UFC Fight Night 42 Fight Breakdown: Benson Henderson (-250) vs. Rustam Khabilov (+210)

Rustam Khabilov The main event of UFC Fight Night 42 is a five-round lightweight bout between “Smooth” Benson Henderson and Rustam “Tiger” Khabilov. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers lists Henderson as a -250 favorite (bet $250 to win $100) while Khabilov is a +210 underdog (bet $100 to win $210). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Henderson at -245 and Khabilov at +175, and so far there has been very slight support for the favorite as the lines have tightened. I agree with the slight support behind Henderson as I believe he will win this fight. Here’s why. Henderson (20-3) is the former UFC lightweight champion and is one of the most well-rounded 155lbers in the world. The 30 year old is 8-1 in the UFC with wins over Josh Thomson, Frankie Edgar (twice), Clay Guida, Nate Diaz, Mark Bocek, Jim Miller and Gilbert Melendez, and he also holds wins over Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner from back in the WEC days. That’s one hell of a resume for anyone, but especially at lightweight, where Henderson is one of the top three fighters in his weight class currently signed to the UFC. He was on a huge roll in the Octagon before running into Anthony Pettis and losing his belt last summer at UFC 164, but he rebounded from that loss with a split decision win over Thomson earlier this year at UFC on FOX 10 to get back into title contention. That was a controversial win to be sure, but at the end of the day Henderson got his hand raised and that’s what he does best — win. With his mix of powerful wrestling, lethal ground and pound, exceptional leg kicks, and slick submissions, Henderson is one of the most dangerous lightweights out there. Although he did lose to Pettis in the first round, in general Henderson has shown incredible toughness throughout his career and it’s hard to see him getting finished by anyone other than the champ. This Saturday at UFC Fight Night 42, Henderson takes on Khabilov in a fight he must win if he hopes to ever get a third fight against Pettis, and the odds are saying he will do exactly that as he enters the weekend as a solid -250 favorite. Khabilov (17-1) is part of the new wave of Russian fighters who have invaded the UFC in recent years. He’s been exceptional so far in the UFC, going 3-0 with wins over Jorge Masvidal, Yancy Medeiros and Vinc Pichel to earn this fight against a top contender in the form of Henderson. A Sambo ace, Khabilov’s powerful slams have garnered him the attention of both fans and media alike, and it’s his power wrestling that makes him an intriguing opponent for anyone in the division, including the champion Pettis. But he’s not just a wrestler, for her showed in the fight against Masvidal that he is also a skilled striker, having knocked “Gambred” down with a spinning heel kick to the head in that fight. Training at Greg Jackson’s in New Mexico, Khabilov will have the hometown crowd behind him in this fight against Henderson, and he’ll need it as this is a very difficult matchup for him on paper. However, fights aren’t played out on paper, they are played out in the cage, and if Khabilov’s rate of improvement is higher than we all expect then could very well pull off the upset and become one of the top contenders at 155lbs. But it won’t be easy at all, and that’s why he enters this fight as a decent-sized underdog. I expect a competitive mixed martial arts bout that takes place in all areas of the game. Look for both men to mix it up on the feet, for both to try and wrestling each other, and for both to go for some submissions, but I believe both fighters’ skillsets will cancel each other out and I see the fight going the five-round distance. Like most Henderson fights, I expect it to be a relatively close decision, but like most Henderson fights I also see him getting his hand raised as he defeats Khabilov by decision and continues to embark on his road back to the title shot. I think the -250 price on Henderson is a bit too high so I would pass on betting him. As for Khabilov, I’ve been burned betting against Henderson in the past and wouldn’t recommend betting the underdog in this spot unless his line reached +300. However, I do like a prop in this fight, and that’s on Henderson winning by five-round decision, which is available at +120. That’s typically the method Henderson wins his fights by, and I don’t expect him to finish Khabilov so I like that play the best here.

Written by Adam Martin.

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