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Uncaged: Chi-Town showdown for Henderson and Thomson

Relax, UFC fans. The big fights are back this weekend.

Image: Jeff Chiu/AP/Press Association Images

IT FEELS LIKE it has been a long time since there has been some serious UFC action to bite our teeth into but this weekend a lightweight top contender bout begins a run of 4 events in 4 weeks.

Josh Thomson was originally due to face Anthony Pettis for the lightweight title but an injury to the champ meant he gets to face the next best thing, the former champion Ben Henderson.

Gabriel Gonzaga is gunning for a hat trick of first round KO’s when he faces Stipe Miocic in the heavyweight division while Darren Elkins faces Jeremy Stephens who has been rejuvenated since his drop to featherweight.

The enigmatic Donald Cerrone will look to get some momentum on the go in the lightweight division as he looks to build on his last win over Evan Dunham as he faces the dangerous Brazilian Adriano Martins.

Henderson looking “Smooth” route back to the championship belt

The first time Ben Henderson lost to Anthony Pettis, when “that kick” practically decided the fight back at WEC 53, he went onto record a 7 fight win streak that eventually led him to his nemesis once more.

Pettis prevailed again, this time at UFC 164 and now Henderson is forced to start his road to redemption against the former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson in Chicago this Saturday.

The manner of “Smooth’s” last defeat against Pettis was surprising as his submission defence was among the best in the UFC but you get the feeling that this has made Henderson even more determined to get back to the top of the lightweight division.

His placid and amiable personality outside the Octagon certainly isn’t reflected by his demeanour in the cage as he is among the most athletic and hardworking fighters in the UFC. He relies heavily on his wrestling but that doesn’t make him deficient in his striking.

Josh Thompson impressed last time out and certainly made a statement in his return to the UFC when he became the first person to stop Nate Diaz via strikes. He relied heavily on his kicks in that fight and his success in that area could see him employ that game-plan again in this fight.

The fact that Pettis softened Henderson up with kicks in their fight may lead Thomson to go down this route but the notoriously cerebral Henderson will have no doubt worked on a suitable defence should Thomson lead with kicks.

With their stand-up games very well matched the fact that Henderson is such a strong wrestler with cardio to burn means that if he can avoid any really big shots then he should be able to irk out another decision victory and set up a potentially mouth-watering third fight with Pettis.

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YouTube credit: Joshua Palmer

“Cowboy” Cerrone looking to put a run together

Donald Cerrone has long since been one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC. His 3 career “Fight of the Night” bonuses, 2 “Knockout of the Night” awards and 2 “Submission of the Night” cheques are testament to his well-rounded and explosive fighting style.

But recently he just can’t seem to get any momentum going, sandwiching impressive wins over Melvin Guillard, K.J. Noons and Evan Dunham with disappointing defeats at the hands of Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos.

Cerrone sways between the look of a world-beater to someone who looks like they don’t really want to be there which makes his fights really hard to call. Of course if Cerrone is on it, he is strong favourite to overcome the BJJ specialist Adriano Martins who has just come onto the UFC scene.

But if his mind is not fully focused on the fight, Martins could make him suffer with his slick submission game that was on show when he submitted Daron Cruickshank in his UFC debut. If Cerrone scores some early success on the feet that could spark him into life and the Brazilian won’t be able to handle “Cowboy’s” wicked and varied arsenal.

YouTube credit: don logan

Best of the rest

Gabriel Gonzaga’s last 3 fights have lasted a combined total of 3minutes 1second so his heavyweight matchup against Stipe Miocic could be a blink-and-you-will-miss-it type affair. After being savagely KO’d by Travis Browne, Gonzaga bounced back with first round stoppages over Dave Herman and Shawn Jordan.

Stipe Miocic seemed to be heading to the top of the heavyweight adder before being felled by Stefan Struve but a hard fought win over Roy Nelson last time out has put him back on track.

Both men possess lethal KO power in their hands but Gonzaga is the more versatile of the two and will have the edge if the fight makes it to the ground. He will have to avoid Miocic’s heavy hands and strong kicks however and that is by no means a certainty.

Despite Gonzaga’s recent good form, Miocic has shown that he can go the distance if needed and with his superior reach, should be shrewd enough to not get in too close and outpoint the Brazilian on his way to another important victory.

In the featherweight division, Darren Elkin’s durability was key is his recent victory over Hatsu Hioki but this might be tested to the limit when he faces Jeremy Stephens. “Lil’ Heathen” has won 2 in a row since his drop to featherweight and his size and one-punch KO power make him favourite for the win here.

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About the author:

Brian Kirk

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