MMA veteran Dan Henderson faces Daniel Cormier in the co-main event of UFC 173 on May 24,2014. On paper, the match-up looks like it’s going to upstage the co-main event between Renan Barao and TJ Dillashaw. But in reality, Cormier vs Henderson could be the biggest mismatch in the card.
The Legend Lives On
Dan Henderson is one of the most accomplished mixed martial artist currently competing in the UFC. Henderson owns the distinction of being the last Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion when he punched out Rafael Cavalcante in March 2011. Henderson was also the former Pride Fighting Championship welterweight and middleweight champion, holding both titles concurrently in February 2007 before losing the middleweight belt to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in a bout where the UFC Light Heavyweight title was also up for grabs.
Henderson was also the 1999 winner of the RINGS King of the Ring tournament. At age 43, Henderson is ranked #7 in the UFC Light Heavyweight division after his TKO victory of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua during their March 2014 rematch in UFC Fight Night 38.
Fans only remember the second bout with Shogun because of the explosive ending, where Henderson proved that he still packed that legendary power in his right hand. Henderson’s short right hand squarely landed on Rua’s face, instantly knocking him down and almost out. Henderson swarmed at the defenseless Shougn and that forced referee Herb Dean to stop the contest at 1:31 of the third round.
But most of us don’t remember that Shougn dominated the entire bout before getting careless after breaking from a clinch with such a dangerous puncher like Hendo. In fact, Rua had knocked Henderson twice in the previous rounds: one with a right and left combination in the first round, and one from a lead uppercut in the 2nd round. Rua was winning the match before Henderson dropped the H-Bomb on him. And although Henderson proved that he still has the granite chin and the power puch, Daniel Cormier’s no Shogun Rua.
In His Prime
Daniel Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler and member of the powerhouse Oklahoma State University wrestling team. He beat Antonio” Big Foot” Silva and Josh Barnett in succession to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship in May 2012. DC fought in the heavyweight division from 2009-2013 and moved to the light heavyweight division, presumably to avoid a confrontation with good buddy and training partner Cain Velasquez, who is the UFC Heavyweight champion.
Cormier is undefeated at 14-0 and has been impressive in his three fights in the UFC. He decisioned former heavyweight champion Frank Mir and dissected the heavy hitting Roy Nelson via unanimous decision his second UFC outing. In his first fight at light heavyweight last February, he dismantled newcomer Patrick Cummins via first round TKO.
Although he is already 35, Cormier’s mixed martial arts career is just four years old. And since training with Cain Velasquez at AKA, Cormier’s game has evolved from just being a wrestler. While Cain has learned valuable wrestling lessons from this former Olympian, DC has become a tougher fighter by training with the baddest man on the planet. And so with a beast like Cormier in his prime, Dan Henderson may have just been fed to a hungry lion.
Henderson has lost three of his last four outings. Although he is legendary, there seems to be no chance at winning the light heavyweight title especially since Jon Jones owns the belt right now. Every fight from here on is to extend one of the most decorated careers in MMA history because Hendo is on the decline. But with a powerful puncher like Henderson, there is always the “puncher’s chance” every time he steps inside the octagon. And in the sport of MMA where most fighters are as good as their last ten second, a Dan Henderson bout always has a chance to be Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night.
People doubted Daniel Cormier’s move to the Light Heavyweight division because of his kidney problems in the past. But if the Cummins bout was any indication of how he’ll be as a light heavyweight, then the title picture completely changes. Cormier doesn’t just have the wrestling and the smarts, he’s battled and beaten bigger guys at heavyweight. He is a serious threat to Bones Jones.
Cormier has openly admitted that Hendo is his hero. But it’s a job that he’s got to do in order to get that belt. And Henderson may be just a feather in the cap along the way.