Dan Henderson Wants to Unify the 205-Pound Titles: Jon Jones, You May Be Next!
Momentum in mixed martial arts is almost as valuable as any physical tool inside the cage. With a TKO stoppage of the legendary Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko at the Sears Centre in Hoffman States, Illinois, Dan "Hendo" Henderson is the king of the proverbial mountain.
Speaking with Ariel Helwani after his victory, Henderson responded when asked about his future by saying, "I would like to defend my title at 205 in Strikeforce, but I am open to unifying the belt with whoever the champ is in the UFC."
This 40-year-old two-time Greco-Roman Olympian, multi-title holder in Pride and current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion is essentially a free agent within the mixed martial arts world.
Completing his Strikeforce contract in last night's event, the future for Henderson is unclear.
Not destined to follow the paths of Nate Marquardt or the recently released Alistair Overeem, "Hendo" will sign a multi-fight contract under the Zuffa banner with either Strikeforce or the UFC.
Because of Henderson's interest in unifying the titles, I have theoretically created a matchup between the two light heavyweight champions: Dan Henderson with Strikeforce and Jon "Bones" Jones with the UFC.
Please take a hypothetical journey with me as I dissect their matchup.
I welcome your comments.
Stand-Up Striking Skill-Set
Assessing a fighter's stand-up striking skill-set is as diverse as the personalities inside the cage. No two skill-sets are the same and what is effective for one fighter, may not be effective for another.
Chuck Liddell has proven that his defensive-minded counter-striking approach on his feet can result in a multitude of championships.
Whereas the tactically efficient and crisp boxing skills of Junior dos Santos has awarded the Brazilian the No. 1 contender ranking for the UFC heavyweight championship belt.
Jon Jones is an extremely dynamic fighter. Possessing an 84.5" reach, the longest recorded reach within the UFC, Jones utilizes all his length and delivers devastating strikes with all eight weapons.
Creative, explosive, unpredictable and with pin-point accuracy, Jones has devastated his opposition on their feet.
Conversely, Henderson is more the quintessential boxer who likes to stand in the pocket and trade punches with his opponent.
Not delivering the wide variety of strikes as Jon Jones, "Hendo" relies on his punches more than any other weapon.
Stylistically, these two fighters are polar opposites. Jones with his creative kick-boxing and Henderson with his hard-nosed boxing.
Because of Jones' reach, diversity and ability to deliver strikes from all angles and from all planes, I will provide Jones the edge in this department.
Edge in the Stand-Up Striking: Jon Jones
Power in His Punches
As diverse and unorthodox as Jon Jones's stand-up striking skill-set may be, he definitely does not hold the advantage in the power department over Dan Henderson.
With 13 knockout victories inside the cage including a TKO stoppage over the iron jaw of Fedor Emelianenko, Henderson is well-known for his explosive right hand.
Loaded and armed next to his chin, the "H-Bomb" is ready to explode at a second's notice.
Devastating the likes Murilo Bustamante, Wanderlei Silva, Rafael Cavalcante, Michael Bisping, and the aforementioned Emelianenko, Henderson's H-Bomb has left a pile of knockout victims in his wake.
Edge in the Power in his Punches: Dan Henderson
Initially, on the surface, one may consider the athleticism of Jon Jones to be far superior than that of Dan Henderson.
However, a closer examination of these two fighters needs to be performed.
There is no denying that Jon Jones is a freak of nature. Capable of delivering any strike, with any weapon from any plane and angle; Jones has no limits athletically inside the cage.
More your traditional athlete, Henderson is not flashy nor does he execute eye-popping athletic moves during his fights. With that said, however, at 40 years old, Henderson's athletic ability should not be dismissed.
Both Jones and Henderson are tremendous athletes possessing inherently different athletic abilities. Some may consider Jones a far superior athlete. Far superior, I think not. However, he is a superior athlete when compared to Henderson.
The level of athleticism that Jon Jones possesses is unequaled by anyone within the light heavyweight division, including Dan Henderson.
Edge in Athletic Ability: Jon Jones
MMA Specific Grappling Abilities
The grappling facet of mixed martial arts requires more than a traditional wrestling background. Grappling inside the cage includes take-down attempts, take-down defense and clinch work, which is not developed outside the cage.
Both Jones and Henderson are known for their wrestling pedigrees.
The current UFC light heavyweight champion was a national junior college All-American wrestler at Iowa Central Community College.
His foundation as an amateur wrestler has transitioned seamlessly inside the Octagon where Jones has a success rate of 72 percent on his take-down attempts and has prevented 100 percent of the oppositions take-down tries.
Possessing tremendous success as a grappler during his fights, Jones' pedigree as a mixed martial arts wrestler perils in comparison to the success of Henderson.
A two-time Olympian, Henderson has competed on the world's greatest stages in Greco-Roman competition.
Capable of taking a fight to the mat at any point during a competition, Henderson is well-versed in all facets of the grappling game.
Henderson's distinct advantage in MMA specific grappling over Jones is his trade-mark clinch game.
Known for wearing down opponents with tight punches, knees, and elbows against the fence, "Hendo" has capitalized on his grappling pedigree to incorporate a facet of dirty boxing into his grappling strategy.
If Henderson could secure the clinch against Jones, he will slow down the dynamic assault of the UFC champion and begin to wear down the high-flying athleticism of "Bones" creating an equal stand-up striking skill-set.
Edge in the MMA Specific Grappling Abilities: Dan Henderson
The intangibles a fighter possesses includes experience, instincts, a little luck and a balanced attack.
Henderson clearly holds the advantage in the experience department. Competing at the sport's highest level since 1997, Henderson has fought under the Rings, Strikeforce, Pride and UFC banners.
With an overall MMA record of 28-8, "Hendo" has secured victories over some of the greatest mixed martial artists on the planet.
Outside of the experience advantage, however, Jon Jones possesses the remaining intangibles inside the Octagon.
"Bones's" balanced skill-set exposes very little holes in his game. A tremendous athlete with the instincts of a veteran who delivers excellent strikes, a varied offense, solid defense, youth and confidence, Jones is the complete package.
A closely contested battle, a matchup between these two champions would be legendary. If Jones could prevent becoming another victim of the "H-Bomb," he possesses too many talents for Henderson to compete with.
In the end, a fight to unify the Strikeforce and UFC light heavyweight championships would award Jon "Bones" Jones as the unified title holder.
Let us hope that we get to witness this matchup in the future.
Unified Champion: Jon "Bones" Jones