There’s no question Dan Henderson is one of the greatest fighters to ever grace the ring. A bullish wrestler with a devastating right hand, Henderson has been competing at a high level for more than ten years with wins ranging from a decision over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2000 to a strike-based stoppage of Fedor Emelianenko less than six months ago.
This weekend Henderson will attempt to further cement his legendary status at UFC 139 when he faces Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, a former champion coming off a knockout of Forrest Griffin who was at one time viewed as the top 205er in the world. If he beats Rua it’s expected he’ll be given his choice of title-shots with the winner of Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida through one door and Anderson Silva the other.
While Henderson exited Strikeforce with the organization’s light heavyweight belt and has expressed his interest in facing Jones, he’s also maintained a strong desire to get another crack at “The Spider” after starting out strong in their 2008 match-up before ultimately succumbing to a Rear-Naked Choke in the final ticks of the bout’s second stanza.
Hopefully the latter never occurs, at least as long as Silva sits atop the UFC’s middleweight throne. It’s not that I have a strong urge to see Henderson fight Jones/Machida or an aversion to watching the two Hall of Famers go at it again. However, under present circumstances little positive can come from “Hendo” vs. Silva II.
Henderson has made it clear he doesn’t like dealing with cutting down and recently said Silva is the only opponent that would motivate him to make the effort. With that being the case, why would the UFC want to risk putting the title around the waist of a guy who isn’t all that interested in representing the related weight-class?
Beyond that, has Henderson evolved any in the last three years to the point a different outcome seems probable? He has been the same fighter for a long time, and while he’s certainly successful when it comes to implementing his gameplan, it’s not as if his generally effective skills have improved since UFC 82 (or Silva’s diminished for that matter).
Also, and perhaps this an antiquated thought, I prefer top contenders to have some string of victories at the weight they’ll be fighting for a title at. Henderson’s last showing at 185 pounds involved a decision loss to Jake Shields. Even a single win over a guy like Vitor Belfort or Yushin Okami would be enough but beyond that he doesn’t deserve to leapfrog Chael Sonnen based on accomplishments in a different division.
The 41-year old MMA icon deserves an opportunity to become UFC champion if he gets by Rua at UFC 139; he just shouldn’t be considered as a potential opponent for Silva unless the sensational Brazilian loses first or, at minimum, Henderson is willing to commit to 185 pounds.
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