T.J. Grant Knocks out Gray Maynard, Earns Next Shot at Benson Henderson's Title

Damon MartinContributor IMay 25, 2013

Grant finishes Maynard at UFC 160
Grant finishes Maynard at UFC 160Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

At the UFC on Fox 7 post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White announced that the winner of the UFC 160 lightweight showdown between T.J. Grant and Gray Maynard would get the next shot at the belt held by champion Benson Henderson.

"Gray Maynard's ranked No. 3, T.J. Grant is ranked No. 7, (and) these guys are going to fight at UFC 160, May 25," White said in April.  "The winner of that fight will fight Ben Henderson next."

On Saturday night, Grant not only earned that shot, but he sent a message to the entire division that he's for real and is the true No. 1 contender.

Facing Maynard at UFC 160, Grant knew that a title shot was on the line and leaving a lasting impression would be the best way to go about earning one. He certainly did that after clipping and catching Maynard early in the first round, hurting the former title contender.

Once Grant smelled blood, he didn't let up until Maynard was on the canvas and wasn't getting up.

The Canadian unloaded a barrage of heavy punches, and Maynard couldn't recover long enough to do anything except absorb more punishment.  The referee finally stepped in to stop the carnage, with Grant standing tall as the victor.

Now with five wins in a row since joining the lightweight division, Grant has solidified his spot as the No. 1 contender. He now awaits a showdown with Henderson later this year.

"I know what Dana said, (but) I want to fight Benson Henderson for the title.  Nothing but respect, but hey I want to fight the champ. I want to be the champ," Grant shouted after the knockout.  "Let's do it."

It was an emphatic statement by Grant to not only beat Maynard, who has been near the top of the lightweight division for the past few years, but to become only the second fighter to finish him in the UFC. The other fighter was Frankie Edgar in their rematch in 2011.

Grant is now in a prime position to challenge Henderson for the belt in a bout that could take place sometime this summer, given his quick win over Maynard on Saturday night.  With several cards in August still awaiting main event assignments, a championship bout between Henderson and Grant would fit the bill.

Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.