The legendary career of Dan Henderson will be going strong for exactly 16 years to the date when he next sets foot in the Octagon ( at UFC 161 on June 15, 2013), on the opposite side of Rashad Evans. “Hendo” has always been involved in some of the most action-packed, crowd-pleasing shows, and that’s why he is one of the most highly-respected veterans in mixed martial arts today.
Henderson scored nine consecutive victories to kick off his MMA career, winning the UFC 17 middleweight tournament in the process, before going back overseas to take on Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Renato Sobral on the same night – putting his name on the MMA map while he came out on top in the King of Kings tournament in 2000.
His right hand, dubbed the “H-bomb,” was off the radar until it was used at PRIDE 13 against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and MMA icon Renzo Gracie, which would be Henderson’s first-ever knockout win.
Hendo’s next emphatic finish would come at Murilo Bustamante’s expense, when the Olympic-level wrestler caught the Brazilian by surprise with an early flurry of strikes that overwhelmed his opponent, causing the referee to halt the bout less than a minute in. Now that he had the option to dictate the action in both areas – standing and on the ground – Henderson stopped Ryo Chonan and Akihiro Gono with back-to-back knockouts on the same evening of PRIDE Bushido 9.
At PRIDE 33, the Olympian went to war with Wanderlei Silva for the PRIDE middleweight championship, where they were both pushing the action. Flurries from Hendo had Silva on skates and the tornado of punches put “The Axe Murderer” in a trance. A big left from Henderson saw him capture the PRIDE middleweight title in 2007.
It wasn’t until the celebrated one-hundredth UFC pay-per-view event when Hendo would boost his reputation even more, becoming the first man to stop Michael Bisping with a beautiful set up before landing the H-Bomb (plus some cringe-worthy follow up strikes). After he knocked out Bisping, Henderson would get caught up in a contract dispute with the UFC, eventually leading him to Strikeforce.
In Strikeforce, Henderson stopped “Babalu” Sobral with heavy ground strikes. He grabbed the Strikeforce light-heavyweight strap in a fun scrap with Rafael Feijao, when the H-Bomb and some follow-up shots put another belt on Hendo’s mantle.
The next time the H-Bomb landed was in his next fight, when he stood across from Fedor Emelianenko, who was thought of by many to be the greatest fighter of all time. Hendo and Fedor would trade big punches until Henderson put “The Last Emperor’s” lights out with one solid, sneaky right hand that sent the Russian packing from Strikeforce.
The brute gladiator returned to the UFC to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139, in what turned out to be fight of the year in 2011. Hendo would beat Shogun down until the third round, where Rua managed to take control of the fight from there. Still, Henderson pulled out the win, just by the large amount of damage done to Shogun’s face in the early going.
At 42-years old, Hendo remains a very dangerous outing for anybody fighting at 205lbs. Also, Henderson has never been finished with punches or kicks, so will “Suga” crack the code this Saturday and become the first man to put Hendo away with strikes? We’ll find out soon enough at UFC 161: “Evans vs. Henderson”.