shot a double leg like a raging bull and ran Henderson clear across the cage – only to still be denied the takedown. Watch post-fight interview with Clay Guida
GARZA VS. POIRIER
Quietly but undeniably, Dustin Poirier is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the UFC featherweight division. The 22-year-old Louisianan notched his fourth straight win with a second-round D’Arce submission victory over 14-2 Pablo Garza. Showcasing his trademark intensity, Poirier pushed his lanky 6’1” foe around for much of the fight (throwing Garza to the canvas no less than four different times) and methodically beat him up with punches before finishing matters with a D’Arce choke from half-guard top position. Watch post-fight interview
“I’m a purple belt, I train with Tim Cradeur,” Poirier (11-1) said immediately afterward to Joe Rogan. “A lot of you guys haven’t seen my ground skills because I like to tuck my chin and bang. I feel amazing. I came here the best I’ve ever been.”
LAMAS VS. SWANSON
But with all his might, Swanson could not choke Lamas unconscious. And though the Greg Jackson protégé appeared to handily win round one, Lamas’ second life would come back to haunt Swanson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who one round later found himself the victim of a role reversal: Lamas trapped Swanson in an arm triangle. With no room to wiggle or breathe, Swanson tapped out at 2:16 of the round.
“I wasn’t tapping, man, he was going to have to put me out,” an emotional Lamas (11-2) offered afterward. “My grandmom passed away a week to go today. I just want to dedicate this fight to her. Te quiero mucho.”
Asked about Swanson’s choke, Lamas had this to say: “It was very tight, man. I couldn’t breathe. Thank God he let go because I couldn’t hold out much longer.”
JOHNSON VS. HARVISON
The up-and-down UFC career of DaMarques Johnson is “up” again after he swiftly annihilated Clay Harvison with a vicious two-punch sequence just 94 seconds into the fight. The TKO victory pushed the Utah native’s record to 18-9. The devastation was set in motion by a potent left hook that dropped Harvison; a booming right hand from The Ultimate Fighter season 9 finalist sealed the deal. Watch post-fight interview
YAMAMOTO VS. UYENOYAMA
In his heyday, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto wielded an aura of intimidation and awed fans and foes alike with his explosive knockout skills. But whatever remained of the Japanese superstar’s fearsome ways likely vanished in the Octagon on Saturday when the Tokyo legend was thoroughly outclassed by world-class grappler Darren “BC” Uyenoyama. While Yamamoto did drop Uyenoyama with a stiff straight left, and busted Uyenoyama’s nose and cut him over the eye (and executed a textbook judo throw), most everything else of consequence that unfolded featured the San Franciscan either hanging from Yamamoto’s back or peppering him with punches. Watch post-fight interview
Uyenoyama likely came within seconds of finishing the fight in the first round, sinking in a deep rear naked choke as the final seconds waned. An oxygen-challenged Yamamoto faintly motioned his arm several times, but it seemed inconclusive as to whether it constituted an official tap and so the bout carried on.
Judges scored it 30-27, 30-26, 30-27 for Uyenoyama, who improved to 7-3. Yamamoto (18-5, 1 NC) has now lost four of his past five fights, which is sure to deepen speculation that his best years have come and gone.
“I wouldn’t have imagined being here 10 years ago,” Uyenoyama, a highly-decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, told Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview. “Without the sport of jiu-jitsu I would have never made it.”
Asked whether Yamamoto had, in fact, tapped, Uyenoyama said, “I thought he might have. You know, I don’t know.”
SEMERZIER VS. PERALTA
A competitive contest took a sudden turn when an incidental but violent clash of heads sent Mackens Semerzier crashing to the canvas early in the third round, prompting Robbie Peralta to unleash a hail of punches for a referee stoppage at 1:54 of round three. Semerzier had caught a Peralta kick in the first round and floored him with a right to the chin. But Peralta stunned Semerzier a round later and then again in the third. Watch post-fight interview
Now 16-3, Peralta departed the cage with a large hematoma forming on the side of his head, courtesy of the collision of heads.
ESCOVEDO VS. CACERES
An unpredictable array of kicks, spinning backfists and strikes propelled Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres to his first UFC win, a unanimous decision over former World Extreme Cagefighting champ Cole Escovedo (17-9). Despite Caceres’ 5-4 record entering the bout, the contest was decidedly one-sided throughout. Escovedo, a submission specialist, was finally able to take Caceres down in the third round, but it was Caceres who threatened with triangle choke/armbar and omaplata variations, cementing the triumph for the Miami, Fla., southpaw. Watch post-fight interview
PIERCE VS. BRADLEY
When two talented wrestlers collide – a boxing match usually breaks out. That is precisely what happened in this rematch between aggressive welterweights, with former University of Iowa wrestler Bradley gunning for revenge for a 2009 loss. The 28-year-old Bradley was effective with kicks early and popped Pierce with some hard shots in the first round, drawing blood under Pierce’s eye and causing swelling. Pierce responded in the next round, scoring with the heavier punches and snapping Bradley’s head back with hooks and jabs. The third round was very close, but the judges awarded Pierce a split decision by scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 28-29. The Oregon fighter improved to 13-4. Bradley is now 18-4, 1NC. Watch post-fight interview
LUCAS VS. ROSA
Fatigue didn’t make a coward of 37-year-old Matt Lucas, but it certainly stifled the light heavyweight’s UFC debut against Aaron Rosa. The latter notched his first win inside of the Octagon with a rather ho-hum, difficult-to-watch victory over Lucas, a former collegiate wrestler who for the most part unsuccessfully tried to make a wrestling match out of their 15 minutes in the cage. Lucas, who had prevailed in five straight headed into the contest, was winded midway through and suffered a point deduction for what referee John McCarthy deemed an intentional spitting out of his mouthpiece. With their fighter slowing down, Lucas’ cornermen repeatedly encouraged him to attack more, yelling “Come on Matt, punch him back!” and “Please Matt, let’s go, start fighting!” Watch post-fight interview
A slimmed down Rosa, who lost his UFC debut to Joey Beltran at heavyweight, seemed content to coast throughout with light punches and a modest Muay Thai attack. He improved to 17-4; Lucas fell to 14-3.