It was a storybook-ending opportunity for Dan Henderson tonight (Sat., Oct. 8, 2016) at UFC 204, which took place inside Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, when he took on Middleweight champion Michael Bisping for the 185-pound world title. Henderson -- who defeated Bisping via epic highlight-reel knockout way back in 2007 -- did not deserve a title shot; however, UFC wanted to cash in once more before the 46-year-old mixed martial arts (MMA) legend sailed off into the sunset.
And he very nearly wrote the final brilliant chapter, twice, but Bisping was able to weather both storms and coast to a very close unanimous decision victory.
Hendo came with his patented "H-Bomb" cocked, ready to launch if Bisping once again decided to circle into it. He landed a stiff jab as Bisping, carefully, looked for an opening and an opportunity to put together an attack. Hendo let his left hand rip and Bisping was able to avoid the first strike as Hendo grinned through his mouthpiece. Hendo switched stances and fired a jab straight down the middle, opening up a small cut on Bisping's forehead. Hendo landed an overhand right shortly thereafter and then launched another bomb that missed. The next one did not, though, dropping Bisping like a ton of bricks in the center of the Octagon. Hendo swarmed, likely realizing it was his opportunity to end it early, but Bisping flailed, trying to avoid the follow up shots. Hendo was nailing Bisping with short shots on the ground, and then more as he scurried to get back to his feet, just as the round came to a close. Bisping headed to his corner likely in shock, his face a bloody mess, lucky to still be in the fight.
Bisping looked sharp to start the second -- the brief timeout helped him clear the cobwebs. He landed a nice kick, and then a hard cross that got the hometown fans back into the match. Hendo seemed to be conserving his energy, dialing back the offense after the first round flurry. Bisping began to find his rhythym, picking apart Hendo as he was in full retreat mode. Hendo landed a hard right hook, then a body shot that hurt Henderson. Bisping came in a little too hot and Hendo floored him with another right hand. Bisping was able to remain conscious, and fight off Hendo's ground-and-pound until the final round.
Likely discouraged after giving away the first two rounds, Bisping -- his right eye nearly swollen shut -- needed to avid the huge right hand and make Hendo work. He was once again the fresher fighter despite the damage, landing a nice switch kick in the opening moments of the third round. Bisping continued to keep the pressure on and push the pace, likely realizing that his cardio would eventually carry him to victory if he can avoid the knockout blow. Hendo's mouth was wide open, picking even fewer shots as Bisping increased his volume. Hendo nearly landed another huge shot at the end of the third round, but this time Bisping saw it as Hendo once again grinned.
Entering the championship rounds, it was clear that Hendo really only had one shot to finish the fight, while Bisping needed to dominate to make up up for points lost after the two early knockdowns. Bisping landed a low blow early in the fourth, which gave Hendo a little more time to catch his breath. Hendo, though, continued to conserve energy, perhaps trying to save it all for a miraculous fifth round finish. He landed another bomb along the fence, and then scored a takedown, but it was Bisping who appeared to win the round, getting Hendo down the floor just as the final buzzer blared.
It was a close fight -- way closer than most experts predicted. Hendo is simply a terrible style match up for Bisping. Nevertheless, Bisping was able to escape Manchester with his belt and, perhaps, a little bit of revenge. But, getting dropped twice -- and nearly finished like he was seven years ago -- will be remembered more than his unanimous decision victory over a 46-year-old legend.
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