The Bellator MMA powers that be still believe in Benson Henderson brand.
Henderson has drawn another main event assignment despite his 1-3 record with the promotion, as he will confront fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Roger Huerta in the Bellator 196 headliner on Friday at the Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary. The show airs via tape delay at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on Paramount.
A former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting champion, Henderson stumbled out of the gate with Bellator. The 34-year-old MMA Lab star’s technical knockout win over Patricio Freire has been offset by decision losses to Andrey Koreshkov, Michael Chandler and Patricky Freire. Nevertheless, Henderson owns one of the deepest resumes in the sport at 155 pounds, having defeated Frankie Edgar (twice), Donald Cerrone (twice), Jim Miller, Clay Guida, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson. He was a two-time NAIA All-American wrestler at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, and holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and taekwondo.
Huerta’s career has not gone according to plan since he left the UFC with a gaudy 20-3-1 record in 2009. “El Matador” has won just four of his 10 fights -- a stretch that includes stoppage losses to Eddie Alvarez, War Machine, Zorobabel Moreira and Ariel Sexton. Huerta, 34, last competed at a Phoenix Fighting Championship show on Dec. 22, when opponent Hayder Hassan was disqualified for a series of illegal elbows.
The battle between Henderson and Huerta is but one reason to watch Bellator 196. Here are four more:
Ed Ruth was a three-time NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State University, where he went an absurd 136-3 and still ranks first on the school’s all-time list in winning percentage (.978), third in falls (46) and fifth in victories. His transition to MMA has gone swimmingly, as he has finished each of his first four opponents inside two rounds. Ruth last fought at Bellator 186, where he delivered a one-punch knockout against Chris Dempsey on Nov. 3. The 27-year-old middleweight once trained out of the Jackson-Wink MMA academy but has since linked arms with the Dethrone Base Camp outfit in Fresno, California. Ruth will be opposed by Ion Pascu, a British Association of Mixed Martial Arts and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship veteran who enters their clash on a modest two-fight winning streak.
Adam Borics must feel something like a yo-yo. The undefeated Hungarian has seen two booked opponents -- James Gallagher and Manuel Gaxhja -- withdraw from the event, putting his return to his homeland in jeopardy. Enter the once-beaten Teodor Nikolov. A short-notice substitute for the aforementioned Gaxhja, Nikolov approaches his organizational debut with plenty of momentum. The Bulgarian has rattled off six consecutive victories, all of them finishes, and in fact has never gone the distance in his 12-fight career. Borics, 24, last appeared at Bellator 177 a little less than a year ago, when he improved to 6-0 with a rear-naked choke submission on Anthony Taylor.
Bellator Kickboxing women’s flyweight champion Denise Kielholtz remains an intriguing talent despite a lukewarm start to her mixed martial arts career. The decorated muay Thai stylist owns a 47-3 record as a professional kickboxer and achieved the rank of black belt in judo. Kielholtz, 29, returned to the MMA stage after a two-year absence in November, when she needed just 76 seconds to submit Jessica Middleton with a scarf hold armlock at Bellator 188. Originally slated to face Lena Ovchynnikova, the Dutchwoman will instead square off with promotional newcomer Petra Castkova. The 36-year-old Czech boxer has lost two of her last three bouts.
Brian Moore if nothing else promises action. The SBG Ireland export has not gone to a decision in more than four years, a period during which he has pieced together a 3-3 mark across various promotions. Moore, 30, was part of the Bellator 187 main event on Nov. 10, when he was choked unconscious by the undefeated A.J. McKee in the third round of their encounter at the 3Arena in Dublin. In his latest assignment, “The Pikeman” toes the line against a lesser-known counterpart in Giorgio Belsanti. The 28-year-old Ligorio Top Team-trained Italian heads into his Bellator debut on the heels of back-to-back victories over Vando de Almeida and Xiao Yang Liu.