Plagued by injuries over the last several months, Benson Henderson (22-5) and his trademark toothpick are heading one division north for a second-straight time to tangle with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight title challenger Thiago Alves (21-10).
Only this time it will be in UFC's first-ever trip to South Korea for UFC Fight Night 79, which takes place on Nov. 28, 2015, from Olympic Gymnastics Arena (for more on the card, click here).
Henderson -- who is African-American on his father's side, but also Korean on his mother's side (video of his 2012 trip to South Korea here) -- really appreciated the match up given to him by UFC, which almost never came to be (via MMA Fighting).
"Getting the South Korea card, being the main event on that, is a very big deal for me. I'm very excited; I was very, very happy when everything was made official," Henderson told MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz. "Alves is a great opponent -- he fought for the title before. His last fight was the winner got a title shot so he's right up there. We know he's tough as heck; he's a big 170-pounder. We're a pretty similar build. He's not too much bigger than I am, height- and body-wise. We think it's a good match up."
The 31-year-old has remained non-committal over the move to 170 pounds of late (the weight cut is "irritating" says Henderson's camp), but it would appear he has no problem in doing so. Henderson won in come-from-behind fashion over 6'2" welterweight Brandon Thatch -- a truly David versus Goliath match up.
However, Thatch -- who had only 12 fights under his belt at the time of the fight -- could not match the technique of Henderson on the feet and on the ground, as the former was quickly swallowed up by the latter's jiu-jitsu game in the fourth round, submitting to a rear-naked choke.
Regardless of the nature of his victory, Henderson had his work cut out for him against "Rukus" and he will need to be ever more sharp against Alves, who is the owner of some pretty nasty leg kicks. Alves is coming off of a brutal, technical knockout loss at the hands of Carlos Condit back in May and is 3-2 in his last five fights with wins over the recently retired Jordan Mein, Seth Baczynski and Papy Abedi.
One thing working in the MMA Lab representative's favor? He's got five rounds to make something happen and Henderson knows a little something about 25-minute wars, having been in five of them in his UFC career.
"I think at 170, I'll need my five-round fights," remarked Henderson. "I'm pretty good at five rounds. I'm pretty established here. I can do five hard. I can do five rounds at a full strength the entire time; no problem. But at 170 those guys are pretty big, they're pretty strong; they're pretty good so I definitely think I'll need those five rounds to wear those big boys down."
"With the way the UFC goes, with the way UFC matchmaking works up -- this happens, that happens -- who knows?," Henderson posed. "You can have one spectacular, amazing performance and you're in the title shot. You could have 7-8 great wins -- solid performances -- but you're just sub-par performances and you don't get a title shot."
Henderson has endured his share of contested performances; especially his 25-minute battles with Frankie Edgar when he was king fish atop -- along with Edgar -- the 155-pound division. But he's also had his share of lopsided victories including a mauling of Nate Diaz and a submission finish of Rustam Khabilov.
Going into each Octagon tussle -- he's had 13 of them -- Henderson has channeled his inner "Mystic Mac" prior to entering UFC's cage.
"I'm a strong proponent of visualization -- mental work -- you know? Every time I visually step into a ring, actually physically step into a ring, I've already seen myself step into the ring at least 1,000 times before," said Henderson. "I've run the gamut of all possible ways of the fight ending. Every way is with my hand raised ... I'm looking to add another belt to my wall."
For more on the UFC Fight Night 79: "Henderson vs. Alves" fight card click here.