With his career hinging on his UFC 161 fight tonight, Dan “Hendo” Henderson has a huge decision to make depending on the outcome. His fight against Rashad “Suga” Evans could either push him to finish his career on the highest note imaginable, or solidify his fate as an old veteran who stayed in the game longer than was wise. After suffering a terrible back injury that lead to a loss against Jake Shields, Henderson has definitely considered retirement as a viable option. But it isn’t his only choice.
If Henderson manages to overcome his old age and injuries and emerge triumphant from the Octagon at UFC 161 in Winnipeg, then he may start working his way to a title shot before his retirement. The man has certainly paid his dues in this sport, defeating legends such as Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Fedor Emelianenko (who is arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time), Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, Renzo Gracie, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Aside from fighting in the UFC and winning “fight-” and “knockout of the year”, he was the Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion. He was the first fighter to win PRIDE championships in multiple weight classes, as well as hold them simultaneously. Even if he loses this fight against Evans, it is clear that he has done enough in the sport to avoid being cut from the UFC. If he does leave the league, it will most likely be of his own accord.
If Hendo pulls out another win, he may have more to look forward to than just a happy ending to a long and successful career. He may earn a chance to prove himself against one last legend: Jon “Bones” Jones. However, if Hendo wants that chance, he’s most likely going to have to win one more fight first. Many would want to see a rematch against Lyoto Machida, but it would perhaps be more appropriate to have a title eliminator match against someone who has earned a shot at a great fighter like Hendo, as well as the opportunity to move up in the ranks of the light-heavyweight division. One fighter that really deserves that is Glover Teixeira, who is currently ranked as the eighth best light-heavyweight in the world by Sherdog.
Teixeira is a second degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, works closely with former champion Chuck Liddell, and is largely expected to face the winner of the UFC 161 main event. He has proven himself in the grappling world against fighters like Jeff Monson and Brandon Vera, as well as the MMA world by defeating the former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. If Hendo defeats Evans, and goes on to beat Teixeira afterwards, he would have certainly earned himself a shot at the champ. Should Evans prove triumphant, Henderson can either choose to retire gracefully, or become this division’s old vet for young hotshot fighters to prove themselves against.