I have been punched in the face and head more times than the average Joe. I have also cracked a fairly long list of folks in the grill, face and head. If one spends a couple decades fighting off and on both in the ring or at the bar the points start to add up; experience points and damage points. Luckily, I have never been “seriously” injured. This means I have never had to be hospitalized and I have never been actually knocked out.
The same cannot be said for Dan Henderson.
Daniel Jeffery Henderson, (born August 24, 1970) is an American mixed martial artist and former Olympicwrestler, who competes as a middleweight and light heavyweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was the last Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion and was the last Welterweight 183 lb (83 kg; 13.1 st) and Middleweight 205 lb (93 kg; 14.6 st) champion of Pride Fighting Championships. He was the only mixed martial artist to concurrently hold two titles in two different weight classes in a major MMA promotion. Henderson is also the UFC 17 Middleweight Tournament Winner, the 1997 Brazil Open Lightweight Tournament Champion, the RINGS King of Kings 1999 Tournament Winner, and the2005 PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix Champion. As of September 29, 2014, Henderson is #8 in official UFC light heavyweight rankings.
…yeah. So, Dan Henderson is a walking talking facepunch legend. Nobody, literally nobody, can dispute this. The question everyone is now asking is more diffuse: Can Henderson continue to fight at an elite level and if not should he simply retire all together?
MMA and boxing are radically different, but if we look at boxing, just for comparative analysis we see that elite boxers rarely go beyond 45 professional fights with many of them stopping around the 35 mark. Henderson has a professional fighting record of 43. I cannot even begin to fathom what his amateur record was as a wrestler. To assume it was well beyond 200 is no stretch whatsoever. This is a lot of action for anyone, even a legend, and it is a path littered with injuries.
It probably began further back but it became apparent in every outing we have seen Henderson in since Belfort put his shin on Dan’s skull. His “win” against Rua was the personification of the saying “lucky punch” and a bout in which he absorbed a tremendous amount of damage. He was absolutely man-handle by Cormier. I remember watching the fight and shaking my head in disbelief; “This man was a two-time Olympian?”
Watch it above. Cormier dominates Henderson; wall-to-wall domination.
Why is THIS fight such a big deal? There are two reasons.
One, it is recent. This is Dan Henderson today.
Two, it shows, in a painfully clear manner, that the one thing Dan Henderson had in his corner is now gone, his total domination when the fight went to wrestling.
So,what’s left? The right hand? A powerful right but increasingly ineffective against the top tier. At that level being a one trick pony is a great way to become a tomato can, which sadly Henderson seems to be looking more and more like. Is this simply an age issue? Not at all. It is largely due to complacent and stagnant training and an unwillingness to learn new tricks so to speak. But perhaps that is the age related caveat itself.
Regardless of the why, it is clear that Henderson should retire. If nothing else simply for his humiliating performance in the Cormier bout. His Olympic legacy is paying the price.