This weekend the UFC returns to New Orleans for the first time in almost four years, with legendary former champion and likely Hall of Famer Dan Henderson looking to score a win in the main event as he takes on heavy-handed middleweight Tim Boetsch.
Henderson has fallen on hard times lately, dropping five out of his past six fights, but he’s been facing some very stiff competition.
Regardless, Henderson knows he needs a win Saturday to ensure he’ll get to close out his career with the UFC.
Boetsch also will try to find some sense of normalcy after alternating between wins and losses over his past four fights. Despite losing to Thales Leites, Boetsch’s last bout brought a Fight of the Night bonus. But now the Maine native will try to pick up a win.
The co-main event features two of the fiercest knockout artists in the heavyweight division as Ben Rothwell looks to extend his two-fight win streak when he takes on former "Ultimate Fighter" competitor Matt Mitrione.
There are plenty of solid fights to keep an eye on Saturday night, but we’re going to give you five good reasons to make sure to tune in to UFC Fight Night: Boetsch vs. Henderson from New Orleans.
The Legend Makes That Walk
Dan Henderson (right) still packs a punch at 44.
Say what you will about Henderson’s recent run, but the legendary 44-year-old fighter out of Temecula, Calif. is always willing to put on a show, and as his career begins to wind down, the chances to see this icon compete are going to get fewer and fewer.
Henderson first debuted in the UFC in 1998 and ever since his wins over Allan Goes and Carlos Newton on the same night at UFC 17, the former Olympian has been a mainstay of MMA, winning title after title and becoming a serious threat in three weight classes during his career.
Henderson made his reputation early on as a powerful wrestler with some of the best takedowns and ground control in the sport. Later on, Henderson developed his striking to complement his wrestling, and now he carries his right hand around like a gun cocked in a holster just ready to be unleashed on whatever unwitting opponent decides to throw hands with him.
Henderson has the fourth-most knockouts combined between UFC/PRIDE/Strikeforce/WEC and the second-most knockdowns as well. Plus, who can forget some of his most famous moments in the cage?
Henderson knocked out the greatest heavyweight of all time, Fedor Emelianenko. He blasted Michael Bisping with a right hand that forever will live in history and probably still haunts the Brit to this day. Henderson put on two classic fights with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, the first of which is widely considered the greatest bout in MMA history.
Henderson hasn’t had his best days lately, but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of pulling off another great victory and a moment that will be remembered long after Saturday night is over.
Down But Never Out
Tim Boetsch always has been a hard-hitting fighter.
One of the best parts of Boetsch’s recent run in the middleweight division is his dedication to the idea of "go big or go home".
Boetsch always has been a hard-hitting fighter, but since dropping to 185 pounds, he’s shown a willingness to engage in some of the craziest striking exchanges of his entire career.
The defining two moments from Boetsch’s career since moving to middleweight have come in fights in which he was down early and came back late, with rousing knockouts of Yushin Okami and Brad Tavares.
In his fight with Okami, Boetsch was down two rounds going into the final five minutes. Instead of accepting defeat, the veteran fighter came out looking to take off his opponent’s head knowing that he needed a finish to get the win. Boetsch crushed Okami with an uppercut that put the former middleweight title contender down and out in one of the most thrilling comebacks in UFC history.
The same could be said for Boetsch’s fight last year against Tavares in his home state of Maine. Tavares was beating Boetsch to the punch throughout the first round, but the second round was an entirely different story. Boetsch came out head hunting and before long he was doling out punishment by the punch and Tavares eventually wilted from the pressure.
Boetsch is as tough as they come in the UFC and even if he’s down four rounds to Henderson on Saturday night, there is still a better than average chance that he could pull off another comeback.
Gotta Love the Heavyweights
Ben Rothwell (right) is one of the most devastating finishers.
The co-main event features two of the most devastating finishers the UFC has seen.
With nearly 40 fights on his record, Ben Rothwell has a reputation as a well-rounded fighter with bricks for hands who doesn’t seem to enjoy going to decision at all. Rothwell has an insane 92-percent finishing rate over the course of his career.
Meanwhile his opponent, Mitrione, is just as dangerous — only one of his nine career victories has been decided by the judges. The other eight wins came by way of knockout or TKO and he hasn’t gone past the first round in his past six fights.
Neither of these guys has a tendency to look to out-point anybody in the Octagon. Rothwell and Mitrione are gunning for the knockout, and this fight likely ends with somebody laying on the ground staring up at the lights.
This matchup has Fight of the Night written all over it, even if it lasts only three minutes.
Hometown Kids Make Good
It’s always nice to fight close to home, and for Dustin Poirier and Shawn Jordan, this will be a great chance to make the Louisiana crowd proud.
Poirier is a native of Louisiana, and after winning his last fight in April, the former featherweight contender wasted no time calling for a chance to land a spot on the upcoming show in New Orleans. Poirier has spent most of his professional career fighting and training in Louisiana, so he’ll have the hometown crowd behind him when he faces Yancy Medeiros at UFC Fight Night.
Jordan is actually a native of Texas, but the Louisiana faithful will treat him like one of their own this weekend. Jordan played college football at LSU and he won a national championship in 2007.
Now, Jordan looks to win another big fight while making Tiger Nation roar for him one more time as he faces Derrick Lewis on Saturday.
Look for the Louisiana fans to give plenty of support to both of these fighters when the lights drop and the music hits the speakers and they hit the Octagon.
There are a couple of matchups with top prospects in the featherweight and bantamweight divisions to keep an eye on during Saturday night’s main card.
First up is Brian Ortega, who boasts an 8-0 record with four submission victories. Ortega has long been considered a fighter who could make waves in the UFC, and he’ll get his chance this weekend when he takes on veteran fighter Thiago Tavares.
Tavares vs. Ortega has a chance to be a sleeper fight and steal the show as these two ultra-aggressive grapplers face off.
Also on the main card, Joe Soto returns to action for the first time since making his UFC debut last August in a last-minute title fight against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. Soto faced an impossibly tough situation, but still made it to the fifth round with the best 135-pound fighter in the world.
Now, he’ll get the chance to prove his worth as he faces Anthony Birchak, who he was supposed to face last year before getting the call to fight Dillashaw, in an intriguing bantamweight fight. Soto is a veteran with tons of experience and while he got thrown to the wolves for his debut, he still could crack the top 10 following a few more fights.