Opinion: UFC 161 and the Climb of Dan Henderson
By Jesse Heitz
For nearly 16 years, Dan Henderson has been a staple of Mixed Martial Arts. He’s had legendary battles with the likes of: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Anderson “The Spider” Silva, Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort, Rich “Ace” Franklin, and even both of the Nogueira brothers. “Hendo” is certainly on the shortlist for the all-time greats of this magnificent sport.
However, the last calendar year hasn’t been very kind to UFC and Pride veteran, Dan Henderson. Last September he was scheduled to take on UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones at UFC 151, before being forced to withdraw following a knee injury. Upon his return to action in February of 2013 at UFC 157, he suffered a controversial, to say the least, split decision loss to Lyoto Machida.
To be certain, this is by no means a eulogy for the incredible career of Dan Henderson. There are those that would argue that realistically his days as a title contender are over. I am not of such an opinion, but rather that at the spry age of 42, he’s still as “Dangerous” as ever.
At an age when many professional fighters would have hung up their gloves, or when the select few that remained active would be relegated to gatekeeper duty, Henderson sits in an entirely different position altogether. He’s not only sizing up the best 205-pounder in the world, he’s arguably one quality win away from challenging Jon Jones for the title.
In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Henderson commented on his upcoming bout with Rashad Evans at UFC, stating,
“I feel like if I do have an impressive win then I’m right back in there. I think a not so great performance but a win does something for me, but not a lot. I’m sure I’ll just fight somebody else at that point. An impressive win over Rashad would possibly put me right in there. That’s still one of my goals, that’s why I’m doing this.”
“I definitely have some unfinished business with Jon Jones. Hopefully that happens for myself, Jon Jones and the fans.”
Should such a title fight materialize, some might very well question the aging veteran’s chances against an utterly dominant champion nearly two decades his junior. Yet, I occupy the position that that the iron-chinned and heavy-handed wrestler is one of the more viable options to dethrone the current UFC Light Heavyweight kingpin. In the end, there’s only one way to see if my position is that of sheer lunacy, or if “Hendo” is the man to give Jones his stiffest test to date.