UFC FN 42: John Crouch Talks Rustam Khabilov, Plan for Benson Henderson is to Keep “Knocking Down” Contenders
By Kelsey Mowatt
After Benson Henderson handed Josh Thomson a split decision loss at UFC on FOX 10 in January, few people likely predicted at the time, that the former champ would face Rustam Khabilov next. While the latter has impressed since joining the UFC, and has won six straight, Khabilov is currently ranked #11 in the UFC lightweight ranks. Henderson, on the other hand, is the number one contender.
“I think he’s a dangerous guy, considering just the rankings,” Henderson’s coach John Crouch recently relayed on Full Contact Fighter Radio, while discussing the June 7th fight. “I think Benson came out and said he thought it was Khabib (Nurmagomedov) you know? But it’s fine. He’s a good guy; he’s only lost once. He’s a dangerous guy, underrated.”
One could argue that Khabilov has little to lose at UFC Fight Night 42, considering he’ll be facing a man who has lost just once since 2010, and is widely regarded to be one of the sport’s best, pound-for-pound fighters.
“I think people will expect it of him but the guy’s tougher than they think,” said Crouch, when asked if Henderson has anything to gain by defeating Khabilov. “I think people inside the sport really know how tough he is…Where are we going to go? We’re still going to be ranked number one.”
“He has a lot more to gain but that’s not really how we prepare,” Crouch furthered. “The guy’s super dangerous; there’s no lack of respect in our camp for him.”
Since Henderson is just one fight removed from his defeat to champion Anthony Pettis in August, the 30 year-old will likely have to get through several contenders before securing another title shot.
“Yeah; we’ll just keeping knocking them down and then eventually we’ll get another title shot,” Crouch said, before referring to Pettis’s upcoming bout with Gilbert Melendez, who Henderson decisioned last April. “It’s disappointing to watch the process that they go through to be honest. Now they’re not fighting until December so who knows. He (Pettis) might get hurt again, and then it will be another six, eight months.”
“It’s disappointing that Nate Diaz is trying to talk his way into a title shot; you know Pettis would love that,” the MMA Lab coach furthered. “But guys that are just working it, earning it, don’t get as much credit and that’s pretty irritating to be honest.”
Since arriving in the UFC, Khabilov has scored victories over Vinc Pichel, Yancy Medeiros and most recently Jorge Masvidal. The decorated, sambo competitor continues to hone his skills out of the renowned Jackson-Wink MMA camp in Albuquerque.
“I haven’t seen any sambo from him have you?” Crouch noted about Khabilov, when asked about the lightweight’s sambo background. “He’s a wrestler; he’s a greco guy, he throws people. He hasn’t shown anything on the ground. He couldn’t get Masvidal on the ground, so, I think he really hasn’t shown any sambo. I think both him and Khabib (Nurmagomedov) have been more dominant through their wrestling, which is equally impressive, I’m not trying to say it’s not. It’s great.”
“But I haven’t seen too much of their sambo,” the BJJ black belt added. “I think it’s good because their combat sambo, I don’t want to call it a combination of jiu-jitsu, but it’s a MMA form. They’re grappling with punches. So they’re doing MMA from a very young age and have been practicing for a very long time with strikes on the ground.”
UFC FN 42 will be hosted by the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.