The fight features two mixed martial arts (MMA) legends who have both faced a long list of elite fighting talent. It’s also a rematch of their first fight at Pride FC 32 in 2006, a bout that Henderson won by decision.
However, they’re both at different junctures in their respective careers right now.
Belfort has been making a ton of noise in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lately, both in and out of the cage. "Phenom" was most recently seen destroying final Strikeforce Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold with a first round spinning wheel kick at UFC on FX 8 this May. Before that, he finished Michael Bisping via headkick at UFC on FX 7.
But, his run toward the top of the rankings hasn’t been without controversy. His well-publicized use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has caused critics to seemingly come out of the woodwork for Belfort. The debate is largely centered on whether a 36-year-old man could accomplish the feats Belfort has without synthetic enhancement.
Many fighters use TRT, but Belfort draws the most heat for it by far. That’s probably because he was busted for elevated testosterone after his first fight with "Hendo." Belfort may have a legitimate medical claim that his body simply isn’t producing the testosterone he needs.
He just won’t get any sympathizers in that regard.
Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) commissioner Keith Kizer has gone on record to say that Belfort most likely would never be granted an exemption to use TRT for a fight in Nevada. That’s reportedly what keeps him fighting in his home country of Brazil.
"Phenom" may be one of the hottest fighters in MMA right now, but that status doesn’t come without a price. Dana White said Belfort will receive the 185-pound title shot he’s been campaigning for with a win at UFC Fight Night 32, while a loss will take that opportunity away.
"Hendo," on the other hand, has been on a downward slide as of late. He dropped a decision to Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 161 this past June. Prior to his fight with "Suga," Henderson lost another close decision to former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida.
It’s unlike Henderson to let too many of his fights go to the judges’ scorecards. At 43 years old, his age may be beginning to show. To combat that, Henderson has also reaped the benefits of TRT. Having never been caught using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, Henderson hasn’t received near the amount of criticism Belfort has.
With two losses in 2013 and zero fights in 2012, it’s time to sink or swim for "Hendo."
Both fighters have been granted a medical exemption to use TRT, and both can end any fighter’s night with one well-placed shot. It should be a war in Goiania.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson:
Record: 23-10 overall, 12-6 UFC
Key Wins: Michael Bisping (UFC on FX 7), Randy Couture (UFC 46), Wanderlei Silva (UFC Brazil)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 152), Anderson Silva (UFC 26), Dan Henderson (Pride 32), Tito Ortiz (UFC 51), Randy Couture (UFC 15, UFC 49)
Keys to Victory: Belfort’s key to victory lies in his lightning fast striking. He used to mainly use his boxing to dispatch foes, but he’s recently adding a dynamic kicking game to his standup.
He looks to be in the best shape of his lengthy career, something very few fighters his age can claim. "Phenom’s" speed will be paramount to success in Goiania. Henderson has looked sluggish in his last two outings and that will play into Belfort’s hands in a big way this Saturday.
Belfort has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and nearly submitted UFC light heavyweight champion Jones with an armbar at UFC 152. Belfort’s ground game could become a factor in this fight if "Hendo" decides to revert to his Olympic-level wrestling game. If taken down, Belfort has several slick ways to put his opponent in trouble.
Henderson hasn’t been looking for many too takedowns as of late, however.
He’s instead preferred to let his thunderous right hand do most of his dirty work. Henderson favors his "H-bomb’ so much that he’s become a bit of one-trick pony. If Belfort can circle in the opposite direction of Henderson’s power, he’ll find a wealth of opportunities to beat "Hendo" to the punch.
This fight is an excellent opportunity for Belfort to avenge a loss and earn another shot at the UFC middleweight title. This is one of the biggest fights of his storied career, and he’ll have the full support of the Brazilian crowd behind him.
If he can knock off the aging Henderson, he’ll move one step closer to realizing his dream.
Record: 29-10 overall, 6-4 UFC
Key Wins: Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Mauricio Rua (UFC 139), Wanderlei Silva (Pride 33), Vitor Belfort (Pride 32)
Key Losses: Anderson Silva (UFC 82), Quinton Jackson (UFC 75), Rashad Evans (UFC 161), Lyoto Machida (UFC 157)
Keys to Victory: At this point in his career, the number six-ranked "Hendo" is chasing the only belt that has eluded him. Unfortunately, it’s also the most prominent.
To actually have any realistic shot at clawing his way back towards a chance at UFC gold, Henderson obviously needs to defeat Belfort. He’d be well served to use his Olympic-level wrestling pedigree to push Belfort up against the cage and make this fight ugly.
It may not be pretty, but it would go a very long way in negating "Phenom’s" explosive striking potential. Henderson should take a page out of former teammate Randy Couture and utilize some dirty boxing against the fence to take Belfort out of his comfort zone.
But, he most likely won’t.
Henderson has grown to love his powerful right hand so much that’s it’s become both a blessing and a curse. When he finds a home for a big right hand, his opponents go to sleep. Problem is, they all know this by now. If they can avoid the massive overhand right, which is usually precluded by a low kick, they’ll be well on their way to picking "Hendo" apart.
His age may be beginning to catch up with him too. Critics of Henderson have noted that he looked slow and worn out during his two lackluster losses to Evans and Machida.
If he wants any chance at landing his patented right hand, he’s going to have to get more aggressive.
That could definitely get him finished by a fighter of Belfort’s caliber. Henderson has never been knocked out, but he has been submitted three times. He’ll need to be on the lookout for a surprising armbar or triangle choke.
It’s time to go for broke at this point. Henderson’s legacy will always be that of a legend; he can do a lot towards furthering that cause in Brazil.
This fight will prove if Henderson can still hang with the best fighters in the world.
Bottom Line From Goiania: The bottom line for this fight is that it’s a crossroads for both fighters, albeit for much different reasons.
For Belfort, a win will catapult him into number one contender status as a shot at the belt awaits him. He’s eager to prove that his brutal front kick knockout loss to then-champion Silva was just a fluke. And he may have his chance should "Spider" regain the belt against Chris Weidman at UFC 168. A lot of things have to go right for that to happen, but it would undoubtedly be one of the biggest rematches in UFC history.
Henderson’s crossroads is a bit more daunting of a circumstance. A loss to Belfort, especially by finish, will have many calling for "Hendo’s" retirement. Although he’s stated that he won't retire, losing to Belfort would put him on the dreaded three-fight loss streak. If that does happen, there’ll simply be no point in continuing on to fight mid-level opposition.
It’s move up the rankings or bust for Henderson.
Another highlight reel knockout will have him back in the thick of things at light heavyweight. If "Hendo" can prove he still has some gas left in the tank, there are several potentially great fights left for him in UFC.
These scenarios make this fight absolutely crucial for the career paths of Belfort and Henderson. Both are already legends, but the chance at even greater glory awaits the winner of UFC Fight Night 32’s main event.
Vitor Belfort is looking for a title shot at UFC Fight Night 32, while Dan Henderson looks to play the spoiler. Who is your pick to emerge victorious in Goiania?