With all the hype surrounding Jon Jones, one man that many hardcore fans want to see in the cage against the young phenom is grizzled former Olympian and legend of multiple weight classes, Dan Henderson.
Henderson has looked phenomenal in the presumed twilight of his career, fresh off an epic war with Shogun Rua and now riding a four-fight win streak. However, now isn’t the time for him to get in there with the UFC titleholder, and there are a number of reasons for that
People don’t have to like him, but there’s no denying that Rashad Evans has already earned a title shot multiple times over. He’s 15-1-1 in his career and a former titleholder, and the only reason Jones has the belt today is because Evans pulled out of a title fight due to injury.
Evans is currently booked to face Phil Davis at UFC on FOX 2, and should he be successful there is no reason in the world that Henderson should leapfrog him. Evans and Jones hate each other, a matchup between them has been brewing for most of 2011 and they fully deserve the right to settle that in the cage.
As mentioned, Evans will face Phil Davis in January to secure his shot at Jones. While Davis may still be a fairly raw work in progress, if he’s able to beat one of the best light heavyweights in the world today, he 100 percent should be next in line.
The UFC often makes matches based on what fans want to see instead of on who deserves a shot. If they’re touting Evans as the guy who should be next for Jones, how is Davis not next should he beat Evans? Beating the No. 1 contender means you went out and proved that you’re objectively better than him, so should you not replace him in the pecking order?
I’d personally prefer to see Henderson in there instead of Davis, but if Evans is the top dog today and Davis beats him, he has far more of a right to fight for the title than Henderson does.
While Henderson is riding high with four straight wins, only three of them have come at light heavyweight. Sure, he beat Babalu Sobral, Rafael Feijao and Shogun Rua, but he’s also fought at heavyweight in that time too.
Before those wins—only one of which came against a top-10 opponent—he was 3-2 during a middleweight run and wasn’t exactly tearing up the sport.
Here today, Dan Henderson looks better than he ever has and has been a total treat to watch. But in the same way he didn’t deserve a shot at 185 after he beat Fedor, he doesn’t deserve a shot at Jones for beating unranked opponents or guys in other weight classes.
While Nick Diaz was poached from Strikeforce in the middle of his remarkable tear through its 170-pound division, that was at a different time. It looked like that promotion would be absorbed into the UFC completely, as Henderson and Allistair Overeem soon followed.
Now, Dana White is singing a different tune and suggesting that Strikeforce guys will be staying put. The promotion will live on, and things will continue as per usual.
So in this new era, which is, oddly enough, quite similar to the old era when Zuffa didn’t own Strikeforce, how much weight is put on Henderson’s success there? He lost to Jake Shields before he got on a hot streak, but as mentioned, that streak didn’t come against world-beating opposition. Can a guy walk into the UFC with a big name and some wins over middling opponents and call out a champion on the upswing?
He shouldn’t be able to, and should have to fight another contender or two before he gets his shot. Time will tell if that happens, though.
Realistically, as much as the hardcore fan loves Dan Henderson, he’s not a household name. That’s a shame, because he’s done as much as anyone in the sport and deserves any accolade out there, but it’s true.
The UFC experienced a massive boon after the first Ultimate Fighter—when Henderson was fighting in PRIDE.
The promotion saw another bump around UFC 100, when Henderson was featured knocking out Michael Bisping in spectacular fashion—immediately after which he bolted to Strikeforce and became instantly less visible for fans who weren’t looking for him.
Upon returning to the UFC, he staged one of the greatest wars in the history of the sport against Shogun Rua, a war that he won—on a pay-per-view that is estimated to be one of the less-bought shows of 2011, despite how fantastic it was.
To the casual fan, Dan Henderson doesn’t get the respect he deserves. In terms of big-money matchmaking, it’s hard to justify him getting a shot before he becomes better known to the current mainstream audience.