Benson Henderson's brief fling with the welterweight division has come to an end.
Fighting at lightweight for the first time in 19 months, Henderson (23-6 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) will take on Brazilian Patricio Freire (25-3 MMA, 13-3 BMMA) in the Bellator 160 (10 P.M. EST, SPIKE TV) main event. The pair of former world champions square off on August 26 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California, with a crack at Michael Chandler and a Bellator lightweight title shot hanging in the balance.
Henderson, an ex-UFC champion and Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, has always been known for his pressure and wrestling. And while he racked up a pair of victories at 170 pounds in 2015, his Bellator debut -- a welterweight title shot against current champion Andrey Koreshkov in April -- didn't go as planned, as Henderson was dominated from start to finish by the Russian import.
For Freire, Bellator 160 marks his lightweight debut with the promotion, after losing the featherweight belt in November 2015. A well-rounded fighter at 145 pounds, Freire will see how his power translates to the higher weight division. The move up a weight class was prompted by his brother Patricky's recent loss to Chandler. Freire will attempt to restore the family name to the Bellator title picture.
The edge in every facet of mixed martial arts goes to Henderson in this bout. From his phenomenal cardio and ability to transition from the feet to the ground, Henderson is a heavy favorite in this bout. But the main question is how will Henderson look in his return to lightweight, where he will need to cut a significant amount of weight to make the 155-pound limit.
Freire's best shot will be to catch Henderson with a big punch early.
And while there's always a puncher's chance in MMA, expect Henderson to wear Freire down and overwhelm the Brazilian before locking in the submission in the third round.
Saad Awad vs. Derek Anderson
A battle of lightweight veterans, this contest between Saad Awad (19-7 MMA, 7-4 BMMA) and Derek Anderson (13-2 MMA, 4-2 BMMA) will feature a pair of well-rounded fighters who are just a few wins away from a possible title shot.
Awad, who won his most recent bout via TKO, has had difficulty finding consistency inside the Bellator cage after knocking out former champion Will Brooks in 2013. Still, Awad remains a viable threat at 155 pounds.
Coming off a split decision win against Patricky Freire in December 2015, Anderson will look to win back-to-back bouts for the first time since 2014. Anderson will have a slight height and reach advantage in this fight; his best chance will be to pepper Awad with strikes from the outside and avoid trading in the pocket.
But Awad's pressure will be too much, as he earns the upset via decision.
A.J. McKee vs. Cody Walker
One of Bellator's hottest young prospects, featherweight A.J. McKee (4-0 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) looks to keep his perfect record in tact, taking on late-replacement Cody Walker (7-4 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) in a featured bout.
McKee, the son of MMA veteran Antonio McKee, has been training in mixed martial arts since the age of four, and has a dynamic striking game to complement his submission skills.
Walker, who steps in on short notice for an injured Henry Corrales, does have a significant height and reach advantage, but the extra length will do little to stop the speedy McKee from pressuring inside to land strikes.
This fight will likely end inside the first round, with McKee scoring the TKO victory. Afterward, it will be time for McKee to take a serious step up in competition.
Bubba Jenkins vs. Georgi Karakhanyan
A rematch of a January 2015 bout, this featherweight contest between wrestler Bubba Jenkins (11-2 MMA, 8-2 BMMA) and Georgi Karakhanyan (24-6-1 MMA, 3-4 BMMA) may be the most competitive on the Bellator 160 card.
With Karakhanyan choking Jenkins unconscious to win their previous encounter, the two return to the cage for what could likely be a featherweight title eliminator bout.
Looking for his fourth-straight win, Jenkins appears to be a vastly improved fighter since their last bout. Jenkins, who is a former NCAA Division-I wrestling champion, already has the advantage in the grappling department, but questions remain regarding his standup game.
For Karakhanyan, this bout with Jenkins is a chance to avoid a third-straight loss, and finally earn a title shot after pulling out of a championship bout in 2015. But beating Jenkins will be a tougher task than during their previous encounter.
And while Karakhanyan will get the better of the early striking exchanges, Jenkins will ultimately wrap up the decision win with a mixture of pressure, takedowns, and top control.