Just three weeks out from fight night, Bellator 196 has its main event, featuring two notable UFC veterans.
When Ben Henderson made his jump from the UFC to Bellator, many predicted he’d have a gold belt around his waist within the year. It hasn’t worked out that way.
Following his promotional scene-change, ‘Smooth’ has gone 1-3, with his only win coming via injury against Patricio Freire in a fight he appeared to be losing. A rapid fall for the man who left the UFC on two straight wins and was just two years removed from his lightweight championship run.
Even still, Bellator’s recently announced bout between Henderson and former UFC prospect Roger Huerta seems like it came way out of left field.
Huerta was considered one of the MMA’s top rising stars back in 2007, taking home consensus ‘Fight of the Year’ with a third round submission win over Clay Guida. The win brought Huerta’s record to a stunning 20-1-1 (1 NC). It’s been mostly downhill since.
Huerta finished his UFC contract on back to back losses to Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard, after which he ended up in Bellator as part of the promotion’s Season 2 Lightweight Tournament. A kneebar win over Chad Hinton was followed by a decision loss to eventual tournament champion Pat Curran. A doctor stoppage TKO loss to Eddie Alvarez saw him competing on the regional MMA scene once again.
A TKO loss to now-infamous convicted felon Jonathan Koppenhaver (aka ‘War Machine’) followed, but by 2012 ONE Championship came calling. Huerta competed for the Singapore-based promotion just five times over five years, going 2-3. His most recent fight, at Phoenix FC 4 in December of 2017, resulted in a DQ win due to illegal elbows over UFC vet Hayder Hassan.
To put it more simply, the Roger Huerta Comeback Tour has been in motion since around the time Benson Henderson made his debut in the WEC.
Eventually this booking, on just three weeks notice, comes as a result of injury to top prospect James Gallagher, who had been meant to face Adam Borics (6-0) in the main event. Borics will now face Manuel Gaxhja (6-0) in the co-main.
Accompanying the MMA card will be Bellator Kickboxing 9, featuring a welterweight world title bout between Raymond Daniels and Djibril Ehouo. A heavyweight bout featuring Alexy Ignashov is expected as well, as is a women’s featherweight bout between Jorina Baars and Julie Burton.
Bellator 196 takes place Friday, April 6th at the BOK Hall in Budapest, Hungary. The card will air at 9pm Eastern & Pacific on the Paramount network, with the kickboxing card set to air immediately following.