There's a first time for everything.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is all set to make its New Mexico debut, invading Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque this Saturday night (June 7, 2014) for UFC Fight Night 42: "Henderson vs. Khabilov."
In the main event, Benson Henderson tries to improve his winning streak since losing the lightweight title against Rustam Khabilov. The Dagestani is currently unbeaten in his last six contests.
Diego Sanchez fights in front of family and friends for the first time in 10 years, taking on Britain's Ross Pearson in his home of Albuquerque.
Also on the main card, former flyweight title contenders clash as John Dodson meets John Moraga, Rafael dos Anjos faces Jason High, Yves Edwards battles Piotr Hallman, and commencing the action on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) is a bantamweight bout featuring Erik Perez against Miesha Tate's beau, Bryan Caraway.
With several interesting storylines emerging from this card, check out our "Five Burning Questions" heading into these fights in New Mexico:
5. Is UFC trying to pad Sergio Pettis' record?
Anthony Pettis' little brother is still a baby, being the youngest fighter to compete inside the Octagon. His run on the regional scene was sensational, acquiring nine straight victories in just two years time.
When he met Will Campuzano at UFC 167, his opponent took the fight on a week's notice after going 5-0 since his UFC release. It was obvious Campuzano wasn't the stiffest of challenges, but he still gave Pettis a run for his money. Then, the promotion fed him Alex Caceres, who was expected to lose to the young prospect. "Bruce Leeroy" ended up submitting Pettis, momentarily stopping the hype train.
"The Phenom" now meets Yaotzin Meza in the main event of the FS1 "Prelims," and with all due respect to Meza, his 2-3 record in his past five fights suggests he's brought forth to be steamrolled. It's understandable you can't throw a young fighter into the deep waters right away, but all fingers point to a squash. Keep in mind, Meza lost to Chico Camus in his last bout, who is Pettis' training partner at Roufusport.
On the other hand, maybe Pettis isn't what everybody thinks he is?
4. Will it be the last time we see Yves Edwards compete?
Like Axl Rose once said, "nothing lasts forever."
You can't dislike the "Thugjitsu Master." He's one of those pioneers who fought way before you knew what a Kimura was. He's competed in almost all the major promotions over the past 17 years, facing opposition from all over the map including Nate Marquardt, Josh Thomson, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Mark Hominick and Matt Serra, among others.
Despite his four UFC bonuses, he's never held a title in his career, losing to K.J. Noons at EliteXC: "Return of The King" in 2008 and failed to capture the organization's lightweight strap.
Unfortunately for the Bahamian, he's only tasted victory twice in his past seven bouts. He's been knocked out twice during those contests, too, even if his last bout was a "No Contest" after Yancy Medeiros tested positive for doobies. He's lost close split decisions as well, but ultimately, they still count as losses.
If Edwards loses to Hallmann, UFC won't keep him around. That said, would he even need to compete anymore?
3. Could John Dodson vs. John Moraga technically be a title eliminator bout?
The flyweight championship will be on the line at UFC 174 in two weeks, when champion Demetrious Johnson defends his title for the fourth time against Ali Bagautinov in the main event. "Mighty Mouse" is coming off a destruction of Joseph Benavidez, knocking out the Team Alpha Male product in the first round of their rematch at UFC on FOX 9.
The Washington native also holds victories over Dodson and Moraga, who will be fighting each other on the main card this weekend.
The current state of the division is fine as it stands, but since it's still a relatively new weight class, rematches are bound to happen. "Mighty Mouse" has already decisively beat both competitors, but if one of these combatants scores an impressive win over the other (I'm talking about a finish here), it wouldn't be outrageous to see them against the winner of UFC 174's main event.
It would make more sense if Bagautinov upsets in the main event in terms of fresh match ups, but if he doesn't, Johnson could be expecting a familiar foe. Then again, there's also Jussier Formiga vs. Zach Makovsky and Ian McCall (another familiar face) vs. Brad Pickett on the horizon.
2. What happens to Diego Sanchez if he loses?
Observers are starting to believe the promotion loves guys who risk brain damage in their scraps by throwing caution to the wind when they compete. Obviously, UFC will say something along the lines of how they love fighters who entertain the fans and engage in wars, yet there are some cases where that mantra becomes problematic.
Sanchez has a current record of 1-3 in his last four bouts, including a questionable win over Takanori Gomi, and most recently, losing to up-and-comer Myles Jury. His fight against Gilbert Melendez was one of 2013's best bouts; however, "The Dream" sounded so punch-drunk in his post-fight interview that it was hard not to feel bad for him.
We'd rather see an entertaining fight than not, but the Albuquerque resident has given us more than we had hoped for over the years, taking part in seven "Fight of The Night" battles. If Sanchez loses badly, or simply gets out-struck for three rounds, will he be targeted for a retirement talk, or will the brass keep talking about how tough he is?
Lord knows he's too stubborn to quit on his own, and if his coach Greg Jackson feeds him nonsense of how he can soon be a world champion instead of taking a step back, it would be difficult to watch him in the near future.
1. What does Rustam Khabilov need to do in order to topple Benson Henderson?
Let's see ... suplex him into a living death?
It's a little bit of a weird match up, considering both fighters aren't exactly in the same boat in terms of potentially bogus UFC rankings and contention, but at the time, "Bendo" didn't have many suitors.
In Henderson's last fight, Thomson potentially set the blueprint on how to beat "Smooth" (even though he didn't), taking him down and getting in his face right from the get-go. That specific game plan requires solid grappling skills, which the Dagestani has, but it's not like Henderson doesn't possess those as well.
I wouldn't necessarily call this an easy match up for Henderson, though it's going to be tough for Khabilov to fight his type of fight if he can't lock up the Arizona-based scrapper. With that being said, the Dagestani's accolades as a decorated Sambo world champion should be enough to convince the masses this fight is going to be competitive.
Also, Khabilov has nothing to lose in this fight. If Henderson bags his ninth consecutive decision win against his foe, Khabilov shouldn't feel too down. A loss against a former champion isn't all that damaging (unless you get viciously knocked out), yet for Henderson, it would be pretty bad if he lost his second bout in three fights against a guy who is more or less unknown to casual fans.
That's a wrap.
Check out the finalized UFC Fight Night 42: "Henderson vs. Khabilov" fight card, including bout order and set times right here.