• UFC Fight Night 42

Henderson chokes out Khabilov

Michael Huang
June 8, 2014
Benson Henderson kicks Rustam Khabilov in their lightweight fight © Getty Images

Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson took a huge step toward regaining his title with a fourth-round submission win over Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight Night 42 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday.

Henderson (21-3), who had been a victim of much criticism as of late for his lack of finishes in the UFC, scored his first stoppage since 2010, when he choked out Donald Cerrone at WEC 48.

Against Khabilov (17-2), Henderson faced an opponent who matched up well against him - corresponding size and strength, something Henderson has traditionally used to his advantage.

Through three rounds, Khabilov was game, stuffing Henderson on takedown attempts and in turn using his skills in sambo to take Henderson down. The first round easily went to Khabilov, who also landed several solid body shots.

By 2:20 of the second round, however, 'Smooth' began to apply pressure, tying up Khabilov and taking his back. Though Henderson didn't get credit for a submission attempt, it would be the first of several pressure-induced positions that Henderson would control Khabilov.

Going into the fight, one of the keys to victory for both men was who could control the scrambles while emerging from takedown attempts. Early on it was Khabilov, but, as the fight wore on, the advantage turned to Henderson.

Neither fighter landed much on the feet. However, by 3:46 of the fourth round, Henderson charged forward, throwing a long uppercut that landed flush. He followed that punch with a straight left that downed Khabilov.

Henderson quickly pounced on the stunned Khabilov, took his back and applied the rear-naked choke for the win.

Henderson was pretty clear the no-finish criticism didn't bother him, but there still was a tinge of vindication.

"I do my talking in here [the Octagon]," he said. "The title isn't being defended, so whoever wants to fight for the title, come see me."

Sanchez wins in homecoming, sort of

Diego Sanchez sealed a debatable split decision victory over Ross Pearson © Getty Images

After 10 years, Diego Sanchez returned to Albuquerque a winner - albeit a debatable winner.

Ross Pearson (15-7) stayed disciplined - avoiding the slugfest Sanchez prefers - and clearly outperformed and outstruck Sanchez. And yet, Sanchez somehow came away with the split decision.

The judges scored it 30-27 (Pearson), 30-27 (Sanchez), 29-28 (Sanchez), which elicited the following response from UFC colour man Kenny Florian: "Those judges should be ashamed."

Afterward, Pearson expressed his disapproval with the judges.

"What can I say? I'm confident that I won every round," Pearson said. "I didn't get hit once. I guess it's my fault for leaving it in the hands of the judges."

Pearson's boxing was tight, crisp, methodical and accurate. According to FightMetric, Pearson landed 51 significant strikes to Sanchez's 33. Several times during the second and third rounds, Sanchez's trademark wild, brawling style seemed to want to emerge, as he bit down on his mouthpiece and egged on Pearson. However, Pearson remained true to his game plan, continuing to go to the body with kicks and landing short left hooks.

In Round 2, Pearson staggered Sanchez with big right hand, opening up Sanchez above the right eye. He seemed in control for the rest of the fight. Sanchez did very little in response, resorting to repeated reverse roundhouse kicks that were telegraphed and missed badly.

The problem with Sanchez is he remains the same fighter he was when he started his career. He wins his battles in brawls with his chin but formulates little strategy and shows moderate improved skill. There's a lot of showmanship with his berserker craze, but in the end, it was neither his chin nor showmanship that earned him the nod, just a simple gift from the judges.

Afterward, Sanchez made his future intentions clear.

"Now that it's over and I'm still injury-free, I'm hoping to have a quick turnaround and I have something in mind," Sanchez said. "Take me to Mexico! Diego Sanchez versus [lightweight contender] Nate Diaz in Mexico City!"

Dodson dominates Moraga

John Dodson elbows John Moraga © Getty Images

John Dodson (17-6) doesn't lack for flair. With a brutal knee to the nose of John Moraga (14-3), Dodson also did not disappoint his hometown.

While the flyweight division is constantly maligned for lack of depth, Dodson left little doubt that he deserves another shot at flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. The division has also been criticised for a lack of knockout power, and yet, there's Dodson tied with the most knockout wins with three.

Dodson clearly owned the advantage in quickness, circling the taller Moraga and easily positioning himself for favourable angles coming out of his southpaw stance. Dodson's boxing was crisp, landing counter punches off Moraga's flailing misses.

With 35 seconds left in the first round, Dodson landed a huge left knee directly to Moraga's nose, sending Moraga immediately to the mat as he grabbed his nose and forehead. Moraga managed to somehow stand up as the round ended, but the damage was done.

During the break, after consulting the fight doctor, referee Mario Yamasaki called the bout, giving Dodson the TKO win.

In the end, Dodson put up a massive 41-8 strike advantage over Moraga.

If Johnson successfully defends his title against Ali Bagautinov at UFC 174, a rematch with Dodson seems inevitable. And it's all Dodson wants.

"I believe I've done enough," Dodson said in his post-fight interview with Jon Anik. "Whoever wins that fight next week better look out for me because I'm the best in the division and everyone knows it."

Dos Anjos' striking key to win

Rafael dos Anjos (21-7) showed just how much his stand-up game has improved with a second-round TKO of Jason High (18-5). Dos Anjos had rattled off a five-fight win streak before being halted by Khabib Nurmagomedov.

"My background is jui-jitsu, but I am trying to be better every time out, strengthen my weaknesses," Dos Anjos said. "I know he's a good wrestler and he was able to get me down a few times. My goal was to keep the fight on the feet and take away his advantage.

"I will fight whoever the UFC wants me to. I don't care if it's [UFC heavyweight champion] Cain Velasquez. If they can make 155, I'll be ready for them."

Hallman sets the pace on Edwards

It might have been the altitude that got to Yves Edwards in his lightweight bout with Piotr Hallman. But it was more likely Hallman's gas tank that secured him a third-round submission finish over Edwards.

Initially, Edwards looked sharp and mobile, scoring efficiently with some short hooks and straight jabs on Hallman in Round One. Hallman, who continued to stalk Edwards, repeatedly gunned for single- and double-leg takedowns.

By midway through the second round, Edwards slowed considerably, falling prey to Hallman's relentless pressure. Hallman connected with a big elbow that took the starch out of Edwards and opened up a gash.

By the third, Edwards had little left; his legs were rubbery and wobbly while Hallman's relentless pace continued unabated as he took down Edwards and applied ruthless ground-and-pound tactics until finally Edwards gave up his back against the cage, allowing Hallman to easily secure the rear-naked choke for the win.

"It's important to get the finish but all I care about is the win," Hallman said. When I got on top of him I tried to stay active and look for openings. Eventually he opened up and I was able to sink in the submission."

Comeback: Caraway

Despite displaying a clearly superior striking game, Erik Perez went away from his strength and straight into Bryan Caraway's advantage on the ground, succumbing to a rear-naked choke at 3:09 through the second round.

Caraway (19-7-0) came into the bout an underdog after sitting out of UFC action for more than a year.

"This was by far the toughest camp of my career," Caraway said. "My body was hurting and it was tough to train for the first six weeks, but in the last two [weeks] everything really came together.

"My plan was to feint a lot of shots out there and keep him guessing and off balance. I expected to wear him down and figured that the pressure of him fighting at home would help me with that."

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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