Many MMA observers were surprised that Sunday’s lightweight clash between Ben Henderson and Jim Miller did not receive main event honors for UFC on Versus 5.
Instead, that headline goes to Dan Hardy and Chris Lytle when the UFC invades the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Yet, the Henderson-Miller clash has many predicting nothing but explosions from the two fighters that are trying to lockdown a shot at the UFC light heavyweight gold.
Henderson (13-2) has held championship glory before, as he was a World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder before falling to Anthony Pettis. Now, he hopes to add Miller’s name to his growing resume.
“Jim Miller is definitely the toughest guy (I’ve faced so far). He’s a wrestler, so I know he’ll bring that wrestling mentality to grind out and do whatever it takes to get (his) hand raised,” Henderson said during a recent UFC media teleconference. “I’m definitely expecting the toughest fight of my career. I’m expecting to go 15 minutes, hard, at an insane pace.”
“Smooth” rebounded from the Pettis loss, which snapped a 10-fight win streak, to defeat Mark Bocek by unanimous decision at UFC 129. Included in his string of victories was a pair of triumphs over Donald Cerrone and seven submission wins.
But Henderson knows all that past glory will be of no help to him when he meets Miller.
“Every fight is a pretty big, career-building fight. Whether you’re No. 19 out of 20 or No. 2 out of 20, if you lose a fight, then you’ve got to start over,” Henderson said. “I view all of my fights that way. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed in that my career has gone how you would script a career.
“Every fight has been bigger, with more stuff on the line. I did have a setback a couple of fights ago, but now I’m back on the winning track where every opponent is tougher than the last guy.”
Henderson, who trains with MMA Lab and is a former NAIA Div. II All-American wrestler, feels like fans are starting to warm up to the WEC fighters.
“It’s probably just the fan recognition (that is different about fighting in the UFC compared to the WEC),” Henderson said. “We tried our best to educate the fans, but a lot of fans didn’t really know about the WEC. (It’s nice) not always having to sit there and give a 20 minute explanation about the WEC and its relation to the UFC. I’m really happy I don’t have to do that anymore. The UFC has the toughest 155-pounders in the world, and I’m just excited to be here and showcase some of the stuff I bring to the table.”
Miller (20-2) carries a seven-fight win streak into action – the third-longest active streak in the UFC. Many believe he is next in line for a shot at current champion Frankie Edgar, should Edgar defeat Gray Maynard when they collide later this year.
“I think he’s going to bring a unique grappling style if the fight does go to the ground, (but) I’ll be ready for it. To be honest, I think our styles are pretty similar,” Henderson said. “We’re both former collegiate wrestlers who got into MMA afterward, so we’re both pretty wrestling-based on the ground, and our transitions to jiu-jitsu have followed similar paths. We do a lot of the same stuff, so I think it will be something I’m ready for.”
Henderson isn’t thinking about where a win will put him in terms of the pecking order. Instead, he is just focusing in on Miller.
“To be honest, I have no idea about (whether I will get a title shot). My coaches and manager do more thinking about that,” Henderson admitted. “I don’t really care. If you’re on the right track – if you’re getting your hand raised – that’s the only think that matter. Eventually, you’ll get the title.”
UFC on Versus 5 takes place this Sunday, August 14 from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Don’t forget to check back on Sunday for FightLine.com’s live coverage of the event.