Benson Henderson turned the tide on Rustam Khabilov. | Josh Hedges/Getty Images
Benson Henderson silenced his critics, at least for one fight.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight titleholder submitted Rustam Khabilov with a fourth-round rear-naked choke in the UFC Fight Night “Henderson vs. Khabilov” headliner on Saturday at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, N.M. Khabilov (17-2, 3-1 UFC) waved the white flag 76 seconds into round four, his six-fight winning streak a thing of the past.
Henderson (21-3, 9-1 UFC) weathered various grappling and striking blitzes from the rugged Dagestani lightweight, slowly wearing down the Jackson-Wink MMA representative with relentless forward pressure. Khabilov finally broke early in the fourth round, where Henderson tagged him with a beautiful right uppercut-straight left combination and trailed him to the mat. Once there, “Smooth” moved immediately to Khabilov’s back and cinched the choke for the tapout. The 30-year-old Henderson has won 19 of his past 21 bouts.
“I don’t do a whole lot of talking,” he said, “but I do my talking in here. I don’t need to talk out there. I talk in here.”
Henderson had not finished a fight since submitting Donald Cerrone under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner in April 2010.
“I put more pressure on myself than anyone realizes,” Henderson said. “The most pressure I face is from myself. I expect to succeed. I expect to do well. I expect to end fights. I expect to finish everybody. I bust my butt to make sure that happens. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t. All I can do is my best.”
Sanchez Awarded Controversial Decision
In the co-main event, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez eked out a controversial split decision over Alliance MMA representative Ross Pearson. Two of the three cageside judges sided with Sanchez by 30-27 and 29-28 scores; a third cast a dissenting 29-28 nod for Pearson.
Fighting in his hometown for the first time in more than a decade, Sanchez (25-7, 14-7 UFC) was rewarded for his aggression. Pearson (15-7, 7-4 UFC) appeared to land the cleaner punches with more regularity and turned the takedown game of “The Nightmare” into a non-factor. He dropped Sanchez with a right hand late in the second round, countered effectively throughout and assaulted the Jackson-Wink MMA export’s body with punches, knees and kicks. However, Pearson’s work went unrewarded on two of the three scorecards.
Dodson Knee Strike Results in Stoppage
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner John Dodson stopped John Moraga on a technical knockout in between the second and third rounds of their pivotal flyweight clash. Having absorbed a brutal knee strike to the nose, Moraga (14-3, 3-2 UFC) was deemed unfit to continue by the cageside physician while seated on his stool.
Dodson (16-6, 5-1 UFC) mixed his punching combinations with knees and leg kicks, frustrating his opponent with blinding speed and lateral movement. “The Magician” answered a pair of Moraga right hands with a takedown early in round two. After the flyweights returned to their feet, Dodson delivered the decisive strike. Moraga retreated to the base of the cage in visible distress, his badly damaged nose bleeding profusely. He survived the subsequent onslaught, only to have his outing cut short by the doctor moments later.
Dos Anjos Stays Hot, Dismisses High
The world-ranked Rafael dos Anjos put away American Top Team’s Jason High with a searing left cross and follow-up punches in the third round of their lightweight showcase. Dos Anjos (21-7, 10-5 UFC) drew it to a close 3:36 into round three, as he won for the sixth time in seven fights.
High (18-5, 2-3 UFC) was effective with his takedowns but mounted little else in terms of meaningful offense. Dos Anjos took down the 2009 Dream welterweight grand prix finalist some two minutes into the third round, shifted to side control and threatened with a rear-naked choke. High escaped to his feet but found no refuge there. Dos Anjos folded him with a left hand and swarmed with hammerfists and punches to force the stoppage.
Surging Hallman Finishes Edwards
Piotr Hallmann submitted American Top Team’s Yves Edwards with a third-round rear-naked choke in a featured scrap at 155 pounds. Edwards (42-21-1, 10-9 UFC) bowed out 2:31 into round three, as he tapped for the first time in more than eight years.
Hallmann (15-2, 2-1 UFC) gradually wore down the “Thugjitsu Master.” He turned a corner in the second round, where he opened a cut near Edwards’ hairline with a well-placed elbow. Hallmann struck for a takedown roughly 90 seconds into the third, set up shop in top position and waited for an opening. With the Pole threatening to move to full mount, Edwards left his neck exposed. Moments later, the choke was in place, the finish imminent.
The 26-year-old Hallmann has rattled off 11 wins in 12 outings.
Caraway Choke Submits Perez
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 alum Bryan Caraway submitted Erik Perez with a second-round rear-naked choke in a bantamweight showcase. Perez (14-6, 4-2 UFC) conceded defeat 1:52 into round two, as he lost for just the second time in 11 appearances.
After a competitive first round, Caraway (19-6, 4-1 UFC) turned to his strengths. He scrambled into top position following a failed takedown attempt from Perez, moved to side control and ultimately passed to the Jackson-Wink MMA representative’s back. Caraway then fished for the submission, sinking the palm-to-palm rear-naked choke for the finish.
The 29-year-old Caraway has won five of his past six bouts.
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