Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight contender Dan Henderson is ramping up for one of the toughest match ups of his 37-fight career as less than two weeks from now (Feb. 23, 2013) the former two-division Pride champion will meet former UFC champ Lyoto Machida in the co-main event of UFC 157: "Rousey vs. Carmouche."
Henderson (29-8) has been in the game since 1997 and holds wins over a who's who of mixed martial arts (MMA) legends. "Hendo" has had his hand raised against the likes of Mauricio Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort and the list goes on and on.
In Machida (18-3), Henderson faces a difficult stylistic match up in a fighter with a combination of accurate, powerful striking, top-notch grappling and superb takedown defense. A mix of skills that, on paper, seems like it could be Henderson's kryptonite.
With a lofty challenge ahead of him, it would seem obvious that Henderson would do some additional game planning for the Brazilian. That's not the case, though, as the Team Quest product believes the key to fighting Machida is to worry about himself.
"You gotta be comfortable out there and relaxed," Henderson said of fighting Machida in a UFC 157 pre-fight interview with UFC.com. "You have to be confident in your game plan and your style."
Only three men --"Shogun," Quinton Jackson and Jon Jones-- have been able to solve the Machida puzzle; the rest were left scratching their heads. "The Dragon" was a much more tentative fighter when he first entered the UFC in 2007, but as he got more comfortable inside the Octagon, his style began to get more aggressive - something Henderson believes will play right into his hands.
"Lyoto Machida has definitely evolved as a fighter," he said. "He's a little more aggressive and he goes after guys a little more. I plan on just staying in his face and making him fight me and trying to take advantage of touching him on his chin a little bit."
Henderson is one of the most notorious knockout artists in the history over the sport, racking up 13 finishes to date by way of knockout or technical knockout. Despite Machida's skill in the stand up, Henderson is going into the fight with the same game plan as always: make it short and sweet or long and ugly.
"Hopefully I can knockout him out quickly and if not, control him and beat him up for three rounds."
UFC President Dana White recently said a win for Henderson at UFC 157 would earn him the next title shot at 205-pounds, an opportunity the American had once before prior to suffering an injury that ultimately resulted in the well-documented cancellation of UFC 151 in September 2012.
The light heavyweight title is currently mixed up with Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen until April, and while the next shot could be his, Henderson says that he has no intentions of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for his crack at the belt to come around.
At the ripe age of 42, the surefire future Hall-of-Famer wants to stay active and collect wins. If that happens, he thinks a title shot is inevitable.
"I'm not going to wait around for a title shot," Henderson said. "If the timing's not right I'll fight somebody else who's the top guy and I'll knock them off, but I also feel like I'll be the guy to beat."
UFC 157: "Rousey vs. Carmouche" is headlined by the first ever UFC women's bantamweight championship bout as Ronda Rousey attempts to defend her UFC title for the first time against Liz Carmouche. Along with Henderson vs. Machida, the supporting cast for the card features a bantamweight rematch between Urijah Faber and Ivan Menjivar.