FanPost

Dan Henderson, Strikeforce's Newest Champion, Underscores the UFC Gap

 

Dan Henderson is a legend of mixed martial arts.  A two time US Olympian (1992 and 1996), "Hollywood (or "Hendo", if you prefer) was a deadly example of what can happen when you take a world class Greco-Roman wrestler and teach him how to throw a murderous right hand.  By his fourth professional bout, Henderson had won a UFC tournament.  He then departed to Japan, enjoying success in RINGs and PRIDE that culminated in him avenging a previous decision loss to Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva via brutal KO.  Until that point, the only man that had been able to put a dent in Wandy's skull had been heavyweight Mirko Cro Cop - Dan's upset victory sent ripples throughout the MMA world.  In addition to devaluing the potential superfight between Wanderlei and Chuck Liddell, Henderson now found himself in possession of two PRIDE belts- the other coming after defeating Murilo Bustamante in the finals of their welterweight tournament - setting himself up beautifully for Zuffa's purchase of his organization.

Henderson was given back-to-back title shots against PRIDE veterans after PRIDE was purchased, first against Quinton Jackson at UFC 75 (in what was, at the time, the most heavily viewed fight in MMA history with over five million viewers tuning in to the live tape-delayed Spike broadcast) for the 205 title and Anderson Silva in the 185 division.  UFC 75 saw Rampage use his wrestling to neutralize Henderson's aggression en route to a unanimous decision victory, and Dan did enough to win the first round against (and completely enrage) Anderson Silva before succumbing to a rear naked choke in the following frame.  In less than a year, Dan had lost two straight fights and was left to decide which division to ply his trade in.

No doubt buoyed by his showing against The Spider (handing him his first losing round in his UFC career), Henderson stayed in the middleweight division, getting back to his winning ways against Rousimar Palhares before jumping up to 205 and eeking out a controversial split decision (I think he won) against Rich Franklin in Ireland.  The fight turned out to be for a gig coaching an American TUF squad opposite Michael Bisping's British contingent.  The season saw Henderson scoring multiple points by not being Michael Bisping - my personal favorite was his consoling a crying Cameron Dollar with "you're OK" - and culminated with Henderson taking KOTN honors at UFC 100.  Hendo was widely rumored to be in line for a rematch with Anderson for all the marbles.

Then something happened.  Traditionally, fighters given TUF pushes and main card slots on major PPV events (Bisping-Hendo was the highest billed non-title fight on the biggest card in MMA history) are signed for a number of fights afterwards.  For whatever reason, UFC 100 represented the end of Henderson's current contract, and Zuffa did not feel he was worth as much as he was asking for.  Despite coming off of a three fight winning streak and a masterful performance on the sport's biggest stage, Zuffa made it clear that they were not interested in bidding for Dan's services, at which point Scott Coker made signing with Strikeforce worth his while.

At the time, the move was hailed as a coup.  What would happen if the UFC continued to try to lowball popular fighters?  Didn't this, along with the still-fresh news of the Fedor signing, prove that Showtime was serious about competing for top tier MMA talent?  What of the UFC's middleweight division - with the Sonnen/Marquardt/Maia conundrum clogging up the top of the division, who would emerge to challenge Anderson Silva?  And - most importantly - could Strikeforce possibly boast #1 fighters in multiple weight classes?

Come on over to Head Kick Legendto see the conclusion of the Henderson signing, and what it means for Strikeforce.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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