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[EXCLUSIVE] Clay Guida: The Talent of Hard Work

Clay Guida UFC
(Photo via, you guessed it, Heavy.com)

By Elias Cepeda

Whether or not he’ll admit it, Clay Guida hates being an underdog. It isn’t that the featherweight doesn’t enjoy proving people wrong – he does.

It’s the underestimation that bothers him. Most of his UFC wins have come over opponents who were favored over him before he broke them down and beat them. Even before his UFC career began back in 2006, Guida’s opponents were regularly favored over him.

The assumption that he is an “over-achiever” that has to defy our low expectations just to win smacks Guida like a backhanded compliment time and time again. He’s too polite to get visibly angry when the term has been brought up but in the past, but he’s made it clear to this writer that he doesn’t think of himself in that way. After about a decade of “over-achieving,” Clay would prefer if we simply started referring to him as the elite MMA fighter he truly is. On Saturday, Guida will once again be considered the underdog when he fights former featherweight title challenger Chad Mendes.

Like Guida, Mendes is a wrestler, but he is a more decorated amateur one. Like Guida, Mendes is happy to go wild and throw strikes on the feet, but the Californian has been putting people out with his shots. Both men are obviously in the same weight class, but Mendes would appear to be the more physically imposing, stronger fighter.

Mendes’ only career loss was a shocking one to division champion Jose Aldo. Since that fight, Mendes has won three straight fights by knockout. At some point, in some way, every successful fighter must be a giant in his or her own mind. And in his mind, Guida is the clear favorite in his UFC 164 match up with Mendes.

“Chad is a great wrestler,” Clay admits to me one afternoon a month ago from his New Mexico training camp.

“But we are going to show him what Midwest wrestling is all about. It is a whole different beast. It is just scraping, driving non-stop, relentless and winning scrambles.”

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Gambling Addiction Enabler: ‘UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis II’ Edition


(The UFC 164 marketing strategy summed up in less than 30 seconds.)

By Dan “Get Off Me” George

This Saturday night, Zuffa brings us perhaps the most anticipated title rematch in lightweight history when Benson Henderson attempts to remove a stain from his soul against the man responsible for leaving said stain, new/interim #1 contender Anthony Pettis. The preliminary portion of the card may not boast many recognizable names (which is a nice way of saying it’s garbage-ass) but the PPV lineup is a veritable potpourri of grizzled veterans and surging prospects, with a little bit of something for everyone both new and old to MMA.

So come along as we head to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and highlight the undercard bout you stand the best chance of banking on as well as all of the main card bouts for UFC 164: Henderson vs Pettis II. All lines courtesy of BestFightOdds, per usual.

Undercard bout:

Soa Palelei (+175) vs. Nikita Krylov (-210)

The heavy-handed Australian comes in as the +180ish underdog against Ukrainian (is game to you?) submission specialist and -200 favorite Nikita Krylov. Palelei has a chance to payout early in this fight if he is able to use his striking effectively, but the 16 year age gap between the fighters may prove the difference if Krylov’s is able to sustain the early onslaught from Soa. With this in mind, Palelei has been submitted once in his career and 7 out of his last 8 wins (Well, 6 out of 8. Bob Sapp no longer counts.) have come in the first round. +180 for Palelei is an underdog worth taking.

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Benson Henderson Says He’ll Break Anderson Silva’s Title Defense Record by 2016


(Sounds like a good plan, but wait until you’re married for a year, and your wife’s all like, “Bensonnnn why do you spend all your time defending your title, what about meeeeeeeee, we never go anywhere anymorrrrrrre.” Ugh. Am I right? Back me up here, married guys. / Photo via MMAFighting)

It seems like one of MMA’s most untouchable records, but Benson Henderson is convinced that he will beat former middleweight champion Anderson Silva‘s consecutive title defense streak of ten.

“I’m going to break it in 2016,” the ever-confident UFC lightweight champion told MMA Fighting.

I should be able to break it by 2015, but because I’m getting married I’m going to take some time off for my honeymoon. That’s going to set me back by about three to four months. But I have it down exactly. I know when I’m going to break it. It’s going to be early 2016. I know what number I need to get. I know the amount of hard work it’s going to take for me to get there. I know how much I’ve got to get beat up, I know how much I’ve got to practice. I’m aware of it. I know it. Now my goal is to go out there and go do it.

Well, alright. We can’t hate on Henderson. The kid has earned what he has, to say the least, and by all accounts works crazy hard. He’s also just a flat-out incredible fighter and looks better each time out.

That said, considering that he has just three consecutive successful title-defenses right now, with an attempt at a fourth coming Saturday at UFC 164, and that two of those bouts were incredibly close — against Frankie Edgar and his last against Gilbert Melendez — predicting ten straight seems a bit outlandish.

It’s not that Henderson isn’t capable of winning seven more straight, it’s just that he’ll probably continue to fight to close decisions a lot considering the parity of the lightweight division. One of these days, the judges might not see things his way; you’re rolling the dice every time you let the scorecards decide the fight, and you can’t always expect the judges to behave rationally.

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UFC 164 Interview: After First Octagon Defeat, Ryan Couture Looks to Prove That He Belongs


(Photo via Getty)

By Elias Cepeda

Ryan Couture was on a roll. The lightweight had won four straight fights against progressively stiff competition in Strikeforce, earning a shot inside the UFC.

His first test inside the Octagon would be a tough one – Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson last April. Many speculated that the son of MMA legend Randy Couture would be in over his head but the younger Couture actually came out and fought effectively against Pearson.

For one round, that is. Couture managed to stay safe, close the distance and take away Pearson’s striking weapons with a conservative but winning clinch strategy in the opening stanza, but in the second round the Brit connected with a big shot and stopped Ryan.

“We started out well,” Couture tells CagePotato.

“We had a good game plan and it worked in the first round but then he caught me in the second. He did what he needed to do.”

Couture says that cornering his father in past UFC fights helped him get his bearing a little bit but that fighting in the world’s top MMA promotion himself definitely felt different. “Totally different,” he admits.

“I was lucky to have my dad bring me into his corners a couple times so that I got sort of used to the scenery and environment but it’s a different thing when you’re the one whose hands are getting wrapped, when you’re the one in the co-main event. It’s hard to explain. Plus, I had a different corner than usual. My grappling coach wasn’t able to be there and he’s a big part of my process and success.”

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[VIDEO] Terrorist Beards, Showtime Kicks and Pseudo Death Threats Abound the UFC 164 Preview


(Video via UFC Youtube)

In case you were somehow sleeping on UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis II, which takes place August 31st in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, don’t. The card is relatively stacked and the new extended UFC 164 video preview gives you a sneak peak at the night’s two biggest bouts — a lightweight title rematch between champion Benson Henderson (who is rocking a Jon Jones-esque terrorist beard these days) and Anthony Pettis and a heavyweight submission artist clash between former champions Frank Mir and Josh Barnett.

If you’ve watched the UFC for more than 10 years and enjoy living in that past (I know, too on point, is it not?), you’ve got to be pretty geeked about Mir vs. Barnett. Both men are behemoths that somehow possess slick ground skills. Both men are also charismatic and skilled shit-stirrers that became champions at an early age and have managed to remain competitive at the highest levels for over a decade. Will this match up be a test of who has the better Jitz (Mir, after all, does threaten to “drown” Barnett with his submission game in the above video, whatever that means) or will their grappling skills cancel each other out and turn Mir vs. Barnett into a slugfest? I HAVE NO IDEA BUT WATCH THIS ANYWAY.

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Gamblers Beware: Anthony Pettis Currently Listed As a Slight Favorite Over Ben Henderson


(I mean, I *guess* pulling this off could be considered an advantage. I guess.)

This might not come as all that big a shock to you, but there’s been a slight shift in the UFC 163 UFC 164 odds as of late. Mainly, that of the main event featherweight lightweight title bout between Jose Aldo Ben Henderson and T.J. Grant Anthony Pettis. Despite opening as a slight favorite over the last man to defeat him when the replacement matchup was first announced, Henderson’s line has seen a significant dip over the past couple of weeks. According to BestFightOdds, Pettis is listed as high as -125 over Henderson, who is listed between -105 and -115 on various gambling sites.

So yeah, it’s not exactly breaking news. But honestly, we really wanted to use the Henderson/Pettis update as an opportunity to inform you of this weekend’s Cage Warriors 57 event, which if the odds are any indication, should feature at least *two* in-ring decapitations. In the evening’s main event, UFC/Bellator veteran Paul Daley is listed as a -1700 favorite over opponent Jimmy Pocket, a six year-old child with rickets and a pegleg who…I’m sorry, Daley will actually be fighting Lukasz Chlewicki, a 10-2 Polish fighter who we should also assume is receiving this fight as part of his final, dying wish. Because otherwise, what the fuck?

Also set to “compete” on the Cage Warriors card are Aldric Cassata and Jose Luis Zapater, currently listed as +600 underdogs to -1200 favorites Danny Roberts and Ronnie Mann, respectively. May the ghost of Keith Hackney protect those poor gentlemen. He’s dead, right?

-J. Jones

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UFC Conspiracy Theory of the Day: Anthony Pettis Is Going to Steal TJ Grant’s Title Shot


(And that “Showtime Kick”? As fake as the moon landing. / Photo via MMAWeekly)

As we’ve already discussed, the upcoming UFC 164 lightweight title fight between Benson Henderson and TJ Grant isn’t exactly capturing the hearts and minds of MMA fans, and could potentially tank on pay-per-view. (Which wouldn’t be the first time that Bendo has tanked on PPV.) So when Anthony Pettis went down with a knee injury last week, knocking him out of his UFC 163 featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo, some of the more paranoid fans among us began buzzing: Is this just a ploy to line-jump Pettis into a much more compelling/lucrative fight against Henderson? The two men have some history, after all.

At first we dismissed this theory as lunatic ravings from the same people who would tell you that Luke Rockhold signaled that he was ready to take a dive against Vitor Belfort, or that Chael Sonnen bangs his desk to signify that he’s ready for his close-up. Would Pettis really fake an injury — or would the UFC invent one — in order to screw over TJ Grant and cash in with a bigger fight? Come on, that’s absurd. At least we thought so until we read this:

“I can be 100% ready to fight Benson Henderson in Milwaukee,” said Pettis to Fuel TV. “With all due respect to T.J. Grant, Milwaukee is my town, and the fight with Ben is the fight everyone has wanted for years.”

For the record, UFC president Dana White claims that Pettis’s knee won’t be ready in time for UFC 164 on August 31st, but obviously he’s just trying to keep the public from catching on to his dastardly plot, and TJ Grant will be faking his own injury sometime within the next couple weeks. Allegedly.

But seriously, here’s what Grant had to say about the situation…

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TJ Grant vs. Benson Henderson Sums Up the UFC’s Most Frustrating Problem: Their Inability to Create New Stars


(TJ Grant, doing his impression of a UFC fan who’s just been told that TJ Grant will be headlining a pay-per-view. Photo via MMAJunkie)

By Matt Saccaro

Most casual fans couldn’t pick Benson Henderson — a world title holder — or TJ Grant — a man challenging for a world title — out of a lineup.

That’s not either guy’s fault. Benson Henderson managed to get the nod from the judges in his last three title defenses, scoring victories over the likes of Gilbert Melendez and Nate Diaz. And TJ Grant has put together a five-fight winning streak, most recently sending Gray Maynard down faster than Zynga’s stock price.

But that’s the problem: A fight between two guys who have done nothing but kick ass isn’t moving the needle. It’s not that the populace has run out of fucks to give about Henderson and Grant, they just never gave any in the first place.

Want proof?

Look at the estimated buyrates for Henderson’s PPVs. Henderson hasn’t been on a PPV since UFC 150 in August 2012, a card that earned a pathetic 190,000 buys. People don’t want to part with their cash to see Benson Henderson, so the UFC started giving him away for free on FOX. Bendo main evented two FOX cards which performed okay ratings-wise.

The UFC is putting Henderson back on PPV at UFC 164 for his title defense against TJ Grant. This PPV is a Battle of the Blackwater moment for the UFC. If UFC 164 can boast a decent buyrate, then the theory that the UFC can use FOX to create the next generation of stars will be proven true, and the UFC’s future will be a little more secure. But if UFC 164 fails as hard as UFC 150 did — if promoting a fighter TWO TIMES on one of the biggest networks on television failed to make that fighter a draw — then the UFC is in trouble. That would mean one champion who would be dead weight on a card, in addition to the champions from the lighter men’s weight classes who have all yet to establish themselves as major PPV draws.

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Booking Update: Shogun vs. Sonnen to Headline ‘UFC on FOX Sports 1:1′, T.J. Grant vs. Ben Henderson Gets Top Billing at UFC 164


(God damn right.)

It’s official, Nation: Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua WILL headline UFC on FOX Sports 1:1, a.k.a “the best television card the UFC has ever done.” While at first glance, a fight between two guys coming off losses doesn’t seem like a great main event for a card this stacked (and makes you wonder if the UFC had a planned main event to begin with), it’s surely a matchup that fans can get excited about nonetheless. And if they aren’t, Sonnen will fondle every available Sportscenter anchor within a 500 mile radius to ensure that you are at least aware that the fight is going down.

The matchup was all but a done deal for next weekend’s UFC 161 card until visa issues forced Sonnen to bow out of the fight he had — like a true American Gangster – offered to take on short notice just days ago. Rua was thusly pulled from the card altogether, but hinted that a potential showdown with Sonnen could take place over the summer.

Sonnen vs. Shogun will now headline the August 17th-scheduled card that already includes such marquee matchups as Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne, Thiago Alves vs. Matt Brown, and Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Johnson. Oh yeah, and Uriah Hall and Conor McGregor will be on the card as well. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go take a printout of this lineup behind the bushes for a few minutes.

In other fight booking news…

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Booking Roundup: Uriah Hall Draws Nick Ring for UFC on FOX Sports 1:1, Soa Palelei’s Return Finally Set

Perhaps the only thing more dangerous than accepting a coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter is being heralded by Dana White as “the next Anderson Silva” while still participating on the reality show. Ten seasons ago, it was Phillipe Nover who drew the unjust and bombastic comparisons to the pound-for-pound king. Though a loss to Efrain Escudero — who would also become one of the show’s more notorious washouts — in the season’s finale may have not derailed his hype train entirely, his consecutive losses to Kyle Bradley (ouch.) and Robert Emerson (OH COME ON!) surely did. But just as every story has a happy ending, Nover now earns his living pushing the stretchers, not lying on them.

This past season, we were similarly informed that Uriah Hall was “the nastiest guy in Ultimate Fighter history,” and told by Chael Sonnen himself that Hall was not only at Silva’s level, but above it. To be fair, there was plenty of visual evidence to lend credence to this claim, but that didn’t stop newcomer Kelvin Gastelum from spoiling Hall’s championship run before it could even begin at the season’s finale.

In any case, if Hall doesn’t want to end up changing bedpans for crotchety geezers in the future (not that there’s anything wrong with that), he better bring his A-game when he meets fellow TUF-finalist Nick Ring at the much anticipated UFC on FOX Sports 1:1 card in August. That’s right, Bostonians, not only do we get Overeem vs. Brown, Alves vs. other Brown, Lauzon vs. Johnson, and (potentially) Henderson vs. Grant, but now we get to see Uriah Hall’s make-or-break fight in the UFC. Expect some Eddie Gordo-level shit to go down in this one, Potato Nation.

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