Dan Henderson vs Lyoto Machida: Does the Winner Deserve a Shot at Jon Jones?
Their reasons may have differed, but both Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida squandered previous opportunities to square off with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
When Henderson had to bow out of the historical UFC 151, promotional president Dana White reached out to Machida, essentially begging the former champion to step in for the injured former Pride and Strikeforce champ.
Machida refused the fight on account of time constraints in his training camp for Jones, the man who choked him unconscious at UFC 140.
But more than six months after the debacle that was UFC 151, “Hendo” and “The Dragon” each once again find themselves on the cusp of reaching the big dance.
A murky scenario in the light heavyweight title scope has solidified Henderson and Machida as the alpha dogs in the division, aside from Jones of course.
So Henderson and Machida, the No. 1 and 2 contenders at light heavyweight, according to the UFC rankings, will basically tangle in a title eliminator bout at UFC 157, with the winner almost definitely to lock horns with the winner of the Jones vs. Chael Sonnen tilt at UFC 159.
Here are a few reasons the winner of the Henderson vs. Machida scrap deserves a shot at the winner of the Jones vs. Sonnen bout.
Hendo and the Dragon Are More Deserving Than Guys Like Gustafsson and Nogueira
The other contenders lurking in the light heavyweight division opposite "Hendo" and "The Dragon;" guys like Glover Teixeira, Phil Davis and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira; have yet to lay the typical groundwork that accompanies a run at the title.
Alexander Gustafsson has reeled off six straight wins in the UFC, but he’s still got to get past world-ranked Gegard Mousasi in his next bout if he wants to keep his name in the mix.
Teixeira and Nogueira are both arguably coming off their most notable career victories with decision wins over former light heavyweight champs Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans, respectively.
But neither Teixeira nor Nogueira won convincingly enough over Jackson and Evans to merit themselves title eliminator matches.
Hendo, on the contrary, won his fourth straight fight when he outdueled Mauricio Rua in an epic slugfest at UFC 139. Before that, the former Olympian brutally knocked out Fedor Emelianenko, Rafael Cavalcante and Renato Sobral in Strikeforce.
Machida, in the same vein, has prevailed in two of his last three outings, impressively knocking out Ryan Bader and Randy Couture, but getting choked out by Jones.
If up-and-coming studs like Gustafsson, Teixeira and Davis can continue to collect wins, it’s only a matter of time before White and Joe Silva throw them in with the champ.
Fans Are Dying to See What Could Have Been at UFC 151
It was an infamously gloomy period in the UFC’s brief history, a time in which "Hendo" and "The Dragon" each got chastised for bailing on title fights with Jones.
White had to cancel a UFC event for the first time in his career on account of Henderson’s injury and Machida’s unwillingness to fight, a decision that all but made his blood boil.
Since then, fans have yet to stop clamoring about the possibility of a scrap between Hendo and Jones, or even a rematch between "The Dragon" and “Bones.”
It appears that regardless of who prevails in the Jones vs. Sonnen tilt, the winner of the Henderson vs. Machida fight will be awarded a title shot.
This May Be Hendo's Last Run at a UFC Title
Henderson may be remembered as one of the top three fighters to grace the Octagon who didn’t ever wear UFC gold.
That could alter in an instant, however, if he can reel off a few key wins in the twilight of his career. If all goes as planned, Henderson could even retire with a belt around his waist.
But unfortunately for the 42-year-old, he can’t afford to put much focus into a potential title fight with Jones or Sonnen when he’s got an ace like Machida standing in his way.
"Hendo" has got to brew up a brilliant game plan, stick to it, and outshine Machida if he wants a chance to feel White drape a UFC belt around his waist.
Machida knows what that feels like, and he’s undoubtedly going to be looking for the same outcome as Henderson—a win via spectacular knockout.