Monthly Archives: November 2013

One Punch: Dan Henderson’s Most Important Fight

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Tonight’s UFC Fight Night 32 will put two of mixed martial arts’s biggest icons: Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort against Dan “Hendo” Henderson, a rematch from their Pride fight in 2006. Let’s state the obvious that this fight is a must win for both fighters especially since both are still as dangerous as any young gun and are still vying for a title shot. But for Hendo, this is do or die. This is his most important fight. He has to beat Vitor Belfort. His entire career depends on it.

Divergent Paths

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Both Hendo and Belfort have a combined 29 knockout wins in their careers. All of Belfort’s wins in the UFC have come via finish. That’s right. Out of the 12 UFC opponents he has beaten, he has submitted two and knocked out ten. The Phenom has looked phenomenal, excuse the bad pun, as of late. Thank a little TRT exemption – but his last two wins, both spectacular finishes against middleweight contenders, Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold means he’s on a path of destruction back to contendership (listed #2 ranked middleweight by UFC.com).

Hendo in contrast has lost his last two fights by split decision to former light heavyweight champions, Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. A lot of the naysayers may think Hendo’s on a downtrend and retirement may be in the horizon but Hendo stated he has no plans of and wants to fight for at least two more years. That’s plenty of time to get back into title contention.

Before Hendo lost his last two fights, he was Jon Jones’s next opponent until his injury infamously made history by cancelling the first ever UFC 151. This and being on a two-fight losing streak pretty much has Hendo on the back end of a short line of contenders for another shot. But one punch can change everything. One knockout can change Hendo’s fortunes for good. But he has to be the one pulling it off.

Turning Back Time: 2011

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Hendo is only two years removed from a magnificent 2011, which was arguably his greatest year since his Pride days. In 2011, Hendo knocked out highly-touted Black House prodigy, Rafael “Feijao” Calvacante to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship. He followed this up with come-from-behind knockout of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, the first time the great Russian has been felled mid-fight by strikes.

And as an encore to the year, Hendo engaged Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in what many pundits and fans alike have called one of the greatest fights in MMA history. He would win the war by unanimous decision.

Hendo would go 3-0 for the year, which would earn him the aforementioned title shot against Jones. But it’s worth noting that his wins have come with asterisks. Cavalcante as highly regarded as he was isn’t a top ten light heavyweight at least not in the UFC. Fedor was on the downswing of his career coming off of two losses and several fight metrics had him losing to Rua.

TRT or Retirement?

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Since his injury in 2012 and bowing out of the title fight, Hendo just has not looked the same. He certainly didn’t seem as explosive in both his fights against Rashad and Machida and has looked slower and more sluggish. Being permitted a TRT exemption isn’t good news, it’s more concerning. But should Hendo decide to undergo it, would it make a big difference?

TRT users indeed report “increased alertness and well-being, increase in lean muscle mass and concomitant decrease in body fat” (source: Gan EH, “A UK Epidemic of Testosterone Prescribing 2001-2010) . It has certainly helped the resurgent Vitor Belfort as he has looked like a new man, arguably at his best ever since he’s fought professionally. It’s also helped Chael Sonnen as he submitted Rua within just a round. But it didn’t really help either man against Jon Jones.

A reinvigorated Hendo could definitely end up like Vitor Belfort. There’s no guarantee but should Hendo lose to Belfort, and should he lose badly (as in first T/KO loss), maybe retirement is a better path?

Does Hendo want to fade away like other greats before him: Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson and the abovementioned Fedor Emelianenko?

Hendo is a man of great pride and he has aged gracefully. I’m sure he as well as any of his fans believe he’s capable of putting on even more fights but what if he isn’t? As a Hendo fan, I would hate to see him get trashed on his way out of MMA.

One Punch

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One punch. Sometimes that’s all it takes to end a fight. And it can happen at any moment against anyone. It happened to Anderson Silva against Chris Weidman, the greatest mixed martial artist of his time flattened by a punch. Hendo and Belfort are both familiar with the power both possess. Whether it is Hendo who uncorks an “H Bomb” and floors Belfort or the Phenom finally accomplishes what over 30 fighters couldn’t and that is to stop Hendo in his tracks with punches (or a kick).

If Belfort loses, he’d be slightly derailed from his hopes of another title shot (since the fight is taking place at light heavyweight, he will still be technically unbeaten at middleweight since losing to Anderson Silva). But if Hendo loses, this could put him on the verge like what Frank Mir is currently facing.

If Hendo wins however and if he does so in spectacular fashion, he’ll be back in the hunt since the only men who have beaten Belfort in the UFC are or will be in the Hall of Fame. One punch could change Hendo’s fortunes: back in title contention or one step closer to retirement or the purgatory of the gatekeeper status.

As such, this would be Hendo’s most important match. It isn’t for a title. It isn’t of the same magnitude as the Fedor or Anderson Silva fight and it likely isn’t Hendo’s last. But it could very well be one that would define his legacy. One punch: Hendo goes back on the road to the title… or the road to the end.

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The Fight of the Year You (Probably) Didn’t Watch

November 19, 2011

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Two men engaged in one of the greatest fights in combat sports history. Both men traded blows in a back-and-forth tilt that left both exhausted, bloodied but not broken.  It wasn’t only the Fight of the Night, but the Fight of the Year. And maybe the Fight of the Decade. And only 269,000 people got to see it.

No, I’m not talking about the legendary Dan Henderson – Mauricio “Shogun” Rua fight, which aired at the same time on the UFC 139 PPV. I’m talking about Bellator LVIII, which aired for free on MTV2. The best thing? It’s still available on Youtube for free courtesy of Bellator. Check it out:

The Greatest Lightweights outside the UFC

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Michael Chandler. Eddie Alvarez. If you’re a casual MMA fan – and by that I mean you only occasionally catch a UFC PPV in a bar and any names outside of Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP and Dana White are foreign to you – then the likelihood is you have not heard of either fighter.

Michael Chandler is currently ranked as the #4 Lightweight in the world by Sherdog and may be the best current lightweight not in the UFC. An NCAA Division I wrestler, Chandler is undefeated at 12-0 with 10 of those wins coming via stoppage (5 KO, 5 submission). Among his notable wins are the aforementioned Eddie Alvarez (below), Rick Hawn, Tristar Gym teammate of UFC Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and longtime pioneer Akihiro Gono. Chandler’s muscular physique, strong ground game and heavy hands have many comparing him as a “mini-GSP” and the comparisons are not too outlandish if you look at his body of work.

Eddie Alvarez is currently ranked as the #9 Lightweight in the world by Sherdog and is the former Bellator Lightweight champion. Before he lost the title to Michael Chandler, he was pretty much Bellator’s alpha dog. As one of the company’s pioneers, he was its first ever lightweight champion and posted a seven-fight winning streak beating UFC vets Josh Neer and Roger Huerta and current Featherweight champion, Pat Curran in the process. Overall he sports a 24-3 record with 14 wins coming via KO and 7 by submission. Alvarez is one of the better boxers in MMA but most notable would be his ability to recover quickly despite being rocked in his fights.

The Road to the Rematch

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Since their epic title fight two years ago, Chandler and Alvarez have been on a collision course right back to each other. It was only a matter of time before they finally faced each other again. Pardon another UFC reference but it isn’t too different from Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, two premiere fighters who were a cut above the rest. Chandler and Alvarez have mowed down the competition at lightweight.

Michael Chandler has finished his last three opponents, the aforementioned longtime MMA vet Akihiro Gono in a non-title bout, Rick Hawn and David Rickels. Chandler never looked in danger in any of the fights, ending two of them in under a minute into the first round!

Eddie Alvarez had a more interesting story. After his loss to Chandler, he would knock out renowned Japanese submissionist, Shinya Aoki, avenging his previous loss from Dream. Rolling on that momentum, he would then knock out Patricky Freire in one round. Then a contract dispute had Alvarez verbally agree to fight for the UFC until Bellator invoked a clause to re-sign him and all the legal battles ensued.

With that thankfully settled, the rematch two-years-in-the-making HAD to happen.

Bellator CVI: Michael Chandler vs Eddie Alvarez II – All on the Line

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The Lightweight World Championship is the most obvious prize on the line in the fight but it comes down to more than that. These two are the best fighters in the company and two top ten lightweights. Whoever wins this would hold not only the title but bragging rights as the company’s alpha dog.

Michael Chandler is fighting for his undefeated streak. He’s fighting to prove his win over Alvarez in the first fight wasn’t a fluke and he’s fighting to keep solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest lightweight MMA fighters to have ever stepped into the cage.

Eddie Alvarez will be fighting to regain his championship, a title he held and practically owned for two years since its inception in 2009. He’s fighting to beat the only guy who has beaten him within the company and the only guy to have knocked him down his throne. He’s also fighting to win back his spot in the UFC should he have future plans to sign with the bigger company. Dana said he won’t sign any losers. Consider his rematch with Chandler Alvarez’s audition into the big boys club.
Both fighters will also be fighting to make a bigger mark for the company. Bellator, despite being the second largest MMA circuit in the USA is still a relative unknown to the eyes of most casual fight fans and is still dwarfed by the UFC. Another exciting clash that would garner “Fight of the Year” could mean an inevitable trilogy fight putting Chandler and Alvarez and Bellator in an iconic position if only ever for this series of fights.

Bellator CVI

Main Card (Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET)

Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez
King Mo Lawal vs. Emanuel Newton
Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus
Joe Riggs vs. Mike Bronzoulis
Mike Richman vs. Akop Stepanyan

Undercard (Watch live here at 7 p.m. ET)
Joe Williams vs. Jesse Juarez
Brandon Halsey vs. Hector Ramirez
Mike Guymon vs. Aaron Miller
Joe Camacho vs. Cleber Luciano
Darren Smith vs. Josh Smith