Dan Henderson will face numerous doubters this tonight (Sat., May 24, 2104) when he heads into battle Daniel Cormier in the co-main event of UFC 173, which takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
At 43 years of age -- and with 41 mixed martial arts (MMA) fights to his name -- "Hendo" has been through a ton in this sport. In fact, one has to wonder if the UFC 17 middleweight tournament champion will be able to compete for a belt in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier promotion in the world, ever again.
In recent bouts, Henderson has had a rough run, winning just one of his last four matches. One of these fights included a brutal knockout loss to Vitor Belfort (his first-ever loss because of strikes). However, in his last fight, Henderson finally managed to get back into the winner's circle, brutally finishing Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a rematch of their 2011 classic.
This would be Henderson's last fight with a therapeutic use exemption to benefit from testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Being that he didn't have the best go of things while on the treatment, it is difficult to attribute his successes to it, but it still places some doubt on how he will perform in fights without it.
For the most part, the benefits and drawbacks of TRT are not entirely clear. Fighters like Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen have been able to use it to their advantage and it seems to have had a positive effect. That said, fighters like Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin haven't seemed to gain much at all from it, with Mir dropping all of his last four fights and Griffin competing sparingly and now retiring. Nate Marquardt was even able to go on it and then off without seeing a noticeable change in his athletic ability.
That said, we really don't know what we will see with "Hendo" this tonight. It is hard to say anything conclusive about TRT based on his recent performances, but if he comes out for this fight looking sluggish and weak, there will be an easily-reached conclusion.
If there's no significant change, Henderson still faces long odds.
Cormier represents a very complete fighter, with excellent skills both standing and on the mat, along with athleticism and experience. Cormier is a fighter who may be hitting his prime, whereas Henderson is over the hill. That right hand "H-Bomb" can be a great equalizer, but is one big punch really a reliable skill to keep Henderson relevant in 2014 and beyond?
In the end, it is up to Henderson to prove whether or not he can remain a top fighter. Not too many people expect him to come out victorious in this fight -- or even be all that competitive -- so the only bonus for him is that he really has nothing to lose.
Nonetheless, Henderson has a lot of pressure on him for this fight for several reasons, which makes him a UFC 173's "Fighter to Watch" on pay-per-view (PPV) this evening. Don't blink just in case ...