When you look at the lineup for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 68 card, it’s hard to pinpoint much of importance in terms of the championship chase.
Yes, heavyweights Ben Rothwell and Matt Mitrione are on the cusp of contending, and sure, Joe Soto fought for the UFC bantamweight title in his debut, but there’s one key component that must not be overlooked.
Like Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Chuck Liddell and countless others before him, each time Henderson steps foot inside the Octagon it just might be his last.
Henderson is one of the all-time greats, dominating over a period of time in multiple weight classes. While he didn’t secure UFC gold, he has went toe-to-toe with the legends of the sport.
As always, FightLine will have you covered with complete results, including live play-by-play of the event.
So, here’s a look at three key fights set for the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans this weekend. And, hint, hint, Henderson is included:
Dan Henderson vs. Tim Boetsch
As previously mentioned, it’s hard to remember the Henderson that wore Pride middleweight and welterweight gold, along with the Strikeforce light heavyweight title from years past.
He’s been on the receiving end of a pair of tough losses to stomach at the hands of Gegard Mousasi and Daniel Cormier in recent years, along with fights vs. Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida.
In fact, Henderson hasn’t beat somebody other than Mauricio “Shogun” Rua since July 2011 when he finished Fedor Emelianenko.
For Boetsch, this fight is a career-defining moment. The 34-year-old is several bouts removed from a four-fight win streak that featured victories over Hector Lombard and Yushin Okami.
To make a statement and remain relevant, he’ll need to forget about a January submission loss to Thales Leites and focus in on Henderson, much like he did vs. Brad Tavares last August and C.B. Dollaway in 2013.
Ben Rothwell vs. Matt Mitrione
Like Boetsch, this could be the fight that sets the tone for the rest of Matt Mitrione’s future.
The Ultimate Fighter alum, who’s made all 12 of his pro bouts inside the Octagon, has looked incredible in stringing together three consecutive wins. Mitrione’s finished Gabriel Gonzaga, Derrick Lewis and Shawn Jordan in that time.
Rothwell, meanwhile, made an impact last September when he finished Alistair Overeem. Now, though, he’ll be the hunted vs. Mitrione.
“Big Ben” has been inside the Octagon with some of the best in the heavyweight division, including Overeem, Mark Hunt, Cain Velasquez, Andrei Arlovski and Roy Nelson.
Joe Soto vs. Anthony Birchak
So I might have cheated a bit when I mentioned members of all three key fights inside of the opening paragraphs, but this bantamweight affair between Joe Soto and Anthony Birchak has intrigue.
We all remember Soto’s debut, as the former Bellator champion was cast into the spotlight vs. T.J. Dillashaw after Renan Barao passed out cutting weight. Officials moved him from an early prelim into a world title fight, and Soto went 20-plus minutes with Dillashaw.
Now, he’ll face the man he was scheduled to meet on that August night in Birchak, who lost his debut with the UFC last December via submission to Ian Entwistle.