The UFC is in Albuquerque this weekend for UFC Fight Night 42 with the Tingley Coliseum playing host to the evening’s MMA action. Headlining the event is a clash of lightweights, with former UFC champion Benson Henderson taking on the surging Dagestani suplex-machine, Rustam Khabilov.
Now, as ever, I am here to walk you through the main card of the evening, so let’s not hang around any longer than we have to:
(#2) Benson Henderson vs. (#11) Rustam Khabilov – 155lbs.
Here’s a not so fun fact: Benson Henderson is the only fighter in UFC history to start off his Octagon career with eight decision victories. The former UFC Lightweight Champion is an absolute stud, but his penchant for the scorecards can be a tad grating. Last time out this was the case again as Henderson claim a disputed split decision victory over Josh Thomson. Khabilov, while still relatively unknown, has made quite the impression in his three UFC bouts so far, triumphing in all; including a highlight-reel performance in his promotional debut where he threw Vinc Pichel across the cage whenever he fancied.
I will be mightily surprised if this turns out like anything other than your typical Benson Henderson fight. The guy is elite and has many a UFC lightweight turning green with envy as a result of his athleticism, but his style of keeping an opponent at range with kicks whilst not committing for a fight-ending strike often leads to inconclusive battles if the other dog in the fight is a live one. Khabilov will certainly ask questions in the clinch, but Henderson is the all-round better fighter and will prove it, hopefully conclusively for a change.
Prediction – Henderson via decision
Diego Sanchez vs. Ross Pearson – 155lbs.
If it weren’t for his famed maniacal style, Sanchez would be unemployed or at least checking out the want ads just in case, as ‘The Dream/Nightmare’ has won just the one fight since 2011 and that was a disputed split decision victory over Takanori Gomi. Pearson will be returning to the cage for the first time since his October 2013 bout with Melvin Guillard which earned both men a No Contest as a result of an illegal knee thrown by Guillard. Other than that slight hiccup, Pearson is on a two fight win streak since returning to the lightweight division, with wins coming via George Sotiropolous and Ryan Couture.
I fully expect this to be an absolute slobber-knocker with neither man afraid of taking a hit to land one of their own or going any other direction than forwards. Pearson is the more technical striker and, if he keeps his head, will win out in the striking exchanges. However, I can see Sanchez utilising his superior wrestling more in this fight and I think that this advantage will ultimately pay off.
Prediction – Sanchez via decision
(#1) John Dodson vs. (#5) John Moraga – 125lbs.
Dodson bounced back from his spirited, but ultimately fruitless, challenge to Demetrious Johnson’s flyweight championship in the best way possible, KO’ing Darrell Montague in to next week back at UFC 166, proving why he is considered an elite 125lb’er. Moraga similarly got back on the horse having failed to unseat Johnson prior to his split decision victory over Dustin Ortiz in January of this year, and Moraga will be looking to take another step towards contention with a statement victory over Dodson.
John Moraga has solid boxing and has proven that he can knock people out at this weight, but I’ve got to side with Dodson here. Dodson has looked nothing short of spectacular as a flyweight. Dodson has all the tools to succeed, ran the champion close when they fought and should have a speed and athleticism advantage over Moraga that should see him home for victory.
Prediction – Dodson via decision
(#5) Rafael dos Anjos vs. Jason High – 155lbs.
Rafael dos Anjos’ stock will have only taken a slight hit as a result of defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov last time out, due to the burgeoning hype that surrounds Nurmagomedov, although it will have likely killed off any future title contention for the Brazilian, such is the dog-eat-dog nature of the lightweight division. High will be making his lightweight debut having most recently competed at welterweight where he has gone 2-1 in his last three UFC contests.
High is a very capable fighter and will pose a threat with his wrestling and clinch work, but I expect dos Anjos to prove that he is the better mixed martial artist, wear High down and utilise his stellar jiu-jitsu to secure a late submission victory.
Prediction – dos Anjos via submission
Yves Edwards vs. Piotr Hallmann – 155lbs.
The 37 year old Edwards has won just two of his last seven contests, whereas Hallmann is 26 years old and suffered his first defeat since 2010 last time out. Edwards may have been around a hell of a lot longer and faced far stronger competition than Hallmann in his career, but judging on recent form, he’s pretty much done.
Prediction – Hallmann via KO/TKO
(#12) Erik Perez vs. (#14) Bryan Caraway – 135lbs.
Caraway will hold a grappling advantage, but Perez should be able to stay off his back long enough to control this fight with his more well-rounded MMA game than Mr. Miesha Tate.
Prediction – Perez via decision