Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson UFC 151: September 1, 2012
The UFC 151 main event between UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and challenger Dan Henderson could be dubbed New School versus Old School. Whatever the school, each fighter has built his career on being the baddest bully in class.
In 2011, Jones had arguably the greatest year in MMA history, capturing the belt while defeating three former UFC champs—Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Lyoto Machida. Meanwhile, if not for Jones’ 2011 campaign, Henderson would have been heralded as Fighter of the Year. The former multi-division Pride Champ captured Strikeforce gold by beating light heavyweight Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, TKOing heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, and capping the year with one of the greatest fights in UFC history by beating Rua at UFC 139. After 12 months of dominance—and Jones dispatching of Rashad Evans at UFC 145—the two fighters are set on a collision course at UFC 151 in Las Vegas on September 1.
Henderson and Jones have dealt plenty of abuse with their fists, elbows, and knees, but their skills are rooted in wrestling. The experience edge goes to Henderson, a two-time U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling team member (1992 and 1996). However, a highlight reel of slams and suplexes is enough proof that the athletic Jones is no slouch when it comes to civilization’s oldest sport.
Henderson has beaten a who’s who of MMA notables, but it’s his loss to Anderson Silva that provides some evidence of his ability against a rangy, athletic striker. Before being subbed in the second round, Hendo took round one from the Spider by closing the distance and utilizing the clinch. With Jones’ wrestling skill set, that strategy might not prove as effective, but it will minimize the vulnerability of Henderson getting blasted with a flying knee or spinning-back elbow.
Ironically, Jones and Henderson have been quick to sideline their primary discipline and wreak havoc on their victims by other means. While so-called knockout power has eluded Jones in the UFC, he has finished some of the division’s best fighters by improvising attacks, equal parts devastating and confusing. Jones’ pugilistic onslaught against Rua in March 2011 was a masterful performance. Jones dominated Shogun on their feet from the opening bell, and the 2005 Pride Grand Prix Champion had to make a swift exit from the cage to a Newark emergency room.
On the other hand—or fist—KO power has never been a problem for Henderson. When your signature strike has a nickname, it’s indicative that the former Arizona State Sun Devil has ditched takedowns for trauma to the brain. The question is: Can the 42-year-old get one of those suckers to land on a man who enjoys an 84.5-inch reach? Jones would rather take the word of Wanderlei Silva or Michael Bisping, as opposed to finding out firsthand the effects of an H-bomb. Jones’ chin has been tested twice by Machida and Evans—not to the extent of Hendo’s power—but in both cases the Greg Jackson acolyte received a passing grade. With Henderson’s iron chin, he may be willing to move forward, eat a few shots, and hope that he can land his devastating right hand.
Henderson is not getting anything in the mail from AARP yet, but for athletic purposes, the guy is old. However, thanks to testosterone replacement therapy, Henderson is feeling 25 years old again. At least that’s how young Rampage Jackson said he felt when he took testosterone injections in preparation for his fight against Ryan Bader at UFC 144. With some helpful hormones, Henderson could be feeling like his old Olympic self, but he needs to come out swinging because he has shown the to tendency to fade in the later rounds.
In the meantime, Jones really is 25 years old and is thoroughly taking advantage of his youth in the cage. Staying out of range of Henderson’s power while using his 10.5-inch reach advantage to pepper Hendo may be Jones’ initial plan of attack, forcing Hendo into the deep water of the championship rounds. It’s scary to think that Jones is not even close to his prime, and to hear him tell it, he is still growing as a complete fighter. For Jones, this is an opportunity to defeat one of the sport’s greatest fighters of all-time. In Henderson’s case, this fight is a chance to KO Father Time again, and take hold of something he has yet to possess in his decorated career—UFC gold.