At UFC 160 on Saturday, a new contender emerged as the next test for UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. His name is T.J. Grant

Grant was once an inconsistent welterweight, but he has found a home at 155 pounds. Many forget that Grant was 3-3 as a UFC welterweight, with all three of those wins coming against fighters who are no longer with the promotion. But the Canadian took a year off following his loss in December of 2010 and then made his debut at lightweight on Oct. 1, 2011, defeating Shane Roller by third-round submission.

From that point on, Grant has been on fire, winning his next four fights after defeating Roller. In his 5-0 run at lightweight, Grant has earned decision wins over Carlo Prater and Evan Dunham, finished Matt Wiman and, on Saturday, earned the biggest win of his career by knocking out top contender Gray Maynard in the first round.

With the win, Grant is now in line to challenge 155-pound champion Benson Henderson for the belt. Henderson won the belt at UFC 144 and has successfully defended it three times. The question is, can Henderson increase that total to four when he faces off against Grant later this year?

The answer will come in a matter of months, but it’s never too early to begin breaking down the match-up. Henderson will without a doubt be the favorite once the cage door shuts, but Grant is definitely capable of pulling off the upset, given his current momentum.

The two fighters boast contrasting styles inside the Octagon. Henderson has been to eight straight decisions, having out-worked his opponents to pull out the win on the judges’ scorecards. The champion’s cardio is what separates him from the rest of the division. He has proven to still be fresh as the fight journeys into the later stages.

The aspect of this fight that will make things intriguing is the fact that Grant is a finisher.

Thirteen of Grant’s 21 wins have come by submission, but in his previous two bouts, the 29-year-old has shown he has power in his punches as well. Grant likes to push the pace in his fights, going after an early takedown and settling in to do damage with strikes. Henderson has never been knocked out, but Grant could potentially change that if he clips the champion.

Henderson has never faced a fighter like Grant in his time with the UFC. Frankie Edgar is a fast striker, Nate Diaz possesses an overall game but doesn’t have Grant’s power or wrestling ability, and Melendez is very similar to Diaz in that he is primarily a boxer but also has grappling skills. None of these guys are as aggressive as Grant, none have the punching power, and none could contend with Henderson if the fight turned into a wrestling match. But the Canadian can contend with Henderson in a range of areas. The only concerns are in Muay Thai, cardio and scoring points.

Henderson is known as many different types of fighters, but really takes pride in being a very talented Muay Thai fighter, having earned a black belt in taekwondo. Grant is a great striker who mixes up elbows and knees with his punches, but Henderson will be more technical overall. Considering that “Smooth” uses leg kicks and other strikes from his southpaw stance, Henderson will be able to score much-needed points if the fight doesn’t end early.

To reply to the question of Grant posing a threat to the champion, the answer is yes. Grant will apply pressure from the get-go, but many questions arise from that. Will Henderson be able to handle the aggression? Will Henderson overcome Grant with cardio? Will Henderson be involved with yet another controversial decision?

All of these questions will be answered later this year as Grant will prove to the world that he is a true contender.

Photo: T. J. Grant (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.