Despite the fact that the UFC Middleweight Champion of the World, Anderson Silva, has called Rich Franklin his toughest opponent in the Octagon to date, a lot of fans see through it as a show of respect to the former UFC champion. Instead, they point to Dan Henderson as having the best showing against the champ thus far.
Henderson looked to have decidedly won the first round. He took Silva down and nearly smothered him for the better part of two and a half minutes.
However, things changed significantly midway through the second round. Silva was able to land some shots that dropped Hendo, where the champ was able to take his back and secure a rear naked choke. Henderson tapped with just 10 seconds left on the clock, leaving many fans to wonder what would have happened, had he survived the round.
Now 22-7 with wins over Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, ďMinotauroĒ Nogueira, ďBabaluĒ Sobral, ďNinjaĒ Rua, Murilo Bustamante, Ryo Chonan and many more, Dan Henderson faces the challenge of climbing back up the middleweight ladder to gain another title shot.
Heíll first have to face rising submission master Rousimar ďToquinhoĒ Palhares (8-1), who recently submitted Ivan Salaverry at UFC 84 with a sick armbar that should make any highlight reel out there. The two will face off on Saturday, September 6 at UFC 88: ďBreakthrough.Ē
Itís a fight Henderson was hoping would go to a bigger name. In fact, Hendo would have preferred to fight an opponent like Rich Franklin. The bigger the name, the closer you get to a title shot.
When I caught up with Henderson, he shed some light on his fight with Silva, his upcoming opponent, and the reasons he misses PRIDE.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): I first wanted to get your take on the whole middleweight/light heavyweight thing. Iíve read on more than one occasion that you reportedly would prefer fighting at 205. Is this true?
Dan Henderson: Well, I prefer not to cut weight, and I compete just as well there as I do at 185, so Ö
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So itís just because cutting weight sucks?
Dan Henderson: Well, I have fun fighting no matter what. But I do just as well at 205 as I do at 185. So yeah Ö just cutting weight isnít the funnest thing to do.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Did the UFC ask you to stay at middleweight for the time being?
Dan Henderson: No, they didnít ask. I told them that I wanted to try to get a rematch with Anderson Silva. So they left me down at that weight class, but they didnít give me an opponent that would expedite that Ö just because nobody knows him. Not because heís not tough, just because nobody knows him.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So do you think that thatís going to hinder your chance of getting back into the title shot picture?
Dan Henderson: Well, I definitely need to win no matter who I fight. And this guyís just as tough as anybody else in the UFC. But heís not well-known, so no, it wonít bump me up that quickly.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Would you have preferred to have fought Rich Franklin, which was rumored?
Dan Henderson: Yeah. Iíd prefer to fight the big-name guys. Thatís why Iím in the sport, to test myself against the top guys.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well letís talk briefly about your fight with Silva. You looked great in the first round. You took him down and looked to be nearly smothering him for about two and a half minutes of Round One. He looked clearly frustrated. What was your strategy going into that fight?
Dan Henderson: Take him down, beat him up. I felt that I should have been able to do that for five rounds, but something happened, and my body felt a little bit tired and fatigued that second round. So I didnít go after that takedown like I should have.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Was he making adjustments in the second round, then, that prevented the takedown?
Dan Henderson: No, I had a pretty good opportunity to do it. You know, heís not going to be a really easy guy to takedown in a fight ó nobody is. I think it was me just letting the opportunity go, and waiting for the next opportunity, and I shouldnít have.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): By the time Silva secured the choke, there was less than 20 seconds left on the clock, and you eventually tapped with just 10 seconds left. Were you aware of how much time was on the clock, and would it have mattered at that point, meaning would you have lasted another 10 seconds before losing consciousness?
Dan Henderson: No, I wasnít aware of it, but I donít know if it would have mattered anyway. Once thatís in, it donít take long at all. Even if I didnít tap, I would have been out in a second or two anyway. But you never know.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Letís talk about your upcoming opponent. Rousimar Palhares is one of the fastest rising talents of the Brazilian Top Team. Youíre no stranger to fighting opponents who are, or once were, associated with that organization (Iím thinking of Bustamante, the Nogueira brothers, Ricardo Arona, etc.). Do you get any extra motivation when fighting a guy from a team like that? Are there any grudges associated at the team level for you?
Dan Henderson: No, I donít hold grudges with anybody. Itís a sport, and Iím aware of that. I donít really have any dislikes toward anybody. I respect all the fighters out there. Itís a fight, and obviously I donít want to lose to anybody.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Palhares has very dynamic submissions and will clearly prefer this fight on the ground, Iím assuming.
Dan Henderson: Iím assuming that too.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): (Laughs) But just because he is so dangerous on the ground, is that going to preclude you from taking the fight to the ground, or do you think you can over-power him no matter where the fight goes?
Dan Henderson: Typically, unless the guy is really good on his feet, I like to stand up. Thatís usually my best chance of finishing an opponent. I would normally, even if the guy wasnít all that good on the ground, I would stand with him and try to finish the fight with a knockout.
Iím definitely aware of his danger on the ground and his submissions. Thatís something Iím not going to play to in his strength, but Iím also not afraid to be there. The fight will end up there, and Iím not afraid to be there. But my best chance of finishing the fight is standing up. And his only chance of finishing a fight is on the ground.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Youíre listed as 6í1Ē and Palhares is listed as 5í8Ē ó
Dan Henderson: Iím not 6í1Ē. No, I donít have no idea where the hell that number came from. Iím 5í11Ē.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Okay, well, there is still some height advantage there, and Iím assuming a potential reach advantage. Do you think that kind of thing will help you in this particular fight for what you want to do?
Dan Henderson: Obviously itís always nice to reach a guy from a little bit farther away, but who knows? Couldnít tell ya. Iíll let you know afterwards.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How important is a win for you at this point? Is this a make or break situation?
Dan Henderson: Iím not going to retire if I lose, if thatís what you mean by ďmake or break.Ē Either way, I donít plan on losing any fights. Just because of the fact that Iíve lost my last two doesnít make me try harder to not lose this one. I was giving it my all in my last two. But Iím a little bit angry at my own performance in my last fight especially, so Iíve learned from some mistakes and just want to make sure Iím aggressive in this fight and definitely try to finish it the whole time.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): So youíre not planning on going anywhere anytime soon?
Dan Henderson: No.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Since moving back to the UFC from PRIDE, do you think thereís been any noticeable difference in the level of competition, or have you noticed any problems adjusting to the Octagon, as opposed to the ring?
Dan Henderson: Yeah, itís taken a little bit of time to get used to the Octagon. But as far as talent goes, I think itís already spoken for itself as far as who the UFCís champions are. PRIDE had some top guys. Nogueiraís in there as the champ, and he wasnít even the champ in PRIDE anymore. Quinton Jackson was in there for a while, and obviously he just lost. Anderson Silva had lost in PRIDE and got booted out of there, and now heís the UFC champ.
I just think that the fighters are tough anywhere, and thatís what Iíve always said. PRIDE just happened to pull more from an international group of fighters, and I think in that respect, they had a little bit tougher competition. Plus, most of the time there, they had just two weight classes Ö
Iíve always said that the fights are pretty much the same, but PRIDE just put on a better show, production-wise. And that was the main difference. I miss PRIDE because of that. Other than that, I think the fighters are just as tough in the UFC. Theyíre tough anywhere now.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Silva is next due to fight Patrick Cote. How do you see that fight going?
Dan Henderson: I just donít see anything Cote would be able to do to Anderson. I think his biggest problem has been his submission defense and his takedown defense, and thatís not Coteís specialty.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Iíve been reading Randy Coutureís new book, Becoming the Natural. Obviously, you appear in the book significantly, as Couture talks about the two of you entering the fight game together and starting Team Quest. Have you had a chance to read the book?
Dan Henderson: No, I havenít.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you talked to him about it at all?
Dan Henderson: No, I havenít done that either. Iíve been pretty busy training. I just havenít got a copy of it yet.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well he talks a bit about how Olympic wrestling competition helped him prepare for mixed martial arts. I was wondering if you see anyone from the Beijing Olympics making a successful transition to MMA, like Ben Askren or somebody like that.
Dan Henderson: Yeah, absolutely, I think a lot of those guys could definitely make that transition well. Itís just a matter of if they commit to wanting to do it. Once they do, itíd be great if they got in a camp that came from that same background of wrestling.
Iíve already done trial and error on a lot of Greco and wrestling techniques, and I know what stuff to not even bother with already. So I can definitely relate to them and help weed out the techniques that arenít good for MMA. So any gym like that is what they should be getting into.
After this fight, Iím definitely going to be talking to some of the guys ó the wrestlers ó and seeing who has an interest in that.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you been approached by anyone yet?
Dan Henderson: Um Ö not really. Not really.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Well, Dan, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. I also wanted to give you an opportunity to see if you have any parting words for your fans, or if you wanted to thank any sponsors that we can plug on the site?
Dan Henderson: Yeah, I always appreciate the fan support of myself and of the sport. Iím always continuing to try and be exciting. Check out ClinchGear.com.