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 411mania » MMA » Columns

The 411 MMA Top 10 06.24.13 The Top 10 Dan Henderson Fights
Posted by Alex Rella on 06.24.2013

Dan Henderson's Top Ten Fights
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This is the MMA Top Ten, hopefully everyone had a good week but now it's time to look at Dan Henderson's top ten fights. It came up in the comment section last week how I've been writing this column for about 14 months or so now, so I'm starting to run out of top guys to write about and the ones I do pick like Rashad Evans last week don't always have ten great fights. It's more like seven great ones and three good ones. This is not the case with Dan Henderson. This guy is a true legend and has a long list of great fights. He won the UFC 17 tournament, Pride Welterweight Grand Prix, Pride Welterweight title, Pride Middleweight title, Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title, and has wins over plenty of other legends and other tournaments in smaller promotions. He may no longer be on the verge of title contention, but he has had an amazing career and I wouldn't be shocked if he made another run for a title. As always this is based on fight quality, the significance of the fight in relation to his career, and some of my personal opinion.

Honorable Mentions:
• VS Rich Franklin UFC 93- A good fight between two former champions as Hendo won by split decision, but I thought Franklin clearly won this one and an eye poke in the third round put a damper on things a bit.

• VS Renato Sobral Strikeforce- I thought it was funny how Bjorn Rebney talked about Sobral is such a great human being this week, I think David Heath disagrees but anyway. Henderson picked up his first win in Strikeforce when he knocked out the former light heavyweight champion in a number one contender fight.

• VS Carlos Newton UFC 17- Dan Henderson started his MMA career with four wins in two nights. He first won a four man tournament in Brazil in June 1997. His second night of MMA was competing in the UFC 17 Tournament in May 1998. In the finals he took on future UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton. Henderson used his wrestling to secure a split decision victory after fifteen minutes of fighting. Henderson would not return to the UFC for nine years.

• VS Renzo Gracie Pride 13- Renzo Gracie has been talking recently about how he wants to return to the UFC and fight at lightweight. It would be kinda cool to see him return, but he's 46 and looked really old when he got owned by Matt Hughes over three years ago. But back in 2001 he was 9-2-1 when he took on Dan Henderson who was just coming off the first loss of his career against Wanderlei Silva in his Pride debut. The fight only lasted 1:40 min, but Henderson showed off his perfect sprawl and picked up the first KO of his career.

Renzo.Gracie.vs.Dan.Henderson by trAumAxHD

10: VS Akihiro Gono Pride Bushido 9
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I've gone back and forth on which fight should get the tenth spot. The 2005 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix semifinals gets the edge over all the honorable mentions though. Gono retired last year after his debut fight in Bellator and had a solid career. He had wins over Hayoto Sakurai, Hector Lombard, and Gegard Mousasi. Gono was coming into this fight really strong as he won his last four fights and nine of his last ten. Despite two early inadvertent head butts, this was a good fight. Henderson was just too strong for Gono standing up and on the ground. Hendo knocked him down with close to two minutes left in the first round and then knocked him out down there to move onto the finals.

9: VS Vitor Belfort Pride 32
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Vitor Belfort went 4-1 in Pride from 1999-2001, then he went back to the UFC and ended up winning the light heavyweight title. The Phenom returned to Pride after losing back to back fights to Couture and Ortiz. Henderson moved back up to light heavyweight to take on Belfort in the first Pride event held outside of Japan. The first round had some really nice grappling exchanges on the ground, but Henderson dominated the second two rounds. Henderson's wrestling was so good that night as he took down Belfort plenty of times and got in some good ground and pound. I wonder if Henderson would be more successful today if he went back to wrestling more. Belfort was able to nicely reverse out of several different submission attempts, but that's about all he could do in the later rounds. Henderson went on to challenge Wanderlei Silva for the title and this would be Belfort's last fight in Pride as he would test positive for banned substances.

8:VS Murilo Bustamante Pride Shockwave 2005

Henderson has won a bunch of different tournaments during his career, the biggest was when he competed in the 2005 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix. Henderson knocked out Ryo Chonan and Akihiro Gono in the first two rounds to take on Murilo Bustamante in the finals. Bustamante was a former UFC middleweight champion and was also dominant in his opening round victories. This was also a rematch from back in 2003 when Hendo won by TKO in the first round. I forgot how close this fight was as it seemed like both fighters took a round, luckily it was on youtube (the whole show is too). The first round some good striking exchanges and Bustamante was able to hold Henderson down on the ground, but he really didn't do much with it. Henderson came back and dominated the second round with great striking and some takedowns of his own. Henderson won by split decision and picked up the first title of his legendary career.

7: VS Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira King of Kings Tournament 1999

After winning the UFC 17 Tournament, Henderson took time off until the Rings King of Kings 1999 Tournament. This was one of the most stacked tournaments ever even though it wasn't in a major promotion. The tournament had top fighters like Renzo Gracie, Dave Menne, Jeremy Horn, Valentijn Overeem, Alistair Overeem, Maurice Smith, Gilbert Yvel, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Renato Sobral. Henderson fought three men on the second night of the tournament in February 2000. He defeated Gilbert Yvel by unanimous decision in the quarterfinals and went on to fight Big Nog in the semis. Both legends were still so young and only a couple years into their MMA careers. Both were actually still undefeated at this point too. It was cool to see how Henderson used his elite wrestling to counter the larger Nogeuira's jiu-jitsu. The first two rounds were so close that it had to go to a third to decide a winner. Henderson won by split decision and would go on to beat Renato Sobral in the finals. That's three big wins in one night.

6: VS Rafael Cavalcante Strikeforce

Dan Henderson's debut in Strikeforce against Jake Shields was pretty bad, but he rebounded nicely once he returned to light heavyweight. He knocked out Renato Sobral to earn a shot at the title against Rafael Cavalcante. Feijão had just defeated Mo Lawal for the title a few months earlier. The first two rounds were closely contested with hard hitting action, clinch work, and some ok work on the ground. All the judges had it tied up at 19-19. Then Henderson dropped Cavalcante early in the third round and became a champion again at 40 years old.

5: VS Quinton Jackson UFC 75
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This was Rampage's first and only title defense as the UFC light heavyweight champion. The challenger was fellow Pride legend and friend Dan Henderson. Henderson held both the Pride middleweight and welterweight titles and this was the first of two merging fights. Hendo came out to an early lead. He took the first round and I (and one judge) thought he took the second one too. But it wouldn't be enough as Rampage persevered and battled back in the later rounds. Henderson was never out of the fight though. Rampage was taking the later rounds, but Henderson was patient and came real close to locking in submissions multiple times. Hendo turned it on again in the fifth round knowing he needed the finish, but he ran out of gas and the champion dropped him at the end of the round. This was a great five round fight between two legends. This fight didn't have Bonnar/Griffin nonstop action, but they never stopped going at it and the fight had some really high level wrestling maneuvers and nuances that were awesome to watch even if you barely know anything about grappling.

4:VS Michael Bisping UFC 100

Dan Henderson defeated Rich Franklin at UFC 93 to earn a coaching spot against Michael Bisping in the ninth season of TUF and what was supposed to be a number one contender fight at UFC 100. Team Bisping/UK won both the welterweight and lightweight brackets with Ross Pearson and James Wilks. The fight was spent entirely standing up and it was a good one. Bisping was 3-0 at middleweight at this point, but he still couldn't stop himself from circling to his left. The commentators saw it coming and even his corner knew what would happen if he didn't stop it as they emphatically yelled at him after the first round. But the H-bomb connected and it was brutal. Hendo also connected with one more shot while Bisping was on the ground before the ref could stop it. Knockout of the Night and of the Year in 2009.

3: VS Fedor Emelianenko Strikeforce

It took years for this fight to finally happen, but this one did not disappoint. At this point Dan Henderson was the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion and Fedor had lost his last two fights. This was a rare appearance at heavyweight for Henderson and he only weighed in at 207 pounds. Fedor also came in a little light at 223 pounds. Both guys came out swinging immediately. It slowed down a bit with some clinch work, but then they went right back to throwing bombs at each other. Fedor knocked down Henderson and it looked like he was going to pull out the victory, but Henderson swung out from underneath him and took full mount. Henderson then knocked him out with the H-bomb. This would be both men's final fight in Strikeforce as Henderson went back to the UFC and Fedor finished his career in M-1.

2: VS Wanderlei Silva Pride 33

Dan Henderson made history in the main event of Pride 33. Henderson was already the Pride welterweight champion when he moved up to take on longtime Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva. Silva had the most wins and knockouts in the history of Pride. Silva was also the first person to defeat Henderson seven years earlier at Pride 12. The first round was so close with some great striking. Then Henderson dominated the second round. Silva tried for an armbar but the second round was all Henderson as he won the round on the ground. The third round picked up with even more great striking. Hendo even connected with a perfect spinning backfist. Then Henderson connected with a big left hook to KO Silva and he got in another shot to make sure. To this day Henderson is the only fighter to hold two belts from different weight classes in a major promotion. A great fight as Henderson achieved one of the most impressive feats in the history of MMA.

1: VS Shogun Rua UFC 139

UFC 139 was an absolutely stacked show. It was loaded with great fights from the Facebook prelims all the way to the main event and the main event was awesome. Light heavyweight legends and former champions Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua finally fought. Shogun was trying to work his way back to the title and this was Henderson's first fight back in the UFC since his stint in Strikeforce. This turned out to be the best five round fight ever. Henderson exploded on Shogun early on and he was a bloody mess only minutes into the fight. There were multiple times in the first three rounds where Henderson nearly ended it, but Shogun battled back. Shogun took the last two rounds, but he was too exhausted to finish it. Henderson won by unanimous decision 48-47 and was supposed to get a title shot after this. A great return to the UFC in the best fight of his career and in what many believe to be the best fight of all time.

• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week will be the all time top ten Canadian fighters.

Bonus Strikeforce Fight of The Week

Try not to die til next week.


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