Category Archives: Dan Henderson

Anderson Silva, How Could I Have Doubted Thee?

I take it all back. Anything I may have ever said to suggest that Anderson Silva is not the world’s pound-for-pound best fighter, I was wrong. I apologize. Anderson Silva, thou art an MMA god, and I shall put no other fighters before thee.

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting, but not by much. The way Silva not just defeated but dismantled Dan Henderson, who is himself unquestionably a top middleweight (and light heavyweight, while we’re at it), I was awed. Some of you may recall that I picked Henderson to win that fight. I thought that Henderson’s ability to take a punch, combined with his ability to close the distance and use the body lock to get opponents to the mat where he could control them, would allow him to grind out a victory. At the end of round one, it looked as though Hendo would do precisely that. But in the second, Silva decided enough was enough.

First Silva rocked Henderson on the feet, which is no small task, then dominated and submitted him on the mat. By the way, do you know how many fights Henderson lost by submission before this one? Two. One against each of the Nogueira brothers, including the one who is now UFC heavyweight champion. Does that help put it in perspective?

Watching Silva on Saturday night, I knew I was seeing something special. Since I had picked Henderson and since the egotistical part of my brain (which is most of it) always roots for the guys I’ve picked so I can brag about what an MMA genius I am, I should have been disappointed when Silva took over the fight. But I wasn’t. It was too beautiful, too impressive for me to even remember my picks right then. If you had asked me at the exact moment that Silva was choking Henderson I might have told you that only an idiot would pick against him.

Truly, I am that idiot, for I doubted Anderson Silva.

The question now is, what’s next? The middleweight division is essentially cleaned out, and though some are already clamoring for Silva to go down in weight to face Georges St. Pierre, I have to tell you I don’t see it. Silva is incredibly lean at middleweight, I don’t know if he can shed another fifteen pounds. Perhaps a catch weight bout at 177.5 pounds is the answer, assuming St. Pierre beats Serra.

All I can say for sure right now is that if any of you out there still have someone other than Anderson Silva at the top of your pound-for-pound list, you’re refusing to face reality. Forget Fedor, who would rather pick up a cheap paycheck than get tested in the ring, Silva is the man. We’re witnessing history just watching him. Stop arguing and enjoy it.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, MMA, Sports, UFC

Silva-Henderson Fight Could Be Career-Defining For Both Men

In this age of interim titles and overhyped fights, it’s easy to forget about the very real title fight down the road. I speak now, of course, of Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson. It may also be known as the fight Henderson should have taken immediately upon coming to the UFC, but better late than never.

I don’t know what Dana White said to Henderson to convince him to finally move back down to middleweight and take this fight. I’m guessing that the conversation involved a check with a lot of zeros on it, for one thing, and maybe a reminder of how he couldn’t control the bigger “Rampage” Jackson on the mat when the two fought for the light heavyweight title.

Whatever it took, White got his wish. Henderson-Silva is the match that makes sense for both fighters. The only questions is, if Silva wins, what happens next?

I ask that for two reasons. One, Henderson is 37. He’s had a great career as an MMA fighter and before that as a prolific amateur wrestler. The guy has won so many titles and tournaments that when I asked him once to list for me some of his accomplishments in advance of an IFL announcement, he told me he was a “three or four-time National Greco-Roman champion.” Three or four? He just smiled and shrugged. I guess at some point you stop counting and they all blend together.

My point here is that if Henderson can’t beat the 205-pound champ and can’t beat the 185-pound champ, what’s left? He doesn’t want to hang around and be a gatekeeper, or at least I don’t want him to do that. And at his age he might be better off hanging up the gloves and concentrating on running his gym.

Then again, if he makes the move down in weight and wins the title, it could be a reverse Randy Couture scenario.

My second question, though, is what happens with Anderson Silva if he wins? He’ll have defeated just about everybody worth punching in the UFC’s anemic middleweight division, with no obvious challenger waiting in the wings. What will the UFC do with him then? Will Anderson Silva weep when he sees there are no more people to beat up?

Knowing the UFC, they’ll probably start pressuring other fighters to move to middleweight (paging, “Count” Bisping), but that does not necessarily mean they’ll have any credible contenders at the end of the day. Henderson has by the far the best shot, not only because of his skill and experience level, but because his style matches up well against Silva’s.

If Silva has trouble with anyone, it’s wrestlers. His takedown defense is the only weak part of his game, and Henderson doesn’t mind taking a punch on the way in to get it.

As of right now, the Silva-Henderson fight stands in the distance as a fork in the road for the UFC’s middleweight division. The future of the weight class — as well as the future of several fighters as of yet unnamed — will depend on what happens in that bout. Either way, when it’s all over we’ll finally have some (M)answers.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, MMA, Sports, UFC

Silva Looks Flawless at UFC 77

Anderson Silva isn’t just the best middleweight in the UFC. He’s an artist. He has so many different weapons at his disposal, it must be hard for him to choose which to employ from one moment to the next.

Just ask Rich Franklin, who began last night with high hopes for winning his belt back, but left, much like everyone else, in complete awe of “The Spider”.

When it came down to it, Franklin couldn’t find any way to mount an effective offense against Silva, who slipped punches and checked kicks with relative ease. Though Franklin did briefly exploit Silva’s notoriously weak takedown defense, he was unable to capitalize. He was also unable to avoid Silva’s clinch, despite assurances that he had learned how to defend against it after being demolished in the clinch in their first meeting.

Simply put, there wasn’t anything Franklin could do better than Silva. After picking “Ace” apart on the feet and nearly finishing him with a right hand at the end of the first round, the TKO that finally came early into the second round had already begun to seem inevitable.

While the victory in his third straight title defense is a big one for Silva, what was most impressive was how calm and smooth he looked in the process. In at least one exchange he varied his attack — punches to the head, then leg kicks, then a shot to the body — so deftly and with such precision that Franklin appeared lost just trying to keep up.

It makes you think that Silva’s problem now, as much as there can be one, is the lack of competition in the 185-pound class. Aside from Paulo Filho, who is missing in action right now, the UFC might have to convince a few light heavyweights to move down in weight just to keep providing Silva with credible opponents.

If they do, I have to think that Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping could top the list. Both could conceivably make the weight (Henderson really should have debuted in the UFC as a middleweight), and both may soon run out of options in the stacked light heavyweight division.

In last night’s heavyweight clash, Tim Sylvia promised that his days of winning boring decisions were over, and that he intended to come after Brandon Vera and knock him out. Sylvia lied.

His game plan was not so much to come after Vera as it was to clinch with him and press him against the cage, smothering the smaller man with his weight. That’s how he began the fight and it was the strategy he returned to in every round as he plodded his way toward — you guessed it — another boring decision victory.

But Vera is as much to blame for the lackluster fight as Sylvia. He showed flashes of his speed and dynamic striking from the outside, but they were just frustrating glimpses. He refused to use his kicks to keep Sylvia at bay, like his corner implored him to do, and he was clearly hampered by breaking his left hand early in the fight.

It may have added up to another mark in the win column for Sylvia, but he didn’t do anything to change the perception of himself as a plodding big man who puts on a snoozer of a show.

He tried to generate a little heat after the match by calling out Cheick Kongo, even telling him to pick on someone his own size (despite the fact that Sylvia is much bigger than Kongo), but the crowd seemed unconvinced.

In other action, Kalib Starnes and Alan Belcher put on an exciting show before a huge cut on Starnes’ forehead became too nasty to ignore. The doctor called the fight and Starnes had a mini-blowup at his corner, who apparently thought their fighter wanted out of the fight.

That’s troubling because it makes you wonder what his corner has seen from Starnes in the past that would make them jump to that conclusion. It’s really too bad the fight was called before it could be decided, but it also makes you wonder if keeping elbow strikes legal is really worth the early stoppages.

Stephan Bonnar did as expected in his win over Eric Schafer, despite a couple of early scares. Bonnar still seems like a guy with plenty of potential, but he’s got a hard climb ahead of him in the light heavyweight division.

Jorge Gurgel got hammered by Alvin Robinson, which he deserved after deciding to lie on his back and absorb punishment with an expression that suggested he was just waiting for the fight to be over. Not a great night for hometown boys in Cincinnati.

Oh, and in case you missed it somehow, they call Cincinnati “The Queen City” and it was “Hostile Territory” on this particular night. But you knew that because Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg repeated it like a phone number they were trying to commit to memory. I can’t wait for UFC 84: Punch You in the Face.

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Filed under Anderson Silva, Brandon Vera, Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping, MMA, Rich Franklin, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC, UFC 77

Arona Signs With M-1, Could Fight Fedor First

Update: No, he didn’t. Read this.

According to MMA-Europe.net, former Pride fighter Ricardo Arona has signed a four-fight deal with the M-1 organization. The report claims his debut will come in December, and his opponent may be Fedor Emelianenko.

According to “Vale Tudo News”, Brazilian ace Ricardo Arona (13-5-0) announced that he has signed a four fight deal with Russian organization M-1. The opponent(s), due to contractual issues, weren’t revealed. Arona said that he is now focused in his debut, in December. When asked if the first fight would be with Fedor Emilianenko (26-1-0), Ricardo Arona smiled and kept his silence.

While a smiling, silent Arona does not necessarily make for official confirmation, it seems at least possible that an Arona-Fedor showdown will headline a December card. That’s a tough return to the ring for Arona, who last saw action in April when he was knocked out by Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Once a promising Brazilian Top Team prospect, Arona has struggled recently, losing three of his last four fights.

A second life with M-1 may be just what Arona needs to get his career back on track, but debuting against the bigger, more experienced Emelianenko won’t be easy. The two met once before back in 2000 for the Rings organization, with Emelianenko winning a unanimous decision. No doubt both are very different fighters now (it was only the third fight for both men), but Arona has struggled with the stand-up game while Emelianenko is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the MMA world.

If nothing else, this move signals what may be the start of an aggressive attempt by M-1 to corral some of the top talent left in limbo after Zuffa’s purchase of Pride. It might also provide an alternative to UFC fighters looking to entertain other options after their current contracts expire, as former Pride champion Dan Henderson has indicated he might do.

In a recent interview Henderson claimed many fighters were unhappy with the money offered to them by the UFC, and he suggested that it was related to the UFC losing money on events in Ireland and overpaying on the purchase of Pride. Henderson didn’t offer any hard evidence for this claim, and it would seem that the UFC is in as strong a financial position as ever, but the mere fact that a top fighter is publicly voicing his displeasure with his current contract should be enough to get organizations like M-1 interested.

No one knows exactly how much M-1 has to spend, but if they’re willing to shell out the cash they could lure a number of UFC fighters into their stable. Then it’s just a question of what they’ll do with them, and when.

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Filed under Dan Henderson, Fedor Emelianenko, M-1, MMA, Ricardo Arona, Sports, UFC

Is “Rampage” For Real? Plus, Other Post-UFC Thoughts and Regrets

Halfway through last night’s title fight between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Dan (I guess we’re calling him “Dangerous” now?) Henderson, I couldn’t help but wonder i f maybe both these guys had something important to do after the bout. It was as if neither wanted to take a chance on expending too much energy by really trying for the finish, despite the fact that this was supposed to be the big time title unification bout.

I could understand a somewhat slow pace in the first round. Feeling one another out is normal, and the match was scheduled for five rounds, which is a long time just to keep your hands up in front of your face. But neither of these two really seemed to go for broke at any point.

The closest either came was a couple of heavy flurries from Jackson and a couple of attempted kimura locks from Henderson (though he seemed more interested in using them to reverse position than as a submission). Several times Henderson gained side mount only to wait for Jackson to escape.

In the fifth round I really expected to see at least Henderson – who had to know he was behind on the scorecards, what with Matt Lindland yelling at him between rounds – take a risk and try to make something big happen.

That moment never came, and Jackson got a hard-earned decision. A drop to middleweight is the best course for Hendo now. The size and strength difference is evident.

As for Jackson, he looked like a real fighter for the first time in a long time. No longer relying on pure aggression and power, he showed some technique and some poise. Maybe having a steady training camp and little more maturity with age is paying off.

Next stop: rematch with “Shogun” Rua?

“Cro Cop” Fizzles

I think it’s finally time to put to rest the notion that Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is among the world’s most feared strikers. Cheick Kongo easily handled him for three rounds and only seemed to gain confidence with each failed high kick from the Croatian.

(Note to UFC commentator Mike Goldberg: I understand why you went out of your way to say that “Cro Cop” was a one-time member of the Croatian Parliament, and that it’s a governmental body equivalent to the U.S. Senate, but even you had to realize how silly you sounded.)

It’s going to be hard for the UFC to know what to do with “Cro Cop” now. There simply isn’t a good match-up out there for him anymore. They may try to put him against somebody they want to get over with the fans, but it’s debatable whether “Cro Cop” has any heat left at all after this showing.

Bisping Gets Hometown Love

The worst decision of the night came in the light heavyweight bout between TUF winner Michael Bisping and deaf former college wrestling champion Matt Hamill.

(Another note to Goldberg: Did you really say that the Div. III champion Hamill was the most decorated wrestler to enter the Octagon in a long time? Really? Somewhere Josh Koscheck is pissed, and Matt Lindland just shakes his head and shrugs at Randy Couture and Dan Henderson.)

Hamill looked better than ever, particularly in his striking game and stand-up defense. With his natural ability he could end up being a serious contender at 205 lbs. someday, though he’s still unable to do much on the mat after the takedown. Bisping was a game fighter from beginning to end, but he didn’t deserve the split decision victory and had the fight taken place in any other country, he wouldn’t have gotten it.

Now I know how Brazilians feel when they fight in the U.S.

Yet again we see judge Cecil Peoples on the wrong end of a bad decision. Granted, one other judge saw it the same way, but Peoples is a repeat offender. I mean, he must be bad because he’s the only MMA judge I can even name. It’s getting to the point where fighters who’ve just put on a strong performance have to feel a little sick when they hear the phrase, “and judge Cecil Peoples scores the bout…”

Seriously, someone ought to go stand by Peoples and make sure he’s really watching the fights. Maybe give him pop quizzes throughout just to keep his attention, and not just on the fight at hand either. Let’s see if he can judge any dispute between two conflicting parties.

Quick, Cecil, who won World War II?

It’s either that, or let’s get a more competent judge in there. I’m thinking maybe one of those chickens that can play Tic-Tac-Toe. I hear they work cheap.

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Filed under Cecil Peoples, Dan Henderson, Matt Hamill, Michael Bisping, Quinton Jackson, UFC 75

Is UFC 75’s Main Event a True Unification Bout?

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is the UFC’s newly crowned light heavyweight champion.  Dan Henderson was the reigning middleweight and light heavyweight champion at the time of Pride’s decline and fall.  But now that Pride is just a pleasant memory, does this still count as a title unification bout?

Short answer: maybe not technically, but it’s close enough.

I mean, let’s be honest.  It’s not the kind of unification bout that Fedor Emelianenko versus Randy Couture would be.  That’s the stuff pay-per-view dreams are made of.  But this is good enough for now.

What we have is a former Pride fighter in Jackson (who was, let’s not forget, basically spit out the bottom of the ranks and into the quickly defunct WFA) who caught a quick break in the UFC based mainly on his charisma and marketability.  He beat Chuck Liddell for the title, and no one can take that away from him.  I have a feeling that if they fought ten more times Liddell would win nine, but it doesn’t work that way.

That being said, championship reigns have been built on frailer ground.  “Rampage” is the UFC champ, and that’s that.  But what of Henderson?

He was most successful in Pride as a 185-pounder until he went up in weight for a second time and destroyed Wanderlei Silva.  Of course, Silva fans will tell you that Wanderlei lost because he was battling everything from injuries to illnesses to Brazilian gypsy curses, but that’s irrelevant now.

All sources indicate that debuting as a light heavyweight in the UFC was Henderson’s idea, which is a little surprising.  He’s a bulldog of a fighter with almost no finesse in his game, and going up against 205-pounders means giving up size and strength.  Of his five losses, four are against light heavyweights.

It begs the question: did Henderson decide to fight at 205 pounds before or after Jackson won the title?

The main argument against this fight as a unification affair is that it’s essentially two Pride fighters going at it.  It doesn’t give us a good sense of which organization had the superior champion, at least not the way the Liddell-Silva bout would have back before Silva started to look like a fighter on the way down.

But the truth is Pride is gone now, so the question now longer matters.  The time to have a true unification bout was last summer.  It didn’t happen.  What we can get from this bout is an end to the bickering.  Whoever wins is the legitimate 205-pound UFC champ, making him the legitimate 205-pound  MMA champ, at least for the time being.

Either way, Liddell will have an opportunity to earn his way back to a title fight.  So will “Shogun” Rua, and so will Wanderlei Silva.  If what we’re looking for is some kind of bout to cement a permanent champ, forget it.  This is the best we’re going to get, and kudos to the UFC for making it happen right away and putting it on free TV in the U.S.

The influx of Pride fighters into the UFC is a great thing for fight fans.  But not because it gives us the opportunity to match them up against each other over and over again with the hopes of proving which organization was “better”.  That’s silly and ultimately answers nothing.

It’s a great thing because it means better fighters, more competitive bouts, and a seemingly endless train of legitimate contenders at almost every weight class.  You can’t ask for much more than that, though that’s never stopped anyone from trying.

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Filed under Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, UFC 75