Dan Henderson (right) was forced out of his UFC 151 fight with Jon Jones due to a partial MCL tear. Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting.
To say the last 48 hours have been a roller-coaster ride of emotions for the mixed martial arts (MMA) community would be an understatement.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officials have been working overtime trying to clean up the mess that was UFC 151 after Dan Henderson came down with an unfortunate MCL injury he suffered while training in preparations for his upcoming title fight against Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, which was scheduled to go down in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Sept. 1, 2012.
Chael Sonnen, two months removed from his fight against 185-pound champion Anderson Silva at UFC 148, offered to save the day by taking on "Bones" on just eight days notice. It was a bold move on the part of middleweight; however, the 205-pound champion didn't think taking a late replacement fight against the former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler was the best move for his career.
After Lyoto Machida, who was the official number one contender to take on the winner of Jones vs. Henderson, turned down his title shot, which would have been on 31 days notice, Mauricio Rua was the next guy offered the fight. According to UFC CEO, Lorenzo Fertitta, "Shogun" declined the fight, as well.
Enter Vitor Belfort.
The former light heavyweight champion turned middleweight, accepted the last minute bout against Jones, which will headline UFC 152 on Sept. 22 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In doing so, "The Phenom" has a chance to shock the MMA world by taking down one of the most dominant champions in UFC history.
Can he accomplish the task at hand?
"Vitor is a stud when he believes in himself," said Sonnen to MMAmania.com when asked what he thought the chances were the 185-pound striker could take down the 205-pound champion in Toronto.
While Sonnen believes Vitor can be a "stud," the oddsmakers don't have the same faith in "The Phenom," who currently sits as a 13-1 underdog. Should Vitor be able to pull off the victory against "Bones," it will be the first time he will have UFC gold around his waist since losing his 205-pound title to Randy Couture at UFC 49 way back in 2004.
Being a close friend of "Hendo's," Chael knows Dan would have done anything to keep the title fight against Jones in place. "Dan won a National Championship in 1998 with 7 days of practice and a neck that couldn't move from side to side, said Sonnen. "He took on 5 guys in 1 day and beat them all. If he says his knee hurts, it means it's bad."
UFC President Dana White was non-committal when asked if "Hendo" would get the next title shot once he is ready and able to go following his rehab, though Henderson's coach seems to think he will.
Should the former Olympian be able to recuperate quickly, it's only right he receive the opportunity to vie for the light heavyweight title he rightfully earned, be it against Jones or Belfort.
For now, Sonnen will keep with his original plans to take on Forrest Griffin on Dec. 29 at UFC 155 in his return to the 205-pound division, Henderson will begin the rehab process and Belfort and Jones will tango for the light heavyweight title in a few weeks.
What a crazy 48 hours indeed.