In the headliner, former lightweight champion Benson Henderson remains at 170 pounds to face Jorge Masvidal, a replacement for injured American Top Team stablemate Thiago Alves. Meanwhile, Dong Hyun Kim meets Dominic Waters in the co-feature, and Yoshihiro Akiyama returns to the cage for the first time in more than a year, as he collides with the unbeaten Alberto Mina. Rounding out the main card, Doo Ho Choi takes on Sam Sicilia in a fight that promises fireworks at 145 pounds.
Let us take an in-depth look at each UFC Fight Night “Henderson vs. Masvidal” matchup:
WelterweightsBenson Henderson (22-5) vs Jorge Masvidal (29-9)
THE MATCHUP: Henderson earned back much of the good will lost during his lukewarm lightweight title reign by dismantling uber-prospect and massive welterweight Brandon Thatch at UFC Fight Night 60 in February. His next welterweight venture offers a very different challenge, however. Masvidal, himself a former lightweight, is miniscule in comparison to Thatch but possesses none of his inexperience, having fought professionally for over 12 years against an incredible lineup of elite warriors and battle-hardened journeymen. Where Thatch was a dynamo out of the gate, Masvidal is a notoriously slow starter who grows stronger as the fight progresses.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this matchup is the wrestling. Henderson’s eclectic and aggressive grappling has long been an ace up his sleeve, but Masvidal is an excellent wrestler, both defensively and offensively. Henderson will almost certainly have trouble getting Masivdal down, and keeping him down has proven extremely difficult. Often against savvy defensive wrestlers, the cage is Henderson’s best friend, but Masvidal is a strong clinch fighter himself, with excellent instincts for landing short strikes in transition, such as the hook with which he knocked out Cezar Ferreira in his last bout.
As such, most of this fight will likely play out on the feet and at long range. Masvidal would appear to have the edge in that kind of fight, with a four-inch reach advantage and the straight punches to make use of it. Henderson is not to be counted out in a kickboxing match, though. He was remarkably competitive on the feet with Anthony Pettis back at WEC 53 and has made some marked improvements in the boxing department in recent years, to the point that he seemed to outstrike Donald Cerrone before losing a controversial decision.
Henderson’s secret weapon is his rhythm. “Smooth” is true to his name, bouncing around on his toes at range and getting his opponent to fall into his tempo, only to suddenly break rhythm and lunge forward with a heavy strike. It would be a fallacy to say Henderson’s offense is anywhere near as “technical” as Masvidal’s, but his eclectic mixture of lead-hand uppercuts, leaping body shots and thudding kicks demands the respect of every opponent. Masvidal has excellent timing, but whether or not he will be able to keep up with Henderson’s unpredictable movements remains to be seen. In addition, Masvidal’s defense is very rudimentary, suggesting that Henderson will be able to get through early and often if he chooses to press the action.
THE ODDS: Henderson (-255), Masvidal (+215)
THE PICK: Ultimately, the deciding factor of this fight would appear to be either fighter’s ability to win rounds. Henderson has long been renowned -- and sometimes reviled -- for his cleverness in controlling the scorecards, both by “no-selling” his opponent’s strikes and intelligently playing up his own. Masvidal, on the other hand, relies a little more on big, emphatic moments to steal rounds from his opponents while unfortunately being prone to eye-catching knockdowns himself. For that reason, the pick is Henderson by unanimous decision.
Next Fight » Dong Hyun Kim vs. Dominic Waters