Words

Hendo’s Demolition Job

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Stacy Revere/Zuffa LLC

When he returned to the UFC banner as a 40-year-old man back in 2011, Dan Henderson was riding high after beating one of the greatest fighters of all time, Fedor Emelianenko.

Despite openly speaking out about UFC before he initially walked out to join Strikeforce, the victory over ‘The Last Emperor’ forced the hand of the promotion, and in his first fight back in the Octagon Henderson showed no signs of his advancing years when he put on the ‘Fight of the Year’ for 2011 against fellow Pride legend Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. The decision win immediately put ‘Hendo’ back in the light-heavyweight title conversation. However, Rua would be one of only two men that the wrestling standout would claim a win over in his nine UFC bouts since then.

Let’s be fair, there is no shame in losing a split decision to former champions Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. And even when Vitor Belfort nearly kicked his face to the other side of Brazil during the iconic TRT era, Henderson can take solace in the fact that the championship pairing for this weekend’s UFC 199, Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping, suffered a similar fate when they met him.

Of course, Henderson suffered too when the TRT ban came in in the first quarter of 2014. His final usage exemption came in his rematch against ‘Shogun’ in Brazil where a third round knockout rewarded him with a ‘Fight of the Night’ and a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus. Since that night, Henderson’s sole win in four outings came against Tim Boetsch, who caught a series of H-Bombs to end his night inside 30 seconds last June.

His defeats have been more emphatic as the years have gone by. Daniel Cormier forced the tap from Henderson when they met in May 2014. After that, Gegard Mousasi made short work of ‘Hendo’ in his middleweight return when they met in Sweden. Although the American disputed the referee’s stoppage, it was clear that a right hand from Mousasi had done significant damage to him just one minute into the bout.

In Henderson’s last trip to the Octagon, Belfort proved that his head kick KO from years before was no mistake by recording another first-round stoppage with a similar technique against the aging former champion.

After Lyoto Machida was pulled days before their scheduled meeting on April 16 last month, the promotion quickly announced a replacement bout that drew shivers across the collective MMA universe. Instead of the patient sniper-esque approach of ‘The Dragon’, the UFC gave Henderson the unenviable task of weathering Hector Lombard’s storm as he returns to the middleweight ranks.

At this stage in Henderson’s career, and noting his early exits of late against Belfort and Mousasi, it’s hard to see the UFC 199 main card bout playing out well for the ‘Dangerous’ one.

Hot ‘n’ Cold Hector

‘Lightening’ is a perfectly fitting title when considering how quickly Lombard shoots out of his corner at the beginning of fights. As seen in his outings against Rousimar Palhares, Nate Marquardt and (nearly) Neil Magny in his last outing, his initial charge can be absolutely brutal. The fact that Henderson would most likely have to endure some serious punishment to find himself in the second round of a clash with Lombard may not bode well for him. Yet, Lombard has been found out on a number of occasions when his opponents have forced him into deep waters.

A man heralded as the middleweight most likely to beat Anderson Silva during the Brazilian’s reign over the UFC’s 185 lbs division, Lombard’s UFC debut against Tim Boetsch was one of the most forgettable appearances from a debuting fighter.

The tentative streak that Lombard showed that night, a massive contrast to his usual aggressive style, has shown up on a number of occasions since. After Boetsch, Yushin Okami elicited a similar performance from the Cuban. Then after two big wins over Marquardt and Shields, the same reluctant version of Lombard reared his head for his bout with Josh Burkman.

In his last outing against Neil Magny, the American played a highly dangerous game of weathering Lombard’s storm in the first round and went on to finish the former Olympian in the third. A contest that prompted Lombard’s return to the middleweight ranks, it could play well for Henderson that his future opponent gassed out so quickly. Perhaps, cautioned by the Magny fight, we may see a very measured version of Lombard in California this weekend.

Retirement

For what seemed like the first time ever, Henderson openly talked about his plans for retirement in the lead up to his cancelled bout with Lyoto Machida last month. Henderson insisted that his meeting with Machida could be one of his last and with that being said, you can expect the same stipulation to exist going into his clash with Lombard this weekend.

“It’s a possibility I’ll be retiring soon,” he told MMAJunkie. “I don’t know–maybe after two or three more. Or maybe this is the last one. I have no idea. It all depends on how I feel after this fight.”

I’m not the first person to say it, but Henderson has absolutely nothing left to prove in mixed martial arts. Having claimed titles everywhere apart from with the UFC, regardless of what happens on Sunday night or in another fight after it, he will walk away from the sport as a legend.

 

Check out these related stories:

Feel The Fight: Dan Henderson

Belfort Starches Henderson: The Weekend's Best Moments

The Last Vestiges of Dangerous Dan Henderson

 

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