UFC lightweight contender Rafael dos Anjos made the most of his first main event appearance by stunning former champion Benson Henderson at Fight Night 49 in Tulsa, OK. The talented Brazilian secured the biggest win of his career by knocking out Henderson in the first round. Dos Anjos hurt “Smooth” with a well-placed jumping knee and would get the finish at the 2:31 mark after a terrific left hook sent Henderson to the canvas. While the decision by referee John McCarthy to stop the fight was booed by the crowd, it was clear that Henderson had been seriously rocked by the vicious combination of strikes.
It was the second straight knockout win for dos Anjos, as he also stopped Jason High at Fight Night 42 in New Mexico. He’s now won seven of his last eight fights, with that lone setback coming against undefeated contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dos Anjos owns impressive victories over Donald Cerrone and now Henderson during this successful stretch, and has clearly emerged as a legitimate title threat.
The loss for Henderson is a crippling blow to his hopes of landing a future lightweight title affair. He’d registered wins this year over Josh Thomson and Rustam Khabilov after losing his belt at UFC 164 to Anthony Pettis. The loss to dos Anjos marked the first time in Henderson’s career that he had been stopped via strikes. While he remains one of the division’s finest performers, it’s clear that his road back to the top has gotten a lot bumpier because of this latest setback.
Dos Anjos has certainly added another element to his game with his improved striking skills. He was previously known for his dangerous ground game, but now the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is more than comfortable to hold his own in the stand-up department.
Heading into the contest, dos Anjos believed that there were holes in Henderson’s game that he could take advantage of. He was certainly able to back up those words by making a major statement in finishing the ultra-tough, former lightweight kingpin. Dos Anjos will no doubt be looking at another high-profile clash for his next appearance. One attractive option could be to have him meet the winner of the UFC 178 co-main event matchup between Cerrone and former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.