UFC

Benson Henderson gets himself back into title contention

Henderson lost his UFC title to Anthony Pettis last year (©GettyImages)
Henderson lost his UFC title to Anthony Pettis last year (©GettyImages).

Former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson again showed he is at the top of the 155lb division with a huge win over Rustam Khalbilov.

'Smooth' lost the title at UFC 164 to Anthony Pettis in August 2013. Since that setback he has two straight victories inside the Octagon, defeating Josh Thompson in December 2013 and now Khabilov.

Henderson controlled the fight throughout. In the first round, Khabilov landed a few takedowns, however Benson easily got back to his feet. From here, Henderson felt out his Russian opponent, finding his range and landing some nice strikes.

The second round started much like the first. Khabilov, who had his three fight win streak snapped, landed another takedown. Nonetheless, 'Smooth' displayed an excellent rubber guard to control Khabilov to get the fight standing again. From here, Henderson manoeuvred to get his opponent in a body lock and patiently wated for a rear naked choke.

Eventually Khabilov shook the former lightweight king off, however Henderson landed several damaging leg kicks too effect on the Russians movement soon after.

In the third round, it started off fairly untidy. When fighting against the cage with both fighters throwing some excellent strikes, the Arizona native went for a guillotine, however his opponent wriggled free.

Towards the end of the round Khabilov was gassing yet secured a takedown. His energy levels were clearly low when Henderson effortlessly reversed to end the round on top.

As the fight entered the championship rounds it was clear Henderson was the fresher. It was the eighth time he was to go into the fourth round opposed to it being his opponent's first.

Benson showed his experience when he patiently waited for the right moment to land a huge uppercut, sending the Russian to the mat. Henderson dived on him and locked in a Rear Naked Choke and Khabilov tapped in a matter of seconds. 

The win was the first time Henderson finished an opponent inside the Octagon in a quite incredible four years, and the former champ was delighted with the statement that success sent out.

In his post-fight interview Henderson said: "The victory was good, it was the same as all my other victories inside the UFC Octagon, I bust my butt, opened my heart and soul, not just in this cage, but every single day at my gym at practice. I open my heart and soul. I put myself beyond what my body can take.

"You guys don't understand how hard you have to push your body. So when I get a chance to open my heart and soul in the Octagon for you guys, yeah I don't do a lot of talking, but I do a lot of talking in here.

"I don't need talking out there. I talk in here."

The victory moved Henderson to 21-3, whereas Khabilov dropped to 17-2. It puts Henderson right back into title contention, however with Anthony Pettis fighting Gilbert Meldendez in December we are likely to see him in the Octagon again at least once before any potential title opportunity.

In the co-main event, British fighter Ross Pearson lost a very controversial fight against Diego Sanchez.

'The Real Deal' dominated Sanchez for three rounds, landing more strikes in each and every stanza.

However 'The Nightmare' was given the nod fighting in his home city, with the judges scoring the contest 30-27, 29-28 and 27-30 respectively. The fight has sparked a lot of talk. Almost every respected analyst scored every round for Pearson and the stats also display that he should have picked up all three rounds. 

On the fight, Pearson said: "I felt good in the fight. I came out confident, relaxed. I think I outclassed Diego. I picked my shots well. I think I won every round. I came in here. Who finishes Diego Sanchez? The guy's a warrior.

Both fighters however enjoyed the style of one another and are prepared to rematch if the fans want to see the fight again, with the UFC's return to Dublin offered the potential for a quick turnaround.

Also, former Flyweight title contender John Dodson almost guaranteed himself another shot at the 125 lbs strap.  'The Ultimate Fighter 14' winner waltzed through John Moraga, battering his opponent for two rounds landing a number of big punches and knees before the doctor stepped in to end the bout after two rounds.

Other Results:

Rafael dos Anjos def. Jason High TKO (punches) 2 3:36 

Piotr Hallmann def. Yves Edwards Submission (rear-naked choke) 3 2:32 

Bryan Caraway def. Érik Pérez Submission (rear-naked choke) 2 1:52

Sergio Pettis def. Yaotzin Meza Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) 

Lance Benoist def. Bobby Voelker Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)  

Scott Jorgensen def. Danny Martinez Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) 

Jon Tuck def. Jake Lindsey Submission (heel kick to the body) 3 2:47

Patrick Cummins def. Roger Narvaez TKO (punches) 2 2:28

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