Cormier vs. Henderson: Hendo Is a Very Justified Dog Against DC

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 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

People like Dan Henderson.

There's an uncontroversial statement if ever you saw one.

The guy is well into his 40s and fighting the best of the best in the most grueling sport on Earth, often knocking them out cold with the type of spectacle previously reserved for the Roman Coliseum.

He's also an Olympian and the living embodiment of Americana—the type of dude who makes you believe that old-fashioned hard work can still pay off.

Want a little more controversy than that? All right, here goes: He's almost as justified as an 8-1 underdog against Daniel Cormier as Cormier's last opponent, who happened to be repping a smock and slinging macchiatos a week before he fought Cormier.

Liking a guy and understanding what he's capable of aren't the same thing. Actually, often they're the exact opposite thing: You like a guy so much that you can't see what he's capable ofor not capable of.

That's kind of the case for Henderson as he squares off against Cormier. Fans love Hendo, but they're not seeing what he's getting himself into. They're also not seeing what he is, and that's only making matters worse.

Henderson at this stage is a stubborn warrior who is one big right hand away from already having been retired. The curse is that same right hand has him in a position of false title contention. And that same right hand could keep him hanging around indefinitely if Cormier isn't properly prepared at UFC 173.

But make no mistake, Hendo has been installed as an overwhelming underdog more because of the first part of the paragraph above than the last.

As recently as March, he was standing in a sweaty arena in Brazil, having been beaten from pillar to post by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. He'd been punched and kicked to the point of wearing imaginary roller skates in the cage, inches and seconds away from a loss that would have likely ended his UFC run and perhaps his career. He was done, and the world was watching it happen, no matter what revisionist history people want to draw up now.

Then he landed that right hand and came back from the brink, earning new life in as explosive a manner as one can. Probably at his own peril.

That's the life of a man with the great equalizer of one-punch power, and that ability coupled with a refusal to go quietly into the night is why people love him. People have been declaring Henderson to be done since his mid-30s, and here he is in a relevant fight in his 40s.

But it's a double-edged sword.

For every comeback home run he's hit in the past few years, he's racked up more damage and more miles in fights that he probably should have lost. His series with Rua alone took years off his life, to say nothing of similar wars with Fedor Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva.

That's why, no matter how much you love the guy, you have to face the fact that he's in well over his head against a man with far less damage and far fewer MMA miles on him. A fighter can only skirt the edges of his demise so often in this sport, and Henderson has been skirting his for a while. Sure, that right hand is there and could save him at any time, but on merit alone, DC should take this fight in a cakewalk.

Then again, that's why Henderson's appeal is what it is. He's been counted out so many times and refused to be put away so many times that he's one overhand bomb away from shocking the world one more time.

If you believe the bookies, though? Don't bet on it.


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