Written by: James Maldonado
Written by James Maldonado
On July 30th 2011, less than a month before his 41st birthday, Dan Henderson (28-8 MMA, 3-1 SF and 3-2 UFC) took on Fedor Emelianenko (31-4 MMA, 1-3 SF) in a fight between two legends of the sport. Fedor, coming off of losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, was looking to bounce back to the win column. His loss to Werdum was chalked up to a mistake on Fedors part by playing into the guard of the very dangerous BJJ fighter, and his loss to Silva was said to be because of the size difference between the two. Henderson had just won the LHW title from Rafael Cavalcante in March, which was preceeded by a big KO of Renato Sobral. This fight had a lot of potential because of many different reasons. How would Fedor handle someone closer to his size? Could Dan finish the nearly unfinishable Fedor? Who had the better weapons? Would Fedors speed be too much for Dan? Could Dan land his trademark right hand and put the emperor to sleep? Many questions, only one answer.
At 4:12 of the first round, Dan Henderson TKO’d Fedor Emelianenko. He did what Mirko Cro Cop, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, and many others could not do. He put him to sleep. It wasn’t a complete out-cold moment like Liddell/Evans, but he hit him with a punch that made him go limp and faceplant into the canvas. With this win, Dan Henderson made a big statement. And that statement, is that he belongs in the UFC.
Since his 2008 loss to P4P king Anderson Silva, Henderson has gone 7-1, with his only loss to then champ Jake Shields in a fight Dan almost won in the first round. In his second stint in the UFC, Dan racked up a record of 3-2. That may not look that great, so lets take a closer look at what happened during those fights, and what sent him over to Strikforce.
In his first fight in the UFC since 1998, Dan Henderson took on then champ, Rampage Jackson in a title unification fight on live, free TV. This fight aired on Spike TV and is ranked 5th all time in viewers for fights on TV. It was a close 5 round affair that ended up with Jackson doing most of the controlling and winning a decision. After this fight, Dan took on Anderson Silva in another title unification fight. You see, Dan was the PRIDE WW and MW champion (PRIDE WW is equal to the 185 class, and PRIDE MW was about equal to the LHW class). Yes that’s right, two title fights in his first two fights upon returning to the UFC. That’s how awesome Dan is. Unfortunately, he was not awesome enough to get past Anderson Silva and lost via submission in the second round. He followed up this fight with a decision win over Palhares, and split decision win over Franklin at UFC 93. That fight set up his showdown with Michael Bisping and coaching season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, a show known for making stars. The season concluded with the coaches squaring off at UFC 100 and ended with a knockout that the word epic isn’t good enough to describe. So why did he leave the UFC then? He seemed like a quality fighter with lots of personality who has had a career of a legend. Well, simply put, he wanted more money than the UFC was willing to give so he bolted to SF. His first fight in SF? Another immediate title fight.
Dan Henderson has done everything he needs to do to be back in the UFC. It’s where he belongs. Dan may be going on 41, but he still has a lot of good fights left in him. If he goes back to the UFC I hope he stays at LHW. He has shown that he does better against bigger opponents and has a better gas tank at 205 than he does at 185. Should he fight right away for the title? No. But, he could fight Machida, Franklin rematch, Ortiz, loser of Rampage/Jones, Ryan Bader…there are many possibilities for him. Dan Henderson is a great fighter that deserves to fight top competition. He’ll only get that in one place, the UFC.