A rematch against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, not Rich Franklin at UFC 103 on Sept. 19, is what Dan Henderson can focus on now that company president Dana White has shuffled the deck in the wake of Affliction MMA’s demise.
Affliction refugee Vitor Belfort is now booked to replace Henderson opposite Franklin in the UFC 103 main event, which had fans less than thrilled when it was announced earlier this month.
White did not announce a hard date for Silva-Henderson 2, saying that it will all depend on "how banged up" Silva is after challenging Forrest Griffin in a non-title 205-pound special attraction next weekend at UFC 101.
However, if history is any indicator, Silva might be ready to rock on Sunday, Aug. 9 -- he has remarkably suffered very little, if any, damage throughout his perfect nine-fight UFC career thus far.
In fact, Henderson is among the few who performed quite well before experiencing the same fate as the rest: Defeat.
Silva and Henderson first met at UFC 82: "Pride of a Champion" back in March 2008. Henderson controlled much of the first round, using his Olympic-caliber Greco Roman wrestling skills to takedown the Brazilian and implement effective ground and pound.
He also took time between throwing punches to smother Silva’s airway -- a rarely seen, albeit legal, maneuver to disrupt the breathing of an opponent. However, it seemed to irritate and anger Silva more than anything else.
Silva came out in the second round a new man, putting it on "Hollywood" with a punishing assortment of pinpoint strikes. Henderson eventually hit the floor and Silva capitalized by securing a fight-ending rear naked choke with just 12 seconds to spare before the frame expired.
Since losing his Pride FC title to Silva that night, Henderson has strung together three consecutive victories against very tough opponents.
He notched victories over Brazilian jiu-jitsu powerhouse Rousimar Palhares and former middleweight champion Rich Franklin, as well as dismantled Michael Bisping at UFC 100 with an epic punch/flying forearm punch combination that will go down as one of the best knockouts ever.
In short, Henderson has seemingly earned another opportunity to challenge for the 185-pound world title. And his stock has never been higher thanks to the Bisping beatdown.
Silva, on the other hand, has had to pack-on 20 extra pounds in an effort to rekindle the excitement that earned him the title as the most dangerous fighter in the sport. He’s fresh off back-to-back underwhelming -- albeit winning performances -- against middleweight challengers Thales Leites and Patrick Cote.
White matched Silva up against Griffin with the idea that it would spark fireworks -- something that has been missing in Silva’s two most recent appearances. Apparently, a record-setting nine straight UFC wins -- seven of which were all stoppages that never went longer than two rounds -- is not good enough these days.
He’ll look to add Henderson’s name to that impressive hit list, again, when the pair rematch later this year.