In the UFC's first event in New Mexico, former lightweight champ Benson Henderson made a strong statement by finishing Rustam Khabilov in the night's main-event bout at UFC Fight Night 42 on Saturday.
"Bendo" stunned the surging Russian with a two-punch combination early in the fourth round. Seconds later, Henderson used a Gable-grip to cinch up a fight-ending rear-naked choke just 1:16 into the fourth round.
The loss snapped a six-fight winning streak for the 11th-ranked Khabilov, a Jackson's MMA standout who had won each of his three previous UFC bouts.
Henderson, conversely, notched his second straight win while running his UFC record to 9-1. The second-ranked Bendo suffered his only two losses under the Zuffa, LLC umbrella to UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis.
Although Khabilov scored on six of his 10 takedown attempts, "Tiger" got outstruck by Bendo, 48-32, including 26-18 in the significant strikes department.
Henderson also amassed three guard passes, two submission attempts, a knockdown, a reversal and a takedown.
Henderson remained composed in the clinch and off his back against the venomous Russian in each round. More importantly, however, Bendo continued to intensify his pressure and gain momentum as the fight wore on.
By the end of the second round, Henderson's game plan and pace began to induce mistakes from Khabilov.
After a relatively evenly fought third round, Henderson picked the ideal moment to unleash a two-punch combination that buckled Tiger to his knees.
A charged-up Henderson then wasted no time and locked up a rear-naked choke as Khabilov hit the canvas, forcing a tap seconds later to seal the win.
Roughly an hour after Bendo's win, Pettis, who beat the Arizona native in lightweight title fights at WEC 53 and UFC 164, took to Twitter to give what appeared to be a prediction on his future with Henderson.
Three peat???— Anthony Pettis (@Showtimepettis) June 8, 2014
Pettis has won four of his five fights in the UFC, with his lone loss being a unanimous decision against Clay Guida at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 13. "Showtime's" only other loss under the Zuffa, LLC banner came against Bart Palaszewski at WEC 45.
All stats gathered via Fightmetric.com.