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Rafael dos Anjos plans to submit Ben Henderson: ‘I see holes in his game’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

"I want to stay healthy and stay busy. I want to fight."

Rafael dos Anjos steps inside the Octagon for the third time in four months when he faces Ben Henderson at the main event of the UFC Fight Night card in Tulsa, on Aug. 23. Coming off a big knockout win over Jason High in June, the Brazilian stayed busy at Black House while waiting for the perfect opportunity.

"I didn’t change much in training," dos Anjos told MMAFighting.com. "I fought Jason High 45 after my fight with Khabib (Nurmagomedov), and they offered me this fight a week later. I’m in great shape, I just had to watch out and avoid overtraining. I did a good job and everything is perfect going into this fight."

dos Anjos enters his first main event after winning six of his past seven bouts, and he’s confident that a victory over Henderson could lead to a shot at the UFC lightweight championship against the winner of Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez.

"I see this fight as a gift from God," he said. "It’s my 16th UFC bout and my first main event. I’m really happy. A win over Ben Henderson puts me right into title contention, and I have no pressure at all over me. I’ve worked hard for years and everything is paying off right now. It’s a good fight to prove everybody that I’m ready."

"Anything can happen. I might earn a title shot with a win over Ben Henderson," he continued. "It can happen, yes, but it’s not in my head right now. I’m relaxed. I want to do my job and win a good fight. But I might earn a title shot with a win. Khabib is injured. (Donald) Cerrone is coming off good wins, but I beat him, so there’s a chance I’ll get a shot."

Henderson’s last seven MMA bout were five-round fights, and dos Anjos is about to fight his first. The Black House lightweight is aware of "Smooth’s" ability to control the pace and win fights, but feels ready to give him his first loss in a non-title bout since 2007.

"Ben Henderson is a well-rounded fighter and has a great cardio. He’s a slow starter, so the first rounds are close, and he uses his cardio to win the later rounds, so the judges tend to give him the later rounds," he said. "My plan is to win every round without doing something crazy to gas.

"He has more experience than me, it’s my first five-round fight, but we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a five-round fight, but it might end in the first or second rounds. I never had issues with my cardio, I never gassed in a fight, so it won’t be an issue for me."

Going the distance is not dos Anjos’ game plan, though.

"I’ve been working on my muay thai with Rafael Cordeiro and my jiu-jitsu with (Roberto Correa) ‘Gordo’. I see holes in his game," he said. "He likes to take the fight to the ground, but I see holes in his game. He tends to give his back, so I can take advantage of a situation like this and get a submission."