Can Dan Henderson deny Father Time yet again? | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Some view him as the greatest American mixed martial artist of all-time, but Dan Henderson lacks one significant piece of hardware: an Ultimate Fighting Championship title.
Henderson, who turns 43 later this summer, will confront former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in the UFC 161 main event on Saturday at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. A loss there would likely doom the two-time Olympian’s chances of ever acquiring UFC gold -- a possibility made all the more maddening by the fact that a knee injury cost Henderson a scheduled shot at reigning 205-pound kingpin Jon Jones in September.
“Obviously, it was something that was supposed to happen last year and didn’t,” Henderson said during a pre-fight media call for UFC 161. “I’d like to fight Jones. I feel like I have unfinished business there, but I’m 100 percent focused on this fight.”
A formidable foe awaits him, though Evans finds himself on the rebound from back-to-back losses for the first time in his professional career. The 33-year-old Blackzilians representative last appeared at UFC 156 in February, when he put forth a surprisingly lackluster performance in a unanimous decision defeat to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Wins over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping and 2008 NCAA wrestling champion Phil Davis anchor the stellar Evans resume, along with victories over four former UFC titleholders: Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz.
“Rashad is extremely tough and dangerous,” Henderson said. “I need to make sure I’m focused.”
Henderson wants to bounce back from his own subpar outing in February, as he wound up on the wrong side of a frustrating split decision to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157. The setback halted a four-fight winning streak, which included victories over the incomparable Fedor Emelianenko and 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio Rua. Machida outstruck Henderson 27-20, stymied him with elusive movement and steered clear of his atomic right hand.
“Lyoto is a different fighter than most everyone else,” Henderson said. “I didn’t perform to my best and I could have done some things differently, but it’s hard to fight a guy that doesn’t want to fight you. I could have been more aggressive, but I’m feeling confident and ready for this fight. This training camp has been great. I don’t think [the loss to Machida] affects what my performance will be in this fight.”
Climbing the Ladder
The fast-rising Canadian grappler will challenge Rosi Sexton in her promotional debut, as she attempts to move towards a crack at 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey. Davis, 28, has won five of her past six bouts, losing only to former Strikeforce titleholder Sarah Kaufman in a hotly contested majority decision. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt last appeared under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner in January, when she finished Shayna Baszler with a rear-naked choke, becoming the first woman in more than seven years to submit “The Queen of Spades.”
The twice-beaten Sexton will enter the Octagon on the strength of a three-fight winning streak. The 35-year-old has not competed since besting Aisling Daly inside the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship promotion more than a year ago. Still, the seasoned Sexton has recorded eight wins in her past nine outings.
“I know Rosi is a tough fighter and she’s going to come out with something to prove, but I believe that this is my fight,” Davis said in her pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “I have had the best training camp and conditioning I’ve ever had.”
This & That
From Nov. 12, 2005 to Oct. 23, 2010, former Strikeforce, Shooto and EliteXC champion Jake Shields won 15 consecutive fights ... When Pat Barry was born on July 7, 1979, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” was the No. 1 movie at the box office ... A Strong Style Fight Team representative, Stipe Miocic hails from Willowick, Ohio, a small town with a population of less than 15,000 in the Northeastern quadrant of “The Buckeye State” ... Only Georges St. Pierre, Bisping, B.J. Penn and Rich Franklin have landed more significant strikes in UFC competition than Sam Stout’s 838, according to FightMetric data ... Welterweight Kenny Robertson graduated from Eastern Illinois University, the same institution that produced UFC hall of famer Matt Hughes ... John Maguire has held titles inside the Cage Gladiators, Cage Rage and Olympian MMA Championships organizations in Europe ... Five of Roland Delorme’s eight career victories have resulted in first-round submissions; however, his opponent, Edwin Figueroa, has never been submitted ... Former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Ryan Jimmo owns an 8-1 record in fights that reach the judges ... “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 semifinalist Dustin Pague discovered mixed martial arts through an Ultimate Fighting Championship DVD he rented at Blockbuster.