Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson is making a June return at a Fight Night event in New Mexico and will square off against Rustam Khabilov. Khabilov had expressed a desire to meet Henderson in his next fight and “Smooth” accepted the challenge. The contest will headline a card that is set for June 7 in Albuquerque.
Henderson is fresh off a hotly contested decision victory over Josh Thomson at UFC on FOX 10 in Chicago. The win denied “The Punk” a future title shot but didn’t bring Henderson any closer to his title opportunity. UFC President Dana White was critical of Henderson’s performance and labelled him as a non-finisher of fights. Henderson has eight victories in nine Octagon appearances with all of those victories by decision.
He’s hoping to continue his quest to get his title back after losing it to Anthony Pettis at UFC 164 and a win against the surging Khabilov would be another step in the right direction. Henderson is going to need to string multiple victories together until the organization simply can’t deny him any longer. He’s 0-2 in his career against Pettis and the promotion doesn’t seem ready anytime soon for a third matchup between the two. Gilbert Melendez, a fighter Henderson defeated, is getting the first title shot at “Showtime.”
As for Khabilov, he’s 3-0 inside the Octagon and is currently riding a six-fight win streak. The Russian Combat Sambo ace has compiled an impressive 17-1 career mark. He’s moved up to no.14 in the lightweight division and this marks by far the highest profile opportunity of his career. Khabilov is coming off an exciting decision victory over Jorge Masvidal at Fight for the Troops 3. He had been slated to square off against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 170 but was forced to withdraw due to an injury.
This is an intriguing matchup between a former champion intent on working his way back to the top against a still relatively unknown but talented fighter who will be looking for a breakout performance.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports