UFC 151: Dan Henderson and the Oldest UFC Fighter in Each Division
"Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." — Leroy "Satchel" Paige
At UFC 151, 41-year-old Dan Henderson will attempt to capture UFC gold for the first time in his 15-year career. Standing in his way will be 25-year-old phenom Jon Jones, who is already writing himself into the history books alongside Henderson as one of the best to ever compete in MMA.
While Henderson is a significant underdog heading into the bout, the fact that he has been able to return to title contention at his present age is impressive enough in itself. Win or lose, Henderson will be long-remembered for his ability to remain competitive deep into his legendary career.
However, Henderson isn't the only fighter over the age of 35 to continue causing havoc inside the Octagon. Several competitors are remaining competitive in the twilight of their careers. These are the oldest fighters in each of the UFC's eight divisions.
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt
Age: 38 years, 4 months, 30 days
After losing to Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut, it looked like Pride veteran and world-class kickboxer Mark Hunt would be having a short stay in the top MMA organization in the world. However, Hunt has rebounded from a six-fight losing streak with a three-fight winning streak and is amazingly considered a Top 10 heavyweight by many.
Most recently, Hunt knocked out fellow striker Cheick Kongo in the opening round of a February bout. The New Zealand native was scheduled to compete against Stefan Struve at UFC 146, but he was unfortunately forced out of that bout due to injury.
When Hunt does return to the cage, though, it will most likely be against another rising heavyweight contender. If he is able to continue his winning streak, Hunt could complete one of the most amazing career comebacks the sport has ever seen.
Light Heavyweight: Dan Henderson
Age: 41 years, 11 months, 29 days
Dan Henderson has already joined Randy Couture as one of the few ageless fighters to compete at such a high level after turning 40 years old. At UFC 151, Henderson will attempt to put his name directly behind Couture's as the second oldest champion in UFC history.
Let's put that into context for a second. Dan Henderson will be 42 years old when he steps into the Octagon against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Meanwhile, the UFC's first ever 205-pound champion, Frank Shamrock, who vacated the title well over a decade ago, won't even turn 40 years old until December.
The odds are not in Henderson's favor. Jones has disposed of all other light heavyweight challengers with ease. However, the MMA community learned not to count out their elders when the 43-year-old Couture dethroned Tim Sylvia in March 2007.
Middleweight: Cung Le
Age: 40 years, 2 months, 28 days
The 40-year-old Cung Le could make a comfortable living in film, but he admirably chooses to continue fighting. Even though a middleweight title is probably out of reach for the former Strikeforce champion, Le is looking to compete in as many big fights as possible before ending his MMA career.
Coming off of his first UFC win, Le is now preparing for a fight with former UFC titleholder Rich Franklin. Though he got his start in the world's premier MMA organization too late to become recognized as an all-time great, Le will have the chance to make sure he is not written out of the sport's history (along with the Strikeforce organization) by beating a legend or two toward the end of his career.
Welterweight: Matt Hughes
Age: 38 years, 10 months, 9 days
Matt Hughes is one of the best to ever step inside the Octagon, but all good things must come to an end. After his most recent loss to Josh Koscheck, the former welterweight champion announced he'd be putting himself on the shelf for awhile before returning for what would most likely be his final appearance.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of Hughes' bout with Koscheck, nothing has been reported regarding his return to the cage. A double retirement fight with fellow 38-year-old welterweight Matt Serra would be intriguing, but Serra doesn't appear anywhere near fighting condition, and UFC president Dana White has gone public with his desire to see Hughes retire.
Lightweight: Sean Sherk
Age: 39 years, 0 months, 17 days
Though he has only competed three times in the past four years, former lightweight champion Sean Sherk was closing in on the top 10 before his latest hiatus. Since losing his title to B.J. Penn, Sherk has only lost to eventual champion Frankie Edgar, while picking up wins over Tyson Griffin and Evan Dunham.
Unfortunately, injuries have significantly shortened Sherk's career, likely leaving him with only a fight or two before retirement. Considering Sherk has been out of action for nearly two years, there's a chance we'll never see him return, but Sherk's recent Twitter request to replace Rory MacDonald in a bout with Penn suggests the former titleholder is simply holding out for a fight with a big-name opponent.
Featherweight: Mike Brown
Age: 36 years, 11 months, 15 days
Despite picking up back-to-back wins for the first time since defending his WEC featherweight title against Urijah Faber in June 2009, Mike Brown contemplated retirement following his recent bout against Daniel Pineda. Ultimately, Brown decided to continue fighting and signed a five-fight contract with the UFC in July.
Prior to his current winning streak, Brown had lost four of six fights, so he's got a long way to climb if he wants to return to title contention. However, Brown has shown in his past two bouts that he's certainly capable of competing at the UFC level for a couple more years.
Bantamweight: Norifumi Yamamoto
Age: 35 years, 5 months, 7 days
Norifumi Yamamoto has disappointed in the world's premier MMA organization, losing all three of his bouts inside the Octagon. However, Yamamoto did show that he still has knockout power in his most recent appearance, dropping Vaughan Lee before being caught in an armbar later in the first round.
One the owners of an impressive 14-fight winning streak, Yamamoto now has only one victory in his past six fights. It appears the UFC is planning on giving the Japanese fighter one more chance to prove himself, but he will undoubtedly need a win in his next appearance to remain on the UFC roster.
Flyweight: Yasuhiro Urushitani
Age: 35 years, 11 months, 14 days
After being knocked out by Joseph Benavidez in his Octagon debut, Yasuhiro Urushitani still has to prove himself to UFC fans; but the Japanese fighter remains one of the best flyweights in the world. Prior to joining the UFC, Urushitani held the 123-pound Shooto championship, which he vacated to make a run at becoming the best 125-pound fighter of them all.
Urushitani will compete against John Lineker at UFC 151. With a dominant performance, Urushitani can put himself back in the hunt for a title shot, though a second straight loss would put the 35-year-old in danger of being released from the UFC.