History in the Making: Dan Henderson ends Wanderlei Silva's reign of terror in Las Vegas

Photo via Sherdog.com

Imagine a muscular Brazilian with a dead-eyed stare that seems to creep its way into your very soul and a shaved head punctuated with a tribal tattoo piece on the back of the skull.

Frightening image, no?

But often the meanest-looking dogs are all bark and very little bite so just to make you know for a fact that this hulking creature means business, his career choice involves punching, elbowing, and knees other men in the face and doing it with a smile across his face.

That man is Wanderlei Silva and for nearly seven years, he held Pride Fighting Championships 205-pound division in a strangehold. He suffered only one loss in his division during that time and even that was avenged a few months later.

Enter Dan Henderson.

He wasn't intimidated by stares or tattoos. He had stepped in the cages and rings with the best and win, loss, or draw, he never backed down.

"Hendo" is set to face off against yet another legend this Saturday (July 30) at Strikeforce: "Emelianenko vs. Henderson" when he takes on "The Last Emperor" Fedor Emelianenko.

Before he does, let's take a look at the bout that earned Henderson his second concurrent title, a feat not achieved before or since on such a grand scale.

Let's go!

Let's face facts: Henderson had done very little to earn a title shot against Silva in 2007.

Yes, he was coming off a win over Vitor Belfort at Pride 32: "The Real Deal" but he had spent the year and a half prior fighting at 183-pounds.

He was the champion in that division but a non-title loss to Kazuo Misaki left "Dangerous Dan" with unfinished business in Pride's welterweight division.

But the Japanese promotion needed an American in the main event of their second US show and Henderson fit the bill better than anyone they had on their roster.

It also didn't hurt that "Hendo" had faced "The Axe Murderer" before -- way back at Pride 12 -- and lost by way of controversial decision. 

That alone was enough to convince the Pride executives that Pride 33: "Second Coming" was going to be headlined with a 205-pound title fight between Henderson and the Brazilian champ.

The event -- leading up to the fight -- was incredible. If you haven't seen it, you're doing yourself an injustice as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fan.

On top of an excellent bout with Mauricio Rua and a pre-"Ubereem" Alistair Overeem, the co-main event was the epic fight between Nick Diaz and Takanori Gomi.

Following that bout, Henderson and Silva could have had a very good fight and it still would have been a letdown. But somehow the two heavy-handed sluggers managed to pull it out and had a classic of their own.

A closer look, shall we?

The beginning half of the first round was spent with the champion on top of Henderson after the American slipped onto his back. "Hendo" avoided absorbing too much damage and quickly got back to his feet.

Each fighter was well aware of the power their opponent held in their fists and exchanged appropriately: patiently and cautiously.

Each exchange put fans on the edge of their seats since they knew full well that a punch -- any punch -- that found it mark would mean an abrupt and violent end to the fight.

In the closing second of the final round, one such punch connected to the American's jaw and the visibly stunned wrestler shifted into survival mode. But he managed to make it to the second round.

The next five minutes saw "Dangerous Dan" going to his bread and butter: wrestling. He spent the entire round on top of the champion, landing punches and shoulder strikes to the skull of Silva while keeping himself relatively free of damage.

It's wasn't pretty but it was effective. After likely losing the first round on the scorecards, he needed the points in case the fight went to the judges.

Little did anyone expect that the end would come much sooner than expected.

The third round opened with Silva breathing heavily, his shoulder raising up and then dropping back down. Despite his fatigue, his defense was still tight; hands up high around his face.

A takedown attempt from "Hendo" was reversed by the champ who held the American in a north-south position and also from behind after Henderson got back to his feet.

Soon after, the American connected with a solid spinning back fist the rattled the champ and sent him retreating into the corner. But like Henderson in the first round, Silva refused to give up and the fight continued.

Seconds later, the two enter into an exchange that saw "Dangerous Dan" land that right hook that we fans and a few of his opponents -- ahem, Bisping -- know oh so well. The punch froze Silva. It seemed like he just stood there for the second it took a left hook to crash into his jaw. "The Axe Murderer" immediately collapsed onto the mat and the fight was over.

"Hendo" had done it. Mark Hunt and Ricardo Arona had chipped away at "The Axe Murderer's" armor but it was the Team Quest wrestler that landed the killing blow.

Silva, unresponsive and unconscious on the mat, is a sight we've all unfortunately become accustomed to recently but back in 2007, it was a shock.

Dan Henderson -- already the Pride champion at 183-pounds -- had captured the title at 203-pounds. Two title in two weight classes in one of the biggest MMA organizations on the globe.

It had never happened before and it hasn't happened since. 

And judging by either the reluctance of fighters to move up in weight -- as is the case with Georges St. Pierre -- or to challenge friends/training partners -- as is the case with Anderson Silva -- we will likely never see it happen again.

It was a remarkable achievement by a remarkable fighter.

While "Hendo's" career has had its ups and downs since then, nothing can erase that from history; no amount of losses can remove that from the record books.

Will Saturday prove to be an up or a down for the Olympic wrestler?

We shall see.

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