By all accounts, Dan Henderson would rather forget the last two years of his career than to go back and reminisce on all the things that didn’t go right for him in 2012 and 2013.
Henderson was scheduled to meet UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 151 in September 2012, but a knee injury forced him out of the fight and the event ended up being completely canceled in lieu of the main event being scrapped. In 2013, Henderson returned with title hopes still within reach, but he lost back-to-back fights to Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans, both by extremely close, controversial decisions.
Then in his final fight of the year, Henderson suffered his first career knockout when he fell to Vitor Belfort in Brazil in what ended up being the last fight of his previous contract with the UFC.
Needless to say, Henderson was ready to turn the page on 2013 and start fresh in the New Year.
He signed a new multi-fight contract with the UFC and at 43 years of age it’s probably the deal that will take him to his retirement at some point in the future. None of that matters right now, however, because Henderson just wants to move past a tumultuous couple of years and focus on getting back in the win column.
"I don’t feel like I need to save my job, but I’d like to win one this year," Henderson said with a slight laugh. "I didn’t win one last year."
I don’t feel like I need to save my job, but I’d like to win one this year. I didn’t win one last year
— Dan Henderson
It didn’t take long for Henderson to move from signing his new deal to landing a fight with old foe Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, who he will face this weekend at UFC Fight Night from Natal, Brazil. The first fight between Henderson and Shogun is regarded as one of the greatest bouts in MMA history.
Henderson knows from past rematches that there’s no way to duplicate the kind of fight he had the first time around with Shogun and he really doesn’t want to experience that for a second time. As highly esteemed as the first fight is held in the annals of UFC history, Henderson would rather not go 25-minutes in a back and forth battle with both fighters looking like they just stepped out of a warzone when the final horn sounds.
So for this fight, Henderson is determined to put Shogun away much earlier and calling it a night.
"I felt like there probably would be a rematch at some point and that fight’s going to be hard to duplicate. I’m going to try to finish him earlier, which won’t make it quite as exciting for the fans," Henderson said.
"I’ve kind of made some game plan adjustments so the fight will definitely be a little different this time and I’ll definitely be able to finish him and take advantage of certain things that he does a little better."
Henderson knows that when he faced Shogun in November 2011, it was one of the toughest fights he’s ever experienced because not only did he have to be his very best that night, but his opponent was every bit as tough. Throughout his career in the UFC, Shogun has had a few hit and miss performances, but Henderson expects given the way their last fight ended, he’ll get another top notch showing from the former PRIDE Grand Prix champion.
"You never know what Shogun’s going to come to the fight and what condition he’s in, whether he’s going to catch somebody," Henderson said. "There’s a lot of variables every time he fights and you never know. When he showed up to fight me the last time, he showed up in shape. I’m imagining that’s going to be the same case this time."
Whether Shogun is in peak physical condition or looking like he ate nothing but pizza for the last three months doesn’t really matter to Henderson. His job is the same and when this one is over — win, lose or draw — Henderson will be back for another fight.
"I don’t where he’s at mentally," Henderson said about Shogun, "But I know I’m not done in this sport."