LightweightBenson Henderson (28-10, 5-5 Bellator) vs. Brent Primus (10-2, 8-2 Bellator)
ODDS: Henderson (-115), Primus (-105)
Things have not gone as planned for Henderson since signing with Bellator as a prized free-agent acquisition. In his promotional debut, he was completely dominated by then champion Andrey Koreshkov in a bid for welterweight gold at Bellator 153. Since then, he’s had close losses to Michael Chandler and Patricky Freire, while his signature win over Patricio Freire came with an asterisk when the younger “Pitbull” brother suffered a leg injury in the second round. Now, the former WEC and UFC lightweight title holder enters his matchup with Primus on a two-bout skid. Henderson has previously said he wants to retire before age 40. “Smooth is 37 years old now, so he might not have that many more fights left in him.
Primus is best known for his bizarre lightweight championship victory over Michael Chandler at Bellator 180, where his opponent suffered a leg injury and was unable to continue. Chandler promptly handled Primus in their rematch and has since moved on the UFC, dashing any hopes of a trilogy — at least for now. Most recently, Primus’ quality work off his back was denied in favor of Islam Mamedov’s top control in a split-decision defeat at Bellator 263.
With Patricio Freire vacating the lightweight title, the climb back to the top of the division might be quicker than expected for the winner of this fight. If Henderson or Primus is impressive, it isn’t difficult to imagine either man slotting in against the Patricky Freire-Peter Queally title-bout winner down the road.
Henderson’s trend of being involved in difficult-to-score bouts has carried over from the UFC to Bellator, as three of his fights have ended in split decisions. The MMA Lab stalwart sets an unusual rhythm on the feet, where he can throw unorthodox strikes like lead uppercuts and lunging body shots while mixing in thudding kicks to the legs and body. “Smooth” figures to have an advantage on the feet against Primus, but the best part of the night could play out on the ground. Henderson is aggressive in grappling exchanges and scrambles, which could play into the hands of someone like Primus, who is known to throw up all varieties of submissions from his active guard. Both men eagerly pursue the takedown, but in an evenly matched fight, it’s not difficult to imagine the action stalling out along the cage at times. This has all the makings of another split decision, but Henderson is damn-near impossible to submit, has a few more striking tools at his disposal and has the experience advantage on his side.
THE PICK: Henderson by decision.
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