UFC 151: Would Beating Jones Make Henderson the Greatest Light Heavyweight Ever?
All it takes is a quick scan of Dan Henderson's resume and it becomes clear there isn't much he hasn't accomplished. "Hendo" has amassed a legendary career which has seen the former Olympian claim titles in multiple weight classes and MMA promotions alike.
Throughout the process, he has faced a who's who of elite competition and left a list of the sport's best laying unconscious in his wake. Only a handful of fighters can claim the level of success Henderson has achieved and even fewer have done it more impressively.
Where most of his peers have faded from the sport's limelight, Henderson has continued to thrive.
At 41 years of age, the California native continues to impress. He's a sure-fire Hall of Famer once his career is said and done, but rather than finish out his run in fan-friendly matchups, Henderson finds himself preparing to compete for the crown jewel of the UFC, as he faces light heavyweight champion and phenom Jon Jones at UFC 151.
The bout with Jones will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge of his storied career, but if Henderson can find victory in Las Vegas, he will make a strong case for being the greatest fighter to ever compete in the 205-pound weight class.
Defeating Jones is a tall order in and of itself, but should he solve the puzzle no other fighter has come close to figuring out, Henderson will carve out his own place in MMA history.
Since the UFC boom of the mid-2000s, the light heavyweight title has been the crown jewel under the UFC banner. Some of the sport's greatest combatants have held the throne, and with the current champion (Jones) publicly labeled as the future of the sport, the role of light heavyweight champion has only risen in prominence.
Before Jones's reign, fighters such as Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell all laid groundwork to the Hall of Fame while competing in the weight class.
With his current credentials, Henderson would find himself in their company, but if he can defeat Jones and claim the title, Henderson would truly find himself in a league of his own.
Breaking ground in uncharted territory isn't unfamiliar to Henderson.
To date, he is still the only man to ever hold titles in multiple weight classes simultaneously under the banner of a major promotion. He accomplished this feat during his time in the now-defunct Pride organization, and despite stumbling in his first two title attempts after coming over to the UFC, Henderson once again found his groove.
A brief depature from the UFC, a championship run in Strikefrce complete with a career highlight knockout over Fedor Emelianko and a "Fight of the Century" performance against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua have Henderson once again within striking distance of the only title which has eluded him in UFC gold.
The key to making the case for Henderson is his ability to not only remain relevant, but to surge amongst the youth and competitive atmosphere of the current UFC landscape.
Of the previously mentioned former champions, only Couture was able to remain at the top of the food chain until the end of his career. With that being said, "The Natural" was never truly within reach of the crown after returning to the division following his loss of the heavyweight title to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.
Ortiz had the longest reign, Liddell made the biggest impact, but both men fell victim to the undertow of time and the increased talent of the next generation.
Henderson, on the other hand, is still settling the competition and getting his hand raised at bout's end. This is a result neither Ortiz or Liddell saw much of at the end of their careers, but despite the glaring difference in comparison to Henderson's current run, both Ortiz and Liddell were UFC champions.
On Sept. 1st at UFC 151, Henderson will hand in his No. 1 contender's card as he attempts to make good on what could ultimately be his final opportunity to become a UFC champion.
In order to do so, he will count on his devastating right hand and iron chin to bring the rocket-fueled trajectory of Jon Jones to a screeching halt. He will face a fighter who has not only looked unbeatable, but has continued to improve at an alarming rate, as he's dominated every fighter who has challenged for his title.
Many in the MMA community believe Henderson is the only threat remaining in the division, which only makes Henderson's task all the more epic.
Should Henderson do what many believe can't be done and defeat Jones, it will be a pyrotechnic cherry atop a legendary career. Would it be enough to solidify him as the greatest light heavyweight of all time?
I believe so.
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