By Adam Martin
When the UFC announced that veterans Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort would clash in a trilogy fight in the main event of UFC Fight Night 77, I wasn’t really sure what to think.
My initial thoughts were, why is the UFC booking this fight again? After all, the pair met just two years ago at UFC Fight Night 32, and the result was definitive, with Belfort knocking Henderson out with a brutal head kick in the first round. Sure, Henderson had bested Belfort by decision in a 2006 PRIDE match, but this was much more definitive, and it seemed like a given that Belfort was a far better fighter at this point of both fighters’ careers.
After all, Henderson is 45, and he was 43 when Belfort knocked him out. Belfort is 38 now, but he was (only) 36 then, and it was his third-straight win by head kick knockout, while the KO of Hendo was Henderson’s third-straight loss. Both men were on completely different trajectories, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion at that point that if, for whatever reason, they did meet again, Belfort would knock Hendo out yet again.
Hendo also lost his use of TRT, but for Hendo it wasn’t such a shock to his system because he had fought without it at UFC 161, when he lost a split decision to Rashad Evans. He was not allowed to use TRT in that fight, but he was back on it when he knocked out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. However, he lost it once again and got destroyed by Daniel Cormier and Gegard Mousasi in his next two fights, leading many to believe his career was over.
But then Henderson fought Tim Boetsch, a very tough middleweight known for his durability, and Henderson was the underdog. Only he didn’t follow the script, knocking Boetsch out in the first round in his best performance in a long time. It made you think that, although TRT no doubt helped him, maybe Henderson really is just that good of a fighter, one whose violent right hand could fell any foe in the world on any given night.
You see, although Belfort and Hendo are controversial figures for a number of reasons (but mainly because of their use of TRT) the truth is both men are ageless wonders of the sport, two freak athletes who have defied the odds to stay at the highest level of the sport for nearly 20 years. For a brutal combat sport like MMA, that’s unheard of. But not for these two.
I know a lot of people don’t like Belfort, and there are a lot of people who don’t like Hendo either. Both men are flawed fighters with checkered pasts, but here’s the fact: They are two of the most accomplished fighters in the history of the sport, and at their advanced ages, they both don’t have much time left. I’m still not convinced this is the best matchmaking the UFC could have came up with, but I will watch the fight and hope it’s a good one, because it might be the last time we see both men compete in the eight-sided cage that made them household names for the last two decades – and who knows how much more.
UFC Fight Night 77: Belfort vs. Henderson 3 takes place on November 7, 2015 at Auditório Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.