UFC Fight Night 32: Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Seven years following their first meeting at Pride FC 32, Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson will meet again this Saturday.
Belfort has knocked out top-10 middleweights in his past two fights, putting himself at the front of the line for a shot at the 185-pound championship. While waiting for a rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva to happen, Belfort was unwilling to cut weight, so UFC matchmakers interestingly paired him with a light heavyweight on a skid.
Henderson has gone to close decisions in his past two outings, but he lost on the scorecards against both Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. Despite his apparent decline at 43 years old, Henderson finds himself in another main event against a highly relevant opponent.
As this meeting of the MMA greats draws near, here is a look at how Belfort and Henderson match up against one another in all areas.
Striking: Henderson Offense vs. Belfort Defense
Dan Henderson is always a threat to stop opponents with one punch. However, aside from a loss to one of the best strikers in MMA history, Anderson Silva, and a doctor stoppage at UFC 49, Vitor Belfort has not been finished with strikes in the 21st century.
In his past two fights, Belfort was only hit 20 times by more dynamic strikers than Henderson—Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping. While opponents have landed about 50 percent of their strikes thrown at Belfort, the Brazilian is solid enough defensively to avoid the predictable right hand from Henderson.
Against Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida, Henderson relied on his right hand and ended up chasing his opponents around the Octagon, as they picked their shots en route to decision wins over the former Pride FC champion.
The possibility of Henderson finishing this fight with one swing can't be eliminated, but Belfort knows it's coming.
Striking: Belfort Offense vs. Henderson Defense
Vitor Belfort has added a new wrinkle to his striking in 2013.
The Brazilian downed Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold with kicks to the head, putting himself near the front of the line for a shot at the middleweight championship.
Statistically speaking, Bisping and Rockhold both have tighter defense than Dan Henderson, who gets touched by 50 percent of adversary strike attempts. Henderson gets away with the holes in his defense by owning one of the best chins in MMA history.
Though he's never been knocked out, Henderson has been rocked multiple times and recovered. Eventually, that will catch up with him, and he won't be able to recover quickly enough to keep a fight going.
If anyone has the killer instinct to take advantage of a hurt Henderson, it's Belfort, who has accumulated eight first-round knockouts inside the Octagon. I'm not saying to bet your life savings on a Belfort finish, but just don't be surprised if it happens.
Takedowns: Henderson Offense vs. Belfort Defense
Despite being an Olympic wrestler, Dan Henderson's offensive wrestling has been largely missing from his game plans over recent years.
Since returning to the UFC roster, Henderson has only scored two takedowns on seven attempts over three fights. Averaging much less than a takedown per round, Henderson seems focused on trying to land his "H-Bomb" rather than utilizing the strongest aspect of his skill set.
Henderson is capable of taking down most opponents he clinches with, but Belfort has only been taken down in two of his seven fights since returning to the Octagon.
Unless Henderson revamps his style completely, it's not likely he's going to look to take Belfort down regularly. That would be to Henderson's disadvantage, having used his wrestling heavily to beat Belfort in October 2006, but it's the fighter the former Pride FC champion has become.
Takedowns: Belfort Offense vs. Henderson Defense
Vitor Belfort has not even attempted a takedown since rejoining the UFC roster in September 2009.
If he didn't look to take down Anderson Silva or Michael Bisping, Belfort certainly isn't planning on taking down Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32.
Henderson has stopped 71 percent of takedowns attempted on him inside the Octagon. So, even if Belfort does try to surprise him, it's unlikely Henderson will end up on the bottom in this matchup.
Grappling: Henderson Top vs. Belfort Bottom
While he depended on the top position to beat Vitor Belfort in their first meeting, Dan Henderson has fallen in love with the knockout in the seven years since he defeated the Brazilian.
Even should Henderson look for takedowns in this bout, he won't be completely safe from being finished. Belfort is most dangerous when standing, but it wasn't long ago that he nearly dethroned Jon Jones with an armbar, a technique that has forced Henderson to tap twice during his MMA career.
Henderson is capable of grinding out a decision win from the top. The likelihood of him opting to do so, however, is very low nowadays.
Grappling: Belfort Top vs. Henderson Bottom
It just isn't going to happen.
Vitor Belfort has no interest in taking Dan Henderson down unless he tries to do so out of desperation while rocked. Then, a wobbled Belfort isn't going to ground a former Olympic wrestling looking to finish.
There's potential for Belfort to sweep Henderson should he end up on bottom. However, Belfort would probably back out of Henderson's guard and stand before long should that happen.
Whatever happens at UFC Fight Night 32, the fight between Belfort and Henderson won't be decided with the Brazilian on top.
Outside their very different skill sets, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort are very similar.
Both men have nearly been around since the beginning. Henderson made his Octagon debut at UFC 17 in May 1998. Belfort, despite being younger than Henderson, was introduced to UFC fans in February 1997, when he won the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament.
Despite their age, Henderson and Belfort have both remained healthy through 2013. The veterans will both compete in their third fights of the year Saturday.
Additionally, Belfort's controversial TRT usage won't put him at any advantage against Henderson, who also receives treatment for low testosterone and has for years.
Dan Henderson might have the best chin MMA has ever seen.
However, almost all great chins give way eventually. At 43 years old, and having been on the receiving end of significant punishment for one-and-a-half decades, Henderson's ability to take a punch is bound to fade away soon.
Vitor Belfort is capable of hitting Henderson as hard as he's ever been hit inside the Octagon. If he can't stop Henderson, then the American is likely to end his career without a knockout loss.
Stubbornly standing with opponents he should be trying to wrestle with, Henderson doesn't match up well against a fellow power puncher with more technical striking. Unless Henderson caves and falls back on his wrestling, it could be three straight losses for the fading legend.
Belfort defeats Henderson by (T)KO in the second round.