(Yep, that about sums it up. Via bojanelezovic)
By Jared Jones
Throwback Thursday is a new recurring column that pays tribute to the stars of an upcoming UFC PPV by taking a look back at some of their earliest defining moments. For our inaugural edition, we focus on Dan Henderson’s middleweight tournament-winning effort at UFC 17 (in his promotional debut, no less) ahead of his UFC 173 co-main event clash with Daniel Cormier this weekend.
What can be said about Dan Henderson that hasn’t already been said about Bill Brasky, or Chuck Norris? A poor way to start a retrospective, I know, but the fact is, the inventor and sole proprietor of the “H-Bomb” has one of the most well-documented yet somehow mythologized careers in MMA. From his back-to-back Olympic runs in ’92 and ’96 to his reign as the one and only concurrent double-title holder in PRIDE, everything about Dan Henderson is simply, legendary. He’s a credit to mixed martial arts, the human race, and perhaps most importantly, ‘Murica. Dan Henderson could kick a bald eagle in its little bird balls while waving a burning atop Mt. Rushmore and receive a Good Samaritan Award for doing so.
But every legend has to have an origin story, and for Henderson, it was the night he took out Alan Goes and Carlos Newton in back-to-back fights to win the UFC Middleweight Tournament at UFC 17: Redemption. (Author’s note: Truthfully, the story of Henderson’s MMA career actually dates back one year prior, when he both started training mixed martial arts and defeated Crezio de Souza and Eric Smith in one night at the 1997 Brazil Open. But as we all know, if it didn’t happen in the UFC, it didn’t happen. You hear that, PRIDE-era Wanderlei! You never even existed!)
(Henderson vs. Goes @ UFC 17: Redemption.)
Fighting on the same card that featured the professional debut of Chuck Liddell and such future legends as Frank Shamrock, Jeremy Horn, Mark Coleman, and Tank Abbott, Henderson was paired against future PRIDE and IFL vet Allan Goes, who had fought Shamrock to a draw in a Pancrase event some three years earlier (and who also, according to his Wikipedia page at least, both helped found Brazilian Top Team and is an 8-time World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion).
The significant size and experience disadvantage suffered by Henderson was evident at first, as the American was wobbled by leg kicks and dropped with a clean right hand early in the first round. Had Goes known that the only thing strong enough to crack Henderson’s granite jaw was synthetic testosterone, he probably would’ve laid down and called it a night. But Goes forged ahead…right into the punches, knees, and takedowns of Hendo, who would utilize his Greco-Roman pedigree to control Goes with ground-n-pound until the halfway point of the fight.
Henderson would again find himself on the wrong end of a knockdown near the 8:30 mark, but thanks to a kick delivered to his head while he was down, referee Joe Hamilton would be forced to break up what could’ve been a fight-ending submission on Goes’ part. When the action was restarted on the feet, Henderson’s cardio would shine against the visibly exhausted Goes.
The second, or “overtime” round as it was called then, was largely controlled by Henderson, thanks in part to his aggressiveness and constant pursual of Goes. A flurry that put Goes down in the final seconds would earn “Hollywood” (I so often forget he was called that) the unanimous decision nod and a shot at Carlos Newton, who had secured his spot in the finals via a lightning quick submission over Bob Gilstrap earlier in the evening.
(Henderson vs. Newton, UFC 17 Middleweight Tournament Finals, May 15, 1998.)
Henderson vs. Newton would start off in very similar fashion to Henderson vs. Goes, with the much fresher Newton dropping Hendo in the opening exchange before succumbing to his excellent takedowns and G-n-P. The crazy thing is, Newton technically defeated Henderson that night. Watch and listen closely around the 2:10 mark of the above video. Newton drops Hendo with a combo, prompting Big John McCarthy to shout “That’s it!” before pulling an Yves Lavigne and allowing the action to continue. Henderson would go on to defeat Newton, who was never able to catch a break in the UFC when it came to big fights, by split decision.
The rest of Dan Henderson’s story is, well, legendary — filled with more brutal knockouts and top-class trim than most of us could ever dream of. On the heels of a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Maurico Rua in their Fight Night 38 rematch and set to face fellow Olympian Daniel Cormier at UFC 173 this weekend, not many fans or so-called experts are giving Hendo a snowball’s chance in Hell. And while it’s true that Henderson is older, slower, smaller, and sans-TRT-ier than his latest challenge, there’s a key X-factor that must always be considered in a Hendo fight: Manliness.
The simple fact is, Dan Henderson is more of a man than you or I. He’s more of a man than Daniel Cormier, Fedor, or Fedor standing on Zeus’s shoulders. Dan Henderson has a pocket full of horses and f*cks the shit out of bears. Dan Henderson threw a knife into Heaven and can kill with a stare. Dan Henderson once held an opponent’s wife’s hand in a jar of acid, at a birthday party. Say it with me: Dan. F*cking. Henderson.