Benson “Smooth” Henderson is 9-1 since arriving in the UFC. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
One goal drives Benson Henderson: to reclaim the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown.
Henderson, 30, will face another dangerous test along the treacherous path to another title shot, as he locks horns with Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC Fight Night “Henderson vs. dos Anjos” headliner on Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. Spawned by the MMA Lab, Henderson enjoys climbing the ladder at 155 pounds, provided he finds a rematch with Anthony Pettis or Gilbert Melendez at the top of it.
“I’m a man on a mission, whether it’s to get a belt and to keep a belt. I have a lot of crazy goals in my head. I’m always a man on a mission for something,” he said on the Aug. 20 edition of “UFC Tonight.”
Henderson answered his detractors and quieted his critics at a UFC Fight Night event in June, when he submitted Rustam Khabilov with a fourth-round rear-naked choke. It was his first finish in more than four years. Still, “Smooth” remains resolute in his pursuit of victory by any means necessary, regardless of whether it results in a knockout, submission or decision.
“I’m going after a great performance,” Henderson said. “If I get a submission or knockout, of if a guy slips on a banana peel, I’ll take it. It’s all about having a good performance and getting your hand raised.”
Dos Anjos has proven a difficult out, as evidenced by his decision win over Donald Cerrone a little more than a year ago. The 29-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is 6-1 in his past seven appearances, losing only to the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dos Anjos last fought in June, when he put away 2009 Dream welterweight grand prix finalist Jason High with second-round punches.
“He’s most dangerous in his standup game,” Henderson said. “He’s best known for his Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, but he’s been working on his striking and part of his late-career resurgence has been because of his standup. He’s very accurate and dangerous and has power in his hands.”
Mike Pyle has seen and experienced just about everything during a long and successful mixed martial arts career, so it should come as little surprise that he has taken in stride his late change in opponent. Instead of 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Demian Maia, the man they call “Quicksand” will confront Jordan Mein in the co-main event.
“I was already training for a fight,” Pyle said. “The bottom line was I was going to be in a fight Saturday night, regardless of who it was.”
Mein brings an entirely different skill set to the table. Whereas Maia is widely regarded as a grappling savant, the 24-year-old Canadian much prefers the standup and has delivered more than half (15) of his 28 professional victories by knockout or technical knockout.
“He’s a great striker and dangerous on his feet,” Pyle said. “I have to be very alert and keep my eyes open and my eyes on the prize.”
Pyle has won nine of his last 12 fights, losing only to Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald and Matt Brown. At 38, it could be argued that he has never been better.
“You always learn by your mistakes,” Pyle said. “I’m always trying to improve and better myself. The people surrounding me, my coaches and teammates, have things to say and I listen. I absorb everything I can. I’m always working on flaws and trying to put it together on fight night.”
THIS & THAT
The BOK Center, which plays host to the Tulsa Shock, of the WNBA, and the Tulsa Oilers, of the Central Hockey League, opened in 2008 at a cost of $196 million ... Thales Leites has secured 13 victories by submission: seven via arm-triangle choke, three via armbar, two via rear-naked choke and another via triangle-armbar ... Clay Collard, at 21, is the fourth-youngest fighter on the active UFC roster ... Nova Uniao export Valmir Lazaro lists Brazilian racecar driver Ayrton Senna as one of his heroes. The three-time Formula One world champion was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1, 1994, when “Bidu” was 8 years old ... When American Top Team’s Ben Saunders climbs into the cage, 1,477 days will have passed since his most recent Octagon appearance -- a unanimous decision loss to Dennis Hallman at UFC 117 ... Team Takedown representative Chas Skelly hails from Azle, Texas, a small 8.8-square-mile town of less than 11,000 people located 16 miles northwest of Fort Worth ... “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 16 semifinalist Neil Magny earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Southern Illinois Edwardsville ... Iranian-born lightweight Beneil Dariush holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Bruno Paulista ... When Aaron Phillips was born on Aug. 5, 1989, the top five songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list were The Artist’s “Batdance,” Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own,” Love and Rockets’ “So Alive,” Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” and Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” ... Wilson Reis was one of six men to capture an EliteXC championship. Antonio Silva, Murilo Rua, Robbie Lawler, Jake Shields and K.J. Noons were the others.