Six months ago, Dan Henderson was in final preparations for a planned matchup with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Fast forward to today and you'll find the former PRIDE and Strikeforce champion in a completely different landscape.
By now, you're all familiar with the story of how a knee injury forced Henderson from the UFC 151 card, and in the wake of his removal, the entire event was cancelled.
UFC president Dana White decided to skip over Henderson for the next title shot and instead hand it to teammate Chael Sonnen. If Hendo was going to fight for the belt, he would need to defeat Lyoto Machida at UFC 157.
On Saturday night, Henderson came up short in a split decision loss against "The Dragon." At the age of 42, this might have been the last opportunity for the bona fide legend to get UFC gold.
So what went wrong?
Lyoto Machida is a Stylistic Nightmare
Henderson is known for his powerful right hand as well as Olympic-level wrestling that has been known to put many a foe on their back. However, those two attributes were negated by Machida's evasive striking, speed advantage and excellent takedown defense.
Machida was able to time Hendo's attacks and had a powerful counter waiting on several occasions, including knees to the body and an interceptor left hand.
Henderson Lacked Aggression
If Shogun taught us anything about Machida, it's that a fighter with a solid-enough chin to absorb his punches can defeat him in a blow-for-blow exchange. Had Henderson pushed the action and cut off the cage, Machida would have been forced to deal with Hendo's power striking.
Instead, Machida was able to sit back, counter the few real attempts to score and win rounds in the eyes of the judges.
16 Months of Ring Rust
Although Henderson didn't gas as badly on Saturday as he did in outings against Shogun Rua and Jake Shields, his energy level during this three-round affair was below what he needed to get the job done.
The best moment of the fight for Henderson came after Machida slipped and Hendo was able to push him over and gain top position. However, the iron-chinned warrior was unable to do damage with ground-and-pound in the third and final round.
Perhaps this loss signals the end of the road for Henderson. At 42 years old, no one would blame the guy for not wanting to start over in hopes of a title shot.
At the end of the day, all we know is that Dan Henderson is a legend of this sport who simply wasn't able to earn the elusive title shot that he has been aching for since 2008. Whether or not he chooses to continue his journey has yet to be decided.
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