FOX analyst Brian Stann breaks down UFC on FOX 10's Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson headliner
Former WEC light heavyweight champion and 11-time UFC veteran Brian Stann has received positive feedback for his work in the broadcast booth, and he took time out of his prep for UFC on FOX 10 to share his thoughts on the main event.
Former lightweight champion Benson Henderson (19-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) meets former Strikeforce title holder Josh Thomson (20-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 10, which takes place Saturday at Chicago’s United Center. Stann believes it’s an intriguing matchup.
“Stylistically, I think Benson Henderson does his best when he throws those brutal kicks but then eventually closes the distance and gets in close,” Stann told MMAjunkie. “He’s pretty devastating from inside the clinch with dirty boxing, knees, elbows and bodylock takedowns. He’s a physical specimen, and we all know that from watching his title fights, where Josh really does well in space.
“Josh has got great footwork. We saw this against Nate Diaz where he can move around. He can go right; he can go left. A lot of what he does – and he’s a very smart, experienced fighter – he sets a lot of things up. He’s got kicks. He’s got punching combinations. He’s also a very accomplished wrestler, so he mixes things up well. I think for Josh, he’s got to get on his bike, be in and out. Move. Even though Ben’s hard to take down, it wouldn’t surprise me if Josh does land a couple of takedowns – because he’s really good there – but just to keep Ben honest, to keep him thinking about it, to open up the rest of his arsenal.
“Ben Henderson has to cut Josh off. He’s got to wear him down with kicks, wear him down like he does with everybody. Even if you block Ben’s kicks, they still hurt whatever you block them with. But eventually, get Josh up against the cage and start trying to manhandle him there and do what Ben Henderson does.”
Thomson, who earlier this year returned to the UFC after nearly nine years away, looks to build on the strength of a scintillating April win over Nate Diaz. However, he’s raised a few eyebrows in the pre-fight build-up by admitting his training camp may have been the “worst camp ever in my whole career.”
Stann believes Thomson is being sincere in his claims but is still capable of showing up on fight night.
“I’ve met Josh on a number of occasions,” Stann said. “He’s a really bright guy, and he’s a straight-shooter. That’s just his style, so his words aren’t surprising. He’s been there and done that, and he’s seen everything in this sport. He realizes that he can say whatever he wants in an interview. At the end of the day, on Saturday night, he’s going to walk in the octagon, and he’s going to fight. Ben and whoever else is going to fight him in the future can think whatever they want about his comments, but none of those things are going to come up in the octagon. It’s him vs. Ben. So I think he’s being honest.
“What you go through as a fighter, it’s hard. It cycles. Sometimes you’re on top of the world and you’re on a high and you love training everyday. Other times, it’s tough. It’s a grind. But when Josh is focused, he can beat anybody in the world. And when you get two elite guys like this, the man who’s more focused is normally the one who comes out on top – barring any freak knockout.
“Josh’s words are going to be the biggest talk until the fight actually happens. But Benson Henderson coming off a loss, still being relatively young and wanting that gold back, we’ve got to assume that Ben Henderson is going to come in here fired up and just hungry and in great shape.”
It’s a key fight for Henderson, as well. After losing his UFC lightweight belt to Anthony Pettis in August, Henderson looks to prove that he deserves another crack at the title, even if it has to come against a man that has already beat him twice in “Showtime.”
“I don’t think Pettis necessarily has Benson’s number,” Stann said. “Maybe he does, but I think with Ben’s style, he can still compete. It’s tough. When you get the title, and we’ve seen this before, it’s hard to stay hungry as a champion. There’s a lot of distractions. I saw it on a scale a million times smaller when I won the WEC belt with the demands on your time and the things you had to do – and that was on a minuscule level in comparison to what Benson Henderson had to deal with for a long time. It becomes difficult to deal with, and it’s tough to balance, then that hungry challenger comes up and takes it from you. Now Ben is probably enjoying a little bit being on the other side, having that hunger and that desire to get back what he feels is his, and he wants to be called champion again.
“We’re all here because we’re ultra-competitive. I think he’s certainly still a viable title contender. I think he can, on the right night, take that belt back from Anthony. These guys are all so good that on the right night, they can all beat each other. If they fought three times, I don’t think anybody wins all three. But we’ll see. He’s got to get through Josh Thomson, who is tough. This fight could be really interesting with Ben gaining momentum to get another shot. We know, it’s not just wins and losses. You’ve got to generate hype. Fans have got to want to see you fight for the title to get your shot. Ben, for a little while when he had the belt was criticized for being overly cautious when he fought. If he comes out and he’s aggressive, and he can beat Josh in dominant, exciting fashion, he’ll have the hype needed to get that rematch.”
Thomson, of course, was already promised a shot at the title, as he was expected to face Pettis at December’s UFC on FOX 9 event. However, the champ was forced to pull out of the fight to address an ailing knee, and the bout was scratched.
Thomson chose to stay active rather than sit around and hope the UFC would honor his previous offer, and while it’s a decision that comes with inherent risk, Stann co-signs on the choice.
“It’s so hard to get that title shot in this sport,” Stann said. “But historically, as we’ve seen in the UFC, it’s not boded well for most guys to wait around. The UFC doesn’t like fighters who sit on the sidelines and don’t want to fight, and this was a smart decision by Josh Thomson to stay active and continue fighting.
“Is there some risk? There is. But there’s risk if he said he wanted to hold out as well. If Ben fights someone else and looks unreal or generates some hype, Dana can come back and say, ‘You know what? This kid was the champ for a long time. He got caught in an armbar, but boy did he look good tonight. We’re going to give him the shot, instead.’ Or maybe Dana would have Josh fight Benson before he got a title shot. You take things out of your control if you decide to wait. I like what Josh did.”
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(Pictured: Brian Stann)