Clay Guida and Ben Henderson did not disappoint as the co-main event at UFC on Fox 1. (Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Contributor)
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Clay Guida won the people's endorsement as the next contender to the UFC lightweight title. But it's Ben Henderson that's fighting champ Frankie Edgar.
In the greatest fight that too few saw, Henderson kept a surging Guida at bay to win a unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC on Fox.
The scores were 29-28 and 30-27 twice, and while the decision was met with a hearty round of boos from the crowd at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., the fight's end was met with an unconditional roar of approval.
Nothing less would be appropriate for the roller-coaster that was the 15-minute fight, which threatened to suck the air out of the room in advance of the main-event tilt between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
It took all of a minute before Guida put his fist in Henderson's face and the two were swinging for the fences. Guida came out behind in that race, as he often does when he throws caution to the wind. Henderson landed the superior blow, extended his arm, and stopped the inevitable shot. Then he pressed Guida into the fence as if to say, "slow down."
But the crowd was moving Guida speed. They cheered and laughed when he attempted, somehow, to meld a spinning backfist with a knee and wound up cart wheeling across the cage. They screamed when he misdirected Henderson with a flying knee and followed up with a short punch that rocked the former WEC champ. And they went gaga when he escaped bad position after bad position and nearly finished the fight with a guillotine in the third frame.
Still, in key battlegrounds, the long and lean Henderson was just a little better. In the clinch, he tenderized Guida's midsection with knees. On the mat, he kept his proverbial arm outstretched and threatened to submit Guida on several occasions. But the scowl on his face did not indicate a man who was enjoying his lead in points.
"I'm happy but I know that I can do a lot better than that," Henderson said afterward. "30-27 was great but I always work to finish and I made a few mistakes that didn't allow me to do that."
Guida's last hope came after a midair collision in the third that he followed by grabbing a guillotine choke. Henderson escaped, and the outcome wasn't much in doubt.
Henderson is likely to meet Edgar at the yet-unannounced UFC 144, which takes place Feb. 26 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Guida leaves with ringing ears from his hearty reception and an extra $65,000 that both he and Henderson took home for "Fight of the Night."
Moving forward, executives say two or three fights will air live as part of UFC on FOX events. That will prevent scenarios such as the one tonight, where a main-event worthy fight received a considerably dimmer spotlight on Facebook and FOX.com.
In other preliminary action, Dustin Poirer made it three wins in a row with a second-round submission over Pablo Garza. The rangy Garza wasn't much in the mood to trade punches with the powerful 22-year-old featherweight. The mat seemed like a better idea, until it wasn't. An attempt from Garza to push himself upright handed Poirer an easy transition to a D'Arce choke, with which he finished quick at 1:32 of the second.
Featherweights Cub Swanson and Ricardo Lamas' display of combat gymnastics energized a crowd lulled by the card's early decision outcomes. It was Lamas that had the ability to take the fight to the mat, and when Swanson's lunging punches worried him, he did so. It nearly got him choked out in the first when Swanson retorted with a tight guillotine, but it aided him in the next frame when he used another attempt to maneuver for an arm triangle. The game Swanson had nowhere to go and tapped at 2:16 of the second. Lamas got $65,000 for "Submission of the Night."
Welterweight DaMarques Johnson made short work of Clay Harvison with a left shovel punch, some celebration, then a few follow-up shots for a stoppage at 1:34 of the first frame. Nice rebound for the veteran of "The Ultimate Fighter 9."
-- Steven Marrocco