The UFC’s Light Heavyweight Division Needs Dan Henderson Now

Photos by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Forza LLC via Getty Images

With a right hand that slipped under the defense of Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson continued to do Saturday night what he's been doing frequently the past few years: hit guys really hard and pick up wins.

Since a split decision win over Rich Franklin in January 2009, Henderson has fought five times with four wins coming via T/KO with the other (a decision loss to Jake Shields) almost ending in the exact same way.

A few weeks shy of his 41st birthday, Henderson is still in great shape and still competing at a high level. Despite being Strikeforce's reigning 205-pound champion, his contract (mind-numbingly devoid of a champion's clause) is up and he's free to shop around in a very limited market.

Much like he was after beating up Michael Bisping at UFC 100, Dan Henderson is a hot commodity. That's why the UFC needs to immediately sign him to help bolster a lackluster 205-pound division.

Defining Stacked

The word ‘stacked' is thrown around way too liberally in today's MMA scene, a word I've heard UFC President Dana White refer to several times when discussing his light heavyweight division.

To be kind, it's not stacked. 155 pounds? That's stacked. 185? Arguably stacked. 205? I'd say a better phrase is ‘ in transition.' A glance at the UFC's listing of 205'ers (one that still includes retirees Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell) helps illuminate that.

After Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, we're looking at veterans closer to the end than the beginning and prospects that still need a little time to bake. Some examples after the jump.

SBN coverage of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson

Veterans "In The Mix": Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua

The accomplishments on this list are tremendous, but what do we really have here in August 2011? Jackson is getting a title shot at Jones, but when's the last time you've been really impressed by his performance? What does Griffin or Rua have left?

And after a losing streak that lasted years, Ortiz is just one win away from getting the crack at the Jones/Jackson winner. What does that say about the division's depth? He was 0 for the last four years!

The Prospects: Phil Davis, Ryan Bader, Alexander Gustafsson, Kyle Kingsbury, Karlos Vemola

Davis is at the top of the list, but he still needs some seasoning -- especially in the striking department. Gustafsson's star can get a bit more shine this Saturday against Matt Hamill. Bader is borderline as a prospect but is still young enough to turn it around. Kingsbury and Vemola are here, but I don't feel great about the inclusion.

The Question Marks: Stephan Bonnar, Matt Hamill, Vlad Matyushenko, Krzysztof Sosynski, Brandon Vera

Sorry that Mike Massenzio or Cyrille Diabate didn't make the list. Who stands out to you? Let's hear it below.

This is a stacked division? No way. They need more prospects. They need a champion that is going to hold onto the belt for more than one defense. They need legitimate challengers for the champion.

They need Dan Henderson.

While the argument could be made to just absorb the entire Strikeforce 205-pound division (King Mo/Rampage anyone?), Henderson is an obvious choice to return to the Octagon right now.

Sure, he said he wants to defend the belt, but a Hendo/"Feijao" Cavalcante rematch or even Hendo/King Mo would pale compared to Henderson against the winner of Jones/Jackson or even a go-round with Evans.

Hendo may not be a Liddell-like force when it comes to pay-per-view but with Couture gone, the UFC can push him as the new ‘old guy', defying the odds of age on the biggest stage of the sport. The casual fans and ESPN love these stories. Why not?

It seems strange we're at this place considering Henderson left the UFC after that notable knockout of Bisping just a few summers ago. During the negotiations, he and White didn't see eye-to-eye and traded a few barbs before Henderson eventually signed with the competition. Zuffa bought Strikeforce earlier this year and well, here we are.

Perhaps Henderson's wounds are still not healed. Maybe he wants to finish what he started in Strikeforce and compete there for the duration of his time against much younger and inexperienced talent. But with Zuffa now pulling the strings, that decision would feel lame duck considering the UFC has a division that could greatly use his services and pay him more in the process.

What better way to close out a career than a run at the one belt he's never worn: the UFC Light Heavyweight title? Smells like money to me.

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