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Dan Henderson’s legacy intact despite UFC 204 defeat

dan-henderson

Within six minutes, 16,500 tickets had been sold for the UFC 204 main event between Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping, with good reason. This fight was a rematch seven years in the making between two of the most decorated fighters in MMA history. Henderson came in with a record of 32-14 (9-8 in UFC) and Bisping was 29-7 (19-7 in UFC).

The last time these two met, at UFC 100, Henderson delivered a knockout so brutal, it’s still used in UFC highlight reels today. Add to that the fact that the fight was basically taking place in Bisping’s home (he hails from Clitheroe, which is 30 miles from Manchester) and that this was going to be the 46-year-old Henderson’s last fight, win, lose or draw, and you could see why there was so much pre-fight hype.

Unlike many other fights that don’t quite live up to the hype, this one didn’t disappoint. In the end, after going the full five rounds, Henderson lost a unanimous decision to Bisping, who is nine years his junior at 37. Despite the loss in his final UFC Saturday, Henderson’s legacy remains intact.

For those who aren’t familiar, Henderson won a UFC tournament with victories in his third and fourth professional fights. He was also a simultaneous, two-weight, World Champion in PRIDE Fighting Championships and a Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. During his career, he knocked out Fedor Emelianenko, considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all-time. His fight with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is considered to be one of the best fights of all-time and his epic comeback to win the rematch is also considered one of the best the sport has ever seen. And, it’s worth mentioning again, his brutal knockout of Bisping seven years ago.

There is debate over whether or not Henderson should’ve been declared the winner. Some say that while Bisping landed more shots and was the more active fighter overall, Henderson landed the harder blows. The counter to that was that Bisping never seemed to go limp from any of Henderson’s shots and he was able to rise quickly after being knocked down twice in the first round. Bisping, however, did end up with a trip to the hospital after the fight to get a few huge welts and cuts on his face tended to. Regardless of which side of the argument you sit on, this much is clear: The rematch that so many fans, and both fighters, waited so long for, was well worth the price of admission.

As Henderson leaves the sport that he loves to begin the next chapter in his life, which includes spending more time with his kids — and maybe even crossing off a few bucket list items by swimming with sharks not to mention attempting to climb Mount Everest (he’s already jumped out of a plane and driven a race car) — one thing is certain: Despite failing to win a UFC title in his final attempt, what he meant for a sport that he helped establish a worldwide fan base of more than 300 million people, is undeniable and his legacy as one of the best fighters in MMA history remains strong.

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