Dan Henderson might be one of the greatest athletes we've ever seen step into multiple arenas of martial arts. A former Bi-division title holder for the defunct Pride, "Hendo" now has a chance to accomplish something he could not in the UFC: get his gold back. So just how significant is this fight in terms of Dan's legacy?
He, Randy Couture, and BJ Penn are our sport's only three athletes that have held gold in multiple weight classes. Dan had done it in a fantastic manner, capturing Pride's middleweight title with a huge knockout victory over Wanderlei Silva. Yes, he came up short to Quinton Jackson and again against Anderson Silva in attempting to unify the organizations' titles, but the fight against "Rampage" was closely contested, and Dan had won a round against the "Spider" before surprisingly tapping to a rear naked choke late in the second round of the middleweight title fight.
Henderson then went on to beat three legitimate opponents in Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, and Michael Bisping. Franklin has held UFC gold and the others have been longstanding top ranked fighters at 185 lbs. He put a stamp on the Bisping fight by decapitating the Brit in view of over two million eyes at UFC 100. Dan left the UFC the unquestioned #2 middleweight in the world, on the cusp of a rematch with Anderson Silva, due to contract disputes.
In his Strikeforce debut, Dan lost a lopsided decision to Jake Shields after flooring his adversary with a stiff hook in the first round. "Hendo" looked winded going into the second, but was able to survive the final four rounds. He then came back and put a statement onto his reemergence into the light heavyweight division against Renato Sobral, earning yet another title shot, this time against Rafael Cavalcante.
So where does all of this leave us? Henderson is still an incredible fighter and gets little credit for his accomplishments. Even at 40, the man is a physical specimen with an iron head, heavy hands, and a strong wrestling pedigree. Yes, he entered Strikeforce on a low note, but it looked like the cut had begun taking its toll on Dan in his advanced years, and it also looked like he had taken Shields' wrestling ability too lightly. I don't forget jumping off my seat and screaming for Dan to finish when he had Shields rocked in the first. I also don't forget how he completely obliterated Sobral and Bisping. It cannot be contested that Dan has absolute dynamite in both of his hands- knocking out two of his last three opponents and nearly getting the early TKO on the other.
If Dan beats Cavalcante, he will become the first person to hold titles in multiple divisions AND multiple major organizations. At his age, this can't be understated. It isn't as if Dan has had an easy road to the title, or is facing a second rate fighter- He has a 4-1 record in his last five with the lone loss being a decision loss in a title fight, and his opponent just derailed the Muhammed Lawal hype train. If Dan wins, it not only credentials him a level above all other mixed martial artists, it also begs a strong argument for Henderson to sit atop the all-time pound for pound greatest list.