Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida is a fascinating fascinating mixed martial arts (MMA) match up, which will serve as the UFC 157 pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event later this evening (Sat., Fe. 23, 2013) from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
However, most high-profile (Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bouts that involve Machida and a world-class 205-pound opponent are typically fascinating. That’s because "The Dragon" brings a perplexing mix of speed and puzzling attacks that keeps opponents guessing.
Relegated back to the contenders’ list after his injury snuffed out his title shot against Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones in late 2012, Henderson has a handful here. He’s one of the most reliable commodities in the game with his consistent wrestling, big-time punching power and reliable blend of grit and experience, but Machida’s quickness and points-friendly style almost guarantee you have to bring extreme violence to beat him.
Both will be walking a tactical tightrope -- Machida, in trying to win rounds without getting caught by one of Hendo’s h-bomb right hands, and Henderson, in working to land effectively without getting suckered into one of Machida’s many traps.
Arguably the greatest American fighter of all time, Henderson’s incredible chin and durability would make him a strong pick against any fighter in the crowded division not named Jon Jones. However, the enemy of any aging fighter is a guy like Machida, whose juking, vexing approach can make him a real bitch to catch up with.
Hendo’s looked pretty good in recent bouts, especially the close of his Strikeforce run, but at times he does look like an older fighter picking his spots and exploding in bursts, then resting in others. Against Machida, that may mean falling behind early hoping to find an ace in the deck later.
For Machida, he should approach this one entirely to win on points, and concentrate on making it as ugly as possible. Feints, jukes, quick in-and-out attacks and all that ka-ra-te stuff will serve him well. Whether or not Henderson can stick a takedown early could entirely decide the fate of the bout, as his excellent top control and ground-and-pound are definitely enough to win rounds on sheer impression alone.
However, Machida’s very hard to take and hold down, and when he wants to be elusive, there isn’t a lot most can do about it. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, Henderson’s got his incredible chin and determination to fall back on.
Machida seemed a bit thrown at times by Quinton Jackson’s ability to fire off shots in the pocket when able to force exchanges, and he has a tendency to get in-and-out almost in the same motion, taking the effectiveness off some shots. He doesn’t have to score big to beat Hendo on points, but he has to score meaningfully to sway judges in any rounds where "Dangerous Dan" scores takedowns, because once he gets them, Henderson’s not likely to give them up easily.
This one has all the makings of a tense, tactical fight. The old-time Pride FC fan in me would love to see another classic Henderson stoppage, and it very well could happen, but I think a middle-ground bout is most likely.
Machida will flit, fake and funk his way through the first 1.5 rounds, scoring with his blend of strikes and quickness, as Hendo adjusts his radar, keeping a tight guard and unleashing the occasional strike. Unable to get range in the first, Hendo will lose is cleanly.
In the second, as Machida scoots in to attack, at some point, Henderson will find his range and land a detonating, fight-changing shot. Machida will survive, barely, covering up on the mat as Henderson goes all-in to finish him, landing heavy blows while the Brazilian goes into defensive mode.
In the final round, with the bout clearly on the line, Henderson will score just enough on the feet on the tiring Machida, who mostly retreats, jukes and tries to sell the judges on giving him the stanza, but they won’t be fooled.
Henderson by unanimous decision.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 157 PPV main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst