UFC 173: Keys to Victory for Dan Henderson

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

Lyoto Machida Dan Henderson during their UFC 157 light heavyweight mixed martial arts match in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. Machida won by split decision after the third round. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

No one in the sport of mixed martial arts embraces the role of tenured veteran quite as well as Dan Henderson.

The 43-year-old has battled time and time again through adversity to reclaim his spot within the division, which is something that has only fueled his growing status as a bona fide legend.

But when "Hendo" steps inside the Octagon opposite superwrestler Daniel Cormier this weekend at UFC 173, the timeless bruiser will truly have his work cut out for him.

Cormier is one of the better athletes in the division, and one that commands each and every round by pushing the pace, pressing his opponents against the cage or on the mat and outpointing them at every turn.

It's possibly that Henderson will have to be at his absolute best in years to stop the undefeated "DC."

Here's how he can do it and remain relevant in light heavyweight title contention.


Stay off his back

While Henderson possesses a sensational background in wrestling, his ability at the age of 43 just isn't quite the same as Cormier's.

Jun 15, 2013; Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Rashad Evans (right) grapples with Dan Henderson during their light heavyweight bout at UFC 161 at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Cormier is stronger against the cage, shoots quicker in open space and is used to handling heavyweights in training. That's a bad combination for Hendo, especially considering his best chance to win remains with his striking.

If he's unable to stay off his back throughout this fight, he might not only absorb too much damage to remain effective in the latter rounds, but he'd be put in a position to have to secure a knockout on a guy who rarely gets caught.


Land early and often

Speaking of never getting caught, hurting Cormier early may give Henderson his biggest advantage.

As one of the more dominant athletes to come into the sport in the past five years, DC utilizes all facets of his game to avoid punches from every angle.

Feb 23, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Lyoto Machida (blue shorts) and Dan Henderson (white shorts) during their UFC heavyweight bout at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

He isn't the quickest by any means, but his low center of gravity and superior wrestling pedigree help him dodge any unnecessary punishment.

Well, that's the perfect window for a guy like Henderson.

With one of the most devastating and fight-stopping right hands in MMA history, Henderson has the unique ability to knock opponents off their game with one quick shot.

It may be more difficult to land it against a fighter like Cormier who can mix it up wherever the fight may go, but it would be interesting to see how he responds if Henderson lands one flush.


Conserve energy

There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Henderson is past his prime.

He's still one of the best fighters the promotion has to offer, but at 43 years of age, there are just some things he's unable to do effectively at this point.

While conditioning may not be one of those things, it's going to be tested against a pressure cooker like Cormier.

Cormier's stamina is on an entirely different level than what Henderson is used to. Not only does Cormier go through one of the hardest camps in the sport, but he also goes toe-to-toe with heavyweight juggernaut Cain Velasquez on a daily basis.

For Hendo to stay effective in each and every round, including the third when he may need to finish Cormier, he needs to remain patient and pick his shots.

Keeping his distance from a Cormier takedown wouldn't hurt, but when it comes down to it, Henderson is going to have to get inside to land his patented "H-Bomb."


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