By Adam Martin
This weekend in Manchester, England, UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping defends his belt for the first time when he meets his longtime nemesis Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 204. If any MMA fan told you they had predicted this fight would take place in 2016, with the belt on the line, you would call them a liar. It's incredible that this rematch is taking place seven years after Hendo knocked out Bisping at UFC 100, and the fact that it's for the title seems even more impossible.
But it's happening. This is real. On Saturday night, Bisping, at 37 years of age, takes on the ageless, 46-year-old legend Henderson in the last fight of Hendo's career. It's a fight that the UFC booked because of the storyline and because fans wanted it, and as a courtesy to Hendo, one of the best MMA fighters of all time. It's a fight that will also give Henderson the chance to make history, by doing something no one other fighter will ever be able to accomplish.
Back in the PRIDE days, Henderson was a dual champion. He was both the welterweight (183 lbs) and middleweight (205 lbs) champion. He was the only dual champ in PRIDE history, and still to this day, he's the only man to hold two titles in a major MMA organization at the same time (although UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor will have the chance to join him when he takes on UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.) BJ Penn and Randy Couture both have held belts in two UFC weight classes, but not at the same time.
After PRIDE was purchased by the UFC and the fighters were transferred over, Henderson had two title fights in the Octagon. He lost a decision to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 75 in his bid to become the UFC Light Heavyweight champion, then lost by submission to Anderson Silva at UFC 82 in his bid to become the UFC Middleweight Champion. But let's be fair; Rampage and Silva were at the top of the sport at that time, so even though Henderson had two chances at a title without winning, it's hard to criticize him too much for losing those fights.
In addition to being a dual-champion in PRIDE, Henderson was also Strikeforce’s last light heavyweight champion, knocking out Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante to win the belt and then using it as leverage to sign a huge contract with the UFC, which he parlayed into a fight against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139, in arguably the greatest fight in the history of mixed martial arts. That earned Hendo a shot at UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones at UFC 151, but that event was canceled when Hendo pulled out with an injury, and, four years later, he finally gets another chance to win a title in the UFC.
If he beats Bisping at UFC 204, Henderson will become a champion in PRIDE, Strikeforce, and UFC, and because PRIDE and Strikeforce no longer exist, no one else will ever be able to achieve that mark. That's downright incredible, and it's a testament to both Henderson's skills as one of the best MMA fighters of all time, as well as his longevity, having fought at the highest level of the sport for 20 years.
If there was an MMA Mount Rushmore, Henderson would be on it, joining the likes of Silva, Fedor Emelianenko (who Hendo knocked out in Strikeforce), Couture (his long-time friend) and Jon Jones. It's not a coincidence Hendo has connections to all of those men. He's simply a living legend, one of the best fighters to ever step foot into the eight-sided metal cage, and there will likely never be anyone like him ever again. UFC 204 isn't a great card, but this is Henderson's last fight, and that's reason enough for every MMA fan to tune into it.
October 8, 2016
By Adam Martin