By: S. Davis
Recency bias would have you believe that Dan Henderson’s career will end up being unfulfilled if he doesn’t win a UFC title this evening, well, evening in the United States that is. It won’t. Henderson held TWO Pride titles simultaneously (Welterweight, 185 pounds; and Middleweight, 205 pounds) when Pride was considered the top promotion in the sport. Sorry new fans, the UFC hasn’t always occupied that position. Henderson’s resume is secure regardless of the aftermath of UFC 204.
How will this fight play out?
Michael Bisping isn’t a totally different fighter than he was back at UFC 100. Sure, he’s better overall but the foundation has remained relatively unchanged. He’s tough, durable and movement is paramount to his success. His volume and work rate has been staples of his since he’s been on the roster – and they serve him well when you take note that his gas tank is one of the best in the entire sport. He’s fresh from the opening round until the decision is being read.
One small wrinkle I noticed while watching Henderson-Bisping 1 was how high Bisping stood. It was like he was fighting on his tip-toes, he fought high with his spine as straight as a broomstick. (The same transgression that caused Luke Rockhold to drop his belt, by the way.) He no longer stands as north-south as he did then, he dances within the cage and finds angles akin to a championship boxer. Ask Rockhold about the half-step to the left that Bisping created before knocking him out. One thing about that fight: Did any of you see how smug and uninterested he seemed? His body language was one of overconfidence and arrogance. I’m not piling on the guy either but you would think he successfully defended the title 10 times with the level of disrespect he showed the Brit.
Bisping wins if he keeps the same game plan that he’s used during his title run. Darting within Henderson’s range, scoring points and moving his head at all times. He should tuck his chin at the referee’s instructions just to be safe. He needs to stay patient and make sure not to hunt even if he finds some success with his jab and left hooks.
He has to exercise a high level of patience. When looking at how these fighters attack, Bisping, seemingly, will be the aggressor. Henderson stalks deliberately, slightly crouched, with his right hand loaded by his chin. If the champion gets in tight he must circle left and cut angles while throwing three, four and five strike combinations. He should try his best to mix in head kicks as well. Using kicks to close out striking engagements – or sneaking some in the middle of combinations – could make his title defense a success.
If his volume is high, his movement is stellar – and it needs to be on retreats – and he uses caution on clinch breaks there is a path to victory.
Lastly, I’ve always compared a fighter’s chin to a running back’s legs: There are but so many times a fighter’s chin can be touched just as there are so many carries for a running back. The ability to take a punch does not last infinitely and if this is the time for Bisping to get the knockout that he wants, this is the best version of Henderson to stand across from.
Henderson wins if his missile of a right hand finds its target. Let’s make one thing clear: Henderson has true one-punch, pure, knockout power. There are too many fighters that get too much credit for having power but Henderson’s right hand is a flesh and bone hand grenade. It lands and your brain loses time. As long as the clock ticks he’s a threat to end the night no matter how much damage he’s taken.
Outside of that he’s going to be less active in terms of volume. He’ll look for his sneakily effective inside left leg kick followed by the H-bomb but if the timing on that is scouted by The Count, Hendo could find himself being shut out on the scorecards. Henderson should look for some offensive wrestling in order to get his hands on the champion but he doesn’t do that much anymore. It would be a nice card to play this evening because I don’t think the champion is expecting to spend any time fighting off his back.
Those who follow my MMA columns know I’m horrendous at making fight picks but let’s just have some fun with it, so…Henderson, Mousasi, Saint Preux, Struve, and Bektic.