Can Dan Henderson continue to defy the odds at UFC 204?

‘Beware of an old man in a profession where they die young,’ the saying goes. At 46, Dan Henderson is definitely on the older end of the professional fighting spectrum. Although there are some notable exceptions – former Team Quest teammate Randy Couture winning the UFC heavyweight title at 43 for example – as a general rule, as men taper into their mid to late thirties, their opportunities to win championships at the highest level decrease.

In fact, the aforementioned Couture is the only man to have won a UFC title over the age of 40, winning the gold at heavyweight and light-heavyweight. At 46, Henderson would set a new record should he manage to get past Michael Bisping at UFC 204, but how likely is it?

The American starts at longer odds than his British rival, and today’s betting tips show that Bisping, at 2/5, is a clear frontrunner in the betting lines. However, how can we forget that knockout. Yes, it was 7 years ago, but it remains one of the most brutal and iconic finishes in UFC history.

With everything that’s been made of that KO in the years since, that has to be playing on Bisping’s mind. For a fighter with his ego, taking such a loss isn’t easy and having it rubbed in your face with every highlight reel only exacerbates the problem. Whatever he says prior to the fight, when he steps in there it will be in the back of his mind. He is desperate for redemption.

Henderson KOs Bisping
It could make him perform or it could make him falter. The home crowd could make him perform or they could make him falter. His new middleweight title? Guess what, it’ll make him perform or it’ll make him falter. There’s so much that is going to be resting on his shoulders. The pressure will be enormous, and he has to take on the man who handed him the most vicious loss of his career, one he’s probably reminded of much more regularly than he’d like.

Henderson doesn’t really have any pressure coming into this. He’s in his mid-forties, at the tail-end of his career, and he’s just racking up big pay days before he hangs up his gloves. It’s not like he can’t still do the business though. Last time out he finished Hector Lombard with a dazzling kick and elbow combination, and Tim Boetsch was on the receiving end of a KO in 2015 too.

Henderson KOs Lombard
It must be noted that his current form isn’t what you’d generally deem championship worthy, but he has fought nothing but elite level contenders since winning Pride titles in the mid-2000s. It is this form that likely makes him the underdog. He’s lost 6 of his last 10, and the famous granite jaw that he was renowned for has started to show some cracks. He was stopped by strikes in 3 of those defeats, and submitted in another.

He’d love to retire with a UFC title to his credit. He hasn’t fought for it since his loss to Anderson Silva in 2008, though he did pick up the Strikeforce light-heavyweight title in 2011. The odds don’t favour it at this point in his career, but he still has a chance. He’ll be in the champion’s head and, as we’ve seen, it only takes one of those famous ‘H-Bombs’ to end an opponent’s night early.

Michael Bisping made history last time out by becoming the first UK fighter to win a UFC title. Dan Henderson will be hoping to make that short-lived by making his own piece of history, being the oldest man to be UFC world champion. It could even be enough to prompt him to retire, but I doubt it.

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