TULSA, Okla. - Rafael dos Anjos said he was ready to take his position among the elite in the UFC's lightweight division.
To do it, he had to go through a former champion. And go through him, he did.
Dos Anjos (22-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC) stunned Benson Henderson (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in the main event of UFC Fight Night 49, scoring a first-round knockout at the 2:31 mark.
Dos Anjos, from Brazil, traded kicks and punches early with the American. But soon he found a way to get inside and landed a pair of jumping knees. The second put Henderson on the canvas along the fence.
That's when dos Anjos pounced. As Henderson got back to his feet, dos Anjos leveled him with a left hand that may have had Henderson out. When he again hit the floor, it only took two punches from dos Anjos to convince referee John McCarthy to stop the fight.
"I have no words," dos Anjos said. "I was training for everything and worked a lot on my striking. I knew my striking was better than him. My plan was to be patient in the first round, and that's what I did."
Dos Anjos was near a title shot this past spring, but a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov seemed to send him back to the middle of the pack. This win over Henderson, though, widely regarded as the best lightweight in the world outside of champion Anthony Pettis, may have him right back in the mix.
"I'm always the underdog. But tonight, I think I proved to everyone. Ben Henderson is a great champion, and I respect him a lot. But now is my time. I'm doing my job. Whoever the UFC puts (in front of me) to fight, I'll fight."
Henderson said he wasn't a fan of the stoppage, believing he was still with it enough to continue.
"I thought I was clear-headed. But it is what it is. You've got to take the good with the bad. That's the way it goes sometimes," Henderson said.
In the co-main event, Jordan Mein, from Lethbridge, Alta., put an absolute exclamation point on his likely ascension from welterweight prospect to welterweight contender. Mein (29-9 MMA, 3-1 UFC) stopped Mike Pyle (26-10-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC) in just 72 seconds courtesy of a vicious left hand that had Pyle stiff and falling backward.
Once on the canvas, Mein finished him off with five quick punches.
"I'm very happy to get the win over a tough veteran guy like Mike," Mein said after the fight. "The game plan was to go out there and not overcommit to any strikes. I wanted to throw hard shots, but not open myself up for any easy takedowns. It didn't go very long but, everything went to plan. I'm ready for whatever the UFC has next for me and I'd love a top contender."
The victory for Mein came after some controversy as his father and chief cornerman, Lee Mein, was arrested in Tulsa on Friday afternoon and charged with sexual battery. The UFC issued a statement saying Lee Mein was barred from cornering his son at the event.
Also on the main card, Montreal-based Francis Carmont (22-10 MMA, 6-3 UFC) dropped his third straight match after an 11-fight winning streak when he was shut down by Brazil's Thales Leites (24-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) just 20 seconds into the third round.
UFC Fight Night 49 results:
Rafael dos Anjos def. Benson Henderson via knockout (punches) - Round 1, 2:31
Jordan Mein def. Mike Pyle via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 1:12
Thales Leites def. Francis Carmont via knockout (punches) - Round 2, 0:20
Max Holloway def. Clay Collard via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 3:47
James Vick def. Valmir Lazaro via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
Chas Skelly def. Tom Niinimaki via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 2:35
Neil Magny def. Alex Garcia via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Beneil Dariush def. Tony Martin via submission (arm-triangle choke - Round 2, 3:38
Matt Hobar def. Aaron Phillips via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Ben Saunders def. Chris Heatherly via submission (omoplata) - Round 1, 2:18
Wilson Reis def. Joby Sanchez via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)