3 Reasons to Root for Dan Henderson at UFC 157

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2013

3 Reasons to Root for Dan Henderson at UFC 157

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    Barring a win over former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 157, Dan Henderson may go down as the UFC's best fighter to never wear a belt.

    The 42-year-old "Hendo" squandered his only other opportunities to wear UFC gold in back-to-back fights in 2007 and 2008. Henderson first dropped a unanimous decision to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 75 in a bout that unified the Pride and UFC middleweight and light heavyweight belts. He then got choked by Anderson Silva at UFC 82 in a fight that unified the Pride and UFC welterweight and middleweight straps.

    In what fans have dubbed a de facto title eliminator bout, Hendo will have to conjure up one of his signature performances if he intends to get through the unpredictable Machida.

    Here's a look at three reasons to pull for Hendo at UFC 157.

Possibly Make the Jon Jones vs. Henderson Fight Happen

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    Enthusiasts and experts alike felt utterly teased by the notion of not getting to watch Jon Jones square off with Henderson at UFC 151 last September.

    The event came tantalizingly close (eight days) to unfolding before Hendo announced that he couldn't compete on account of a partially ruptured MCL.

    Henderson could bring a fight with Jones, or in an unlikely scenario, Chael Sonnen, to fruition if he can outfox the cunning Machida, the man Bodog.net has deemed a 2.25-to-1 favorite (-225).

    One thing is certain, however, a Hendo loss diminishes the possibility of a Jones vs. Henderson title fight ever materializing.

Hendo's Last Hoorah

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    He's in the 16th year of his prolific career, but some pundits argue that Henderson is currently riding his most brilliant winning streak.

    In each of his last four fights, Henderson channeled the warrior spirit that helped him reel off four wins in a row on two occasions in Pride. Considered one of his most dominant runs, Hendo scored three straight impressive knockouts in Strikeforce before outshining Mauricio Rua at UFC 139 in what many considered the most entertaining fight of 2011.

    But, even in the midst of a final run, Henderson knows that he's one loss away from being left out of the title picture.

    It's a must win for both Hendo and "The Dragon", although the 34-year-old Machida has plenty of time to climb back up the light heavyweight latter.

Spawn Hope for 42-Year-Olds Everywhere

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    Machida broke the hearts of plenty of aspiring aging UFC fighters when he rendered Randy Couture unconscious with a leaping front kick to the jaw at UFC 129.

    Nearly two years later, Machida will attempt to once again knock out a legend in the twilight of his career, only this time he's facing a man who's never been knocked out in Hendo.

    One of Couture's former training partners, Henderson will be gunning for his seventh win over a former UFC champ. Hendo has already bested former champs Carlos Newton, Murilo Bustamante (twice), Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin and Rua.

    Henderson explained what drives him to compete with younger fighters like Machida in an interview with MMA Heat's Karyn Bryant.

    It get's tough sometimes, with the motivation, but every fight I have now is such a big fight and a tough opponent. That in itself is motivation for me. The tougher the opponent or the tougher the challenge it gets me excited again, (and) gets the juices flowing, so I think Lyoto's definitely somebody that's tougher to figure out, (and) that's what makes it interesting for me.