Clay Guida (file photo) again showed the resilience he’s known for at the “TUF 13” Finale. | (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Clay Guida walked through a minefield and emerged with his senses intact.
The 29-year-old Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative posted his fourth win in as many appearances on Saturday at “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale, as he took a unanimous decision from former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The untamed hair bounced, the sweat flew and Guida put a damper on the buzz surrounding the man they call “Showtime.”
Since consecutive defeats to Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian in 2009, Guida appears to have turned a corner in terms of his evolution. He fights with the same fervor and abandon that made him a fan favorite, but the 29-year-old lightweight has taken a more intelligent approach in the cage. Guida now leans heavily on his strengths -- wrestling, conditioning and an unquenchable thirst to succeed. They carried him past Pettis, a vastly superior striker and athlete. He did not trade liberally on the feet with Pettis, as he had against Sanchez and Florian. Instead, punches and kicks were the means to an end, followed by takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound.
Pettis remains one of the bright young stars at 155 pounds. His time will come. For now, Guida has positioned himself for a title eliminator at the very least.
A closer look at the matches we want to see after “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale:
Clay Guida vs. Jim Miller-Benson Henderson winner: Guida has done his part. Now, he can only sit and wait for other chips to fall. The surging Miller will meet Henderson, the former WEC titleholder, in the UFC Live 5 co-main event in August, by which time there should be a clearer picture of the lightweight division. Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, having withdrawn from the UFC 130 headliner with dueling injures, have business left to finish, leaving the rest of the lightweights to fight over their scraps. Guida, Miller and Henderson seem to be next in line to challenge for the 155-pound throne. Once the Miller-Henderson drama plays out in Milwaukee, the UFC could move to match the winner with Guida in a title eliminator.
Tony Ferguson vs. James Wilks: It is difficult not to be impressed with Ferguson’s overall game. An accomplished amateur wrestler, he showed an affinity for striking during his time on Season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series. Matching power with accuracy, he carved through the competition and completed his run with a first-round knockout against Ramsey Nijem at the finale. A picture-perfect left hook sealed Nijem’s fate. Wilks, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner, has not competed since his October defeat to Claude Patrick at UFC 120 because of injuries. A tae kwon do black belt and Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, he brings with him the kind of well-rounded skill set that could provide Ferguson with a stern test and give the UFC a better idea of where its latest “Ultimate Fighter” stands in the cutthroat welterweight division.
Kyle Kingsbury vs. Vladimir Matyushenko-Alexander Gustafsson winner: A sculpted, 6-foot-4 package of toughness, athleticism and strength -- coupled with his exposure to an elite camp -- has made Kingsbury a pleasant surprise at 205 pounds.
The American Kickboxing Academy representative absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment from Fabio Maldonado at “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale and emerged victorious. The former college football player has shown rapid development and will enter his next outing on a four-fight winning streak. The ageless Matyushenko will meet the Swedish prospect Gustafsson at UFC 133 in August. Either man could provide an interesting matchup for Kingsbury.
Jeremy Stephens vs. Jonathan Brookins: They were supposed to meet at “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale, but an eye injury forced Brookins to withdraw and set the stage for Stephens’ one-side victory over Daniel Downes. A natural featherweight, Brookins wields the kind of speed and athleticism that could pose problems for Stephens, a power puncher with a mean streak. Stephens outclassed Downes on the feet and on the ground, as he nearly submitted the Duke Roufus protégé twice before settling for a decision. He would be hard-pressed to repeat that kind of performance against Brookins.
Scott Jorgensen vs. Renan “Barao”: How did Jorgensen, an elite bantamweight, wind up at the bottom of “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale lineup? The former WEC title contender laid waste to Ken Stone on the undercard, as he knocked out the American Top Team prospect with punches from inside full guard. Afterward, Jorgensen proclaimed, “I’m back!” Less than six months removed from his failed bid to unseat bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, he remains in the upper-tier at 135 pounds. The jury is still out on “Barao,” the Nova Uniao standout who will ride a 16-fight winning streak into his next appearance. In wake of the Brazilian’s unanimous decision victory over Cole Escovedo at UFC 130, Jorgensen seems like a logical step up.