Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Benson Henderson is the marquee championship match that serves as the opening act for the Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix. When reigning champion Nurmagomedov faces multiple-time champion Henderson at Bellator 292 on Friday night, it will be the present and future vs. the history.
In San Jose, against a fighter with extensive experience, Nurmagomedov (16-0) makes the first defense of his Bellator lightweight title. Henderson is nearing the conclusion of his career, but there’s no denying that he’s the Grand Prix competitor with the most experience and recognition. The high standards associated with his last name have been met by Nurmagomedov. In Friday’s main event, he will have the chance to further his own reputation by adding a well-known, accomplished name to his flawless resume.
At the Bellator 292 media day on Wednesday, Nurmagomedov said that Benson is a wonderful opponent because he is a great fighter with a great legacy, so beating him first will give him a great advantage and that it will be a great start because he is so well-known.
“Whether in MMA or life in general, I never dismiss people. The fact that he lost could be due to multiple reasons, and people tend to improve from their mistakes. He is a strong fighter, and I do not underestimate him because he has lost fights before.” Nurmagomedov remarked.
Henderson (30-11) is back in his comfort zone despite the passage of time. With victories over the likes of Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal, Frankie Edgar (twice), and Donald Cerrone, the former UFC and WEC lightweight king is no stranger to the limelight (twice). Henderson’s final defence is at Bellator 292. He makes one more attempt to win the world championship before stepping down to support his wife Maria Henderson’s burgeoning MMA career. Henderson is by far the greatest underdog of his career, but that is not apparent from talking to him.
According to Henderson while talking to CBS Sports, “[I have the advantage] everywhere, I think the biggest problem for him will be the kickboxing. If he wants to stay in a kickboxing fight and just do kickboxing, I have no problem with that. Let’s put on some gloves and fight with kickboxing rules. I think I win that. Put on some gloves and have a Muay Thai fight, I think I win that also. Do you want to put on a singlet and do some wrestling? No problem. Let’s do freestyle, let’s do Greco, let’s do folkstyle. Whatever style of wrestling you want to do, I’ll probably win that. The only thing he probably beats me at is sambo. I don’t have a whole lot of sambo experience. In a gi in jiu-jitsu, I win that. No-gi in jiu-jitsu, I win that.”
A Grand Prix match from the opposing end of the draw serves as Friday’s co-main event. Tofiq Musayev and Alexander Shabliy, who is rated No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in Bellator’s official rankings, square off in the quarterfinals. As a former Rizin Grand Prix champion, Musayev experiences some déjà vu. The Azerbaijani fighter defeated Patricky Pitbull, the previous lightweight champion, and knocked out Sidney Outlaw in just 27 seconds in his Bellator debut. Shabliy enters the fight on a seven-fight winning run, which includes TKO victories over former champion Brent Primus and former UFC fighter Adriano Martins. The main event is opened by striking prodigy Michael “Venom” Page taking on submit master Goiti Yamauchi.