Join us in the new LowKick MMA chat rooms to discuss this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 42 from Albuquerque, starting live at 7 p.m. EST tomorrow night!
Benson Henderson vs. Rustam Khabilov:
Mike Drahota: “Smooth” signed on for a fight that, despite being a tough one, will do absolutely nothing for his title quest. The No. 11 Khabilov has shown a solid mix of Sambo takedowns and crisp striking on his way to three straight wins in UFC. However, he’s never fought anyone on the level of Henderson, and the former champion appears beyond motivated. Khabilov may be a future contender; but I think he learns a hard lesson in this fight. I also think “Smooth” finally gets his first UFC finish. My pick is Henderson via R2 submission.
Rory Kernaghan: Benson Henderson and Rustam Khabilov is a bit of a lottery to pick, even though Bendo is the number one contender and the former champion of the division. The Dagestan native brings a Sambo master’s degree to the table and is part of a new breed of Soviet wrestlers that are taking the UFC by storm. Henderson has high level grappling and wrestling, but also a rather unique brand of TKD based striking, which he mixes with unorthodox game plans. By this time Bendo should be well aware that boring wins are about as good as a loss, which is why he finds himself in this bout with a non-top 10 scrapper. I expect ‘Smooth’ to be fired up, and Khabilov to get outclassed. Bendo by submission in round 4.
Brian Cox: I think Ben Henderson has all the tools he needs to be the best 155 pounder in the world. However, if I had to find a fault in him I’d say it was his heart. “Bendo” seems to struggle with it at times. Conversely, I think Khabilov has the type of heart that can take him to the top. For me, I see this fight as a gut check for Henderson. He needs to win this fight and he needs to win it impressively. His last outing against Josh Thompson was a win, but not an impressive one. And on the heels of his second consecutive loss to division champ Anthony Pettis it put his status in the division in question. However, his opponent is a tough, game fighter, and one with a great deal of physical strength. For me, I think I’m going to go with the Russian Tiger on this one. I think he’s going to prove a little more robust and a little hungrier than Henderson. For that reason I’m picking Rustam Khabilov by way of third round TKO.
Buster Evans: Rustam Khabilov is a highly skilled, there’s no denying that. However, the Dagestani native faces a big step up in competition when he meets Benson Henderson on Saturday. In his three fights in the UFC so far, Khabilov has been able to dominate all his opponents with his grappling, and he showed a dramatically improved striking game against Jorge Masvidal in his last fight. The problem is he’s going up against a different kind of striking beast in “Smooth,” who is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and very good at mixing up his striking. Expect “Bendo” to pick apart his opponent on the feet to take a unanimous decision.
Diego Sanchez vs. Ross Pearson:
Mike Drahota: Expect ‘The Nightmare’ to return in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. After his recent slide, if there’s ever been a time for Sanchez to pick up a big win, it’s now. He’s used to being under the spotlight after many years in the Octagon, and let’s hope that he doesn’t eat any tainted beef the night before this fight. Pearson is a solid competitor with great striking, and he could possibly pull off a decision, but Sanchez I going to be a beast to deal with in his hometown. Sanchez via R2 TKO.
Rory Kernaghan: Diego Sanchez and Ross Pearson is a stand and bang match made in heaven! I don’t really have any preference as to who wins, but I’m pretty certain this will be fight of the night in New Mexico. Judging by Sanchez’s last performance, he needs to tune up a bit for Pearson; the Brit has some serious punching power and great conditioning and cardio. That being said, it is actually quite a hard fight to pick. Screw it, I predict ‘The Nightmare’ to land with some big shots early on, and to get a first round TKO win.
Brian Cox: Ross Pearson is a fighter that has greatly improved since coming to the UFC. He has a decent stand-up and ground game, and is the type of fighter that makes good use of opportunity. However, the same thing can be said about Diego Sanchez. For me, this fight is going to boil down to which Diego Sanchez shows up to fight. If the real “Nightmare” shows up, then he could easily make short work of Pearson. If not, then this could end up being (just) another fight that Sanchez should have won. I’m going to show some faith here and say that a motivated Sanchez shows for this bout. For that reason, I’m picking Diego Sanchez by way of a third round submission.
Buster Evans: Ross Pearson faces arguably the biggest test of his professional career against Diego Sanchez on Saturday and he has all the tools to pull of the win. He’s the better boxer, with quicker hands and sharper footwork. He should be able to outstrike “The Dream”, but I doubt he will be able to finish him. And with Sanchez always looking to be in the FOTN, unlikely he will try and take the fight down. That equates to “The Real Deal” picking his opponent apart en-route to a decision win. But I think Sanchez will catch the Brit to KO him in the second.
Photo: David Banks for USA TODAY Sports