An outstanding matchup between two UFC lightweight contenders will headline Fight Night 49 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Former champion and current no. 1 contender Benson Henderson will square off against no. 5-ranked Rafael dos Anjos on August 23. Both fighters are coming off successful efforts in New Mexico at the recent Fight Night 42 event.
“Smooth” got the monkey off his back against Rustam Khabilov by producing his first Octagon finish in 10 appearances. Henderson submitted “Tiger” in the fourth round of their main event clash and earned a Performance of the Night bonus. He showcased some raw emotion after the fight, indicating that if anyone in the 155-pound division wanted a title shot, they’d have to go through him to get it.
Henderson is 9-1 in a UFC career that saw him defeat Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 to win the lightweight strap and make three successful title defenses against Edgar, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. That lone stumble came in a title affair against Anthony Pettis at UFC 164, when he saw his title reign end due to a first-round submission loss. He’s recorded wins over Josh Thomson and Khabilov since that setback.
The prevailing theory was that Henderson would likely face undefeated contender Khabib Nurmagomedov after his most recent win, but matchmakers had other ideas. He still gets a formidable opponent in RDA, who also has his sights set on securing a future title clash.
Dos Anjos turned in a solid bounce-back performance against Jason High in Albuquerque as he stopped the veteran in the second round after landing a strong left hand and a series of follow-up strikes. It was a much-needed victory after he was dominated by Nurmagomedov in losing a unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 11. Dos Anjos has won six of his last seven fights, including a notable victory over Donald Cerrone.
The organization has to be liking the attitudes of both of these elite 155-pound competitors. Henderson and dos Anjos are clearly men on a mission and willing to take on the best to prove they deserve a future title shot. It promises to be an entertaining affair between two very talented fighters.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports