The way Dan Henderson sees it, this fight with Rousimar Palhares is just a step he has to take in order to get that rematch with Anderson Silva. In a recent interview with Yahoo! Sports he admitted to not knowing who Palhares was when he accepted the fight — though he did some internet research and figured it out — and then went on to diagnose what went wrong for him against “The Spider” and how he plans to remedy that the next go-round:
“He’s got holes in his game,” said Henderson, who won the first round of the fight, before getting tired and being submitted in the second round. “He’s very athletic and can get away with it. I felt my conditioning was off. I got a little tired and didn’t push the takedown in the second round. If I’d have gotten it, I’d have won the round. I should have been more aggressive when I had him down in the first round. I didn’t expect to finish him so I didn’t try. I was looking to win the round.”
First off, it’s pretty generous to go ahead and attribute the loss entirely to fatigue in the second round. It’s true that Henderson did look to have Silva somewhat figured out in that first round. Trouble is, championship fights go five rounds, and if you don’t plan to finish someone, you’d damn well better be ready to go all five.
But it does remind us that Hendo is still a credible middleweight title challenger at a time when the UFC is desperate for them (no offense, Patrick Cote…okay, a little offense). When viewed through that prism, Henderson-Palhares is suddenly a lot more interesting. Can Henderson show that he’s got his cardio act together, and is thus deserving of another shot at Silva? Will fans give a damn if he does, or is Silva too far out in the stratosphere of pound-for-pound brilliance for the UFC to drum up sufficient interest in rematches with people he’s already beaten?
We’ll have to wait and see, but if Henderson goes out on Saturday and throttles Palhares, don’t be surprised if it’s followed by Mike Goldberg doing the old UFC hard sell on Henderson as number one contender. First he has to win the fight though, and preferably look for a finish this time.