UFC on FOX: Why Silva vs. Henderson II Should Happen and Be at Light Heavyweight
As part of its monumental signing of a seven-year broadcast deal with FOX, the UFC recently announced that the inaugural UFC on FOX event will be held on Saturday, November 12.
While the worldwide leader in MMA always does it big, it is safe to assume that Dana White wants to leave a lasting impression with his first foray into the broadcast market (not to mention the fact that the event will be going up against Pacquiao vs. Marquez).
In an effort to maximize the promotional value of the two-fight televised card, Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has stated that he would like to see a UFC 82 rematch between current UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Dan Henderson.
Henderson is currently without a scheduled fight in the future while Silva will defend his title this Saturday at UFC 134 against Yushin Okami.
Assuming that Silva (-600) gets by Okami this weekend, the question becomes what his next move should be. Has Silva cleaned out the division? Should he take a superfight with Georges St-Pierre? Should he make the full-time move up to Light Heavyweight? All things considered, is a second fight with Dan Henderson the best option?
Also, while Dana White has repeatedly called Henderson a 185er fighting at 205, would a rematch between the two champions would be better off happening at Light Heavyweight?
There Are No Better Challenges for Silva
One of the most controversial and polarizing debates in the fight world is whether a champion can truly clean out a division.
The argument in favor of the theory is that a champion who bests all challengers put in his way and sees no true challenges in the near future has cleaned out the division and has no reason not to go up a weight class.
In opposition, the case states that there will always be new challengers to the throne and it is impossible to beat everybody.
Anderson Silva, along with Georges St-Pierre, represents one of the two current cases of a champion who has potentially cleaned out the division. Since entering the UFC in 2006, Silva has put together one of the greatest promotional resumes Zuffa has ever seen. He has gone 13-0 (11-0 MW, 2-0 LHW), with 11 of his wins coming by way of stoppage (almost all are highlight reel stoppage as well).
In fact, the Spider has been so dominant since winning the UFC Middleweight Championship in his second UFC fight that his only criticism to date is that he seems to get bored during his fights.
That's right, a professional fighter competing at the highest level in the world often finds himself bored by the challenges.
So has Anderson Silva cleaned out the Middleweight division? Probably not. However, just because there are good fights on the horizon does not mean that there are any worthy challengers at the moment.
The UFC has plenty of contenders in its 185 roster, but none of them are prepared to challenge for the title. The top contenders are either a fight or two away from a title shot (Muñoz, Stann), have to rebuild credibility for a rematch (Belfort) or the timing does not match up (Sonnen).
Anderson Silva has not cleaned out his division, but outside of a rematch with Dan Henderson, there are no other fights that make sense in the short term.
Time Is Not on Hendo's Side
Dan Henderson has represented the USA in the Olympics for Greco-Roman Wrestling twice, in 1992 and 1996. By comparison, the ageless wonder Randy Couture was an alternate on both of those teams.
The bottom line is that Hendo is old.
Since making his professional debut in 1997, Dan Henderson has gone on to become arguably the single most decorated MMA fighter in history. Despite both his past and recent successes, Henderson just turned 40, an age that history has shown to be quite unkind to fighters.
Given his demolitions of Babalu Sobral, Rafael Cavalcante and, most recently, Fedor Emelianenko, it would be hard to argue that Hendo can no longer compete.
However, it would be even harder to argue that there are many H-Bombs left in that 40-year-old body.
Henderson Laid the Framework
In 13 UFC bouts, Anderson Silva has competed in a total of 30 rounds; he has lost five. Every fan will always remember his classic fight with Chael Sonnen in which Silva pulled off a miracle triangle choke with under two minutes left in a fight that he was badly losing.
What most fans do not realize or remember is that Sonnen's game plan for the fight was designed by the only other man to win a round against Silva—none other than Team Quest co-founder Dan Henderson.
Anderson Silva is currently on an unprecedented winning streak, but make no mistake about it: Every fighter is beatable. At UFC 82, Henderson proved that Silva had holes in his game and, in doing so, opened the door for Chael Sonnen to prove that if you can defend a triangle choke, Silva is clearly beatable.
Sonnen will forever be remembered as the man who showed Anderson Silva to be a mere human, but it would be a shame not to acknowledge that it was Dan Henderson who created the blueprint for how to dent the Spider's armor.
Middleweight Is Not the Answer
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Despite being built like a 185er, Henderson has had a great deal of success at 205 throughout his career.
Not only is Henderson the current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, he is the only man in history to have competed for a title in Pride, Strikeforce and the UFC and the only man to ever hold the 205 lbs title in two of the three promotions.
For Silva, while Middleweight is certainly his home, he is by no means a homebody. In two trips up to the Light Heavyweight division, the Spider has not yet failed to put on a show, including one of the most memorable fights in MMA history with his utter destruction of Forrest Griffin.
On the surface, it clearly seems as if Middleweight would be the logical place for the rematch to take place. However, it may be much harder to rationalize giving Henderson a Middleweight title shot than it seems at first.
Two key issues are that Henderson has not fought at 185 in his last three fights and that in his most recent Middleweight fight, he was thoroughly handled by then Strikeforce Champion Jake Shields (a man who most people thought of as a blown up Welterweight).
The bottom line is that it is much easier to rationalize a Henderson vs. Silva II at 205, where Henderson is a champion and Silva has had success, than it is at 185.
It Would Have Major Implications on the UFC 205 Division
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On May 29, 2010, Rashad Evans became the No. 1 contender for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Since then, there have been two different champions and by the time Evans actually challenges for the title, there could be a third.
To put it simply, the 205-pound division is extremely volatile.
In September, at UFC 135, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will challenge Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight Championship. Assuming the winner suffers no major injuries, this timing will set up perfectly for Evans to challenge for the title on the UFC's annual New Year's card (presumably UFC 141).
Following that fight, the picture gets a little murkier.
Next in line behind Evans would presumably be Lyoto Machida. Machida is currently rumored to be facing up-and-comer Phil Davis at UFC 140 in December. While a win for Machida would all but guarantee him the next shot at the title, the situation may not be the same for Davis.
If Davis were to defeat Machida then, with no other clear candidates for a title shot, a 205-pound fight between Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson could in fact be the perfect bout to determine the next challenger for the UFC strap.