Legendary former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson, at 42 years old, is no doubt nearing the end of his illustrious career. His quest to gain the one belt that has eluded him was, at the very least, put on hold when he lost a close but critically maligned bout versus Lyoto Machida at UFC 157.
After the fight, Hendo stated that he war far from finished and still has a lot of goals left in MMA to accomplish.
That may be true, but just how long will Dan Henderson continue to step into the Octagon? His career has been focused on simply fighting the best and toughest fighters on the planet. Sure, he took a few losses here and there, but he has always stepped up to the challenge.
He may have started the windfall that ruined UFC 151 (perhaps his last shot at a UFC belt) by not informing Dana White of his partially torn MCL, but he was trying to fight Jon Jones on an extremely unhealthy knee. That's just a testament to his toughness.
But his knee was taped up last Saturday, and he may not have been at one hundred percent. He appeared less aggressive. That may be a testament to the quick and elusive style of Lyoto Machida, or it may be a downside of Hendo's increasing age. Maybe it's a mix of both. Either way, tons of publicity has been made of Hendo's TRT use, but even that could not nurse him back to health for this fight. And he injured the knee last August.
So with that said, it's tough to say where Dan Henderson goes from here. A fight back to a title shot at Light Heavyweight is going to be tough with contenders like Machida, Alexander Gustafsson, and even Glover Teixeira in line for a shot ahead of him. I don't think Henderson is done for certain, but he is at a crossroads.
Dan Henderson is looking to return sooner than later after last fighting in November of 2011, pinpointing an early summer return. Rumors today have had him slated for an upcoming bout with Rashad Evans. That could be a great bout between two aging former champions who are in dire need of a win to stay relevant. It would be a good co-main event for a summer card, but both fighters would have to show up in considerably better shape than they did for their most recent bouts.
In an age where your window for a title opportunity grows ever smaller in the constantly changing UFC, Hendo may have lost his last chance to complete his title trilogy. The only way I see him returning to that epic stage is to beat at least two contenders on par with fighters like Evans (and via KO) to send a strong message to Dana White. He also needs to be fully healed from his injuries as well. At his age, that appears tougher and tougher to achieve.
Hendo still has some gas in the tank. Even if he were to call it a career right now, his accomplishments will have been met by few, if any. He was always will to fight anyone, anywhere, and still possesses some of, if not the best one-punch KO power in MMA. Does he have enough left for a last ditch effort at his coveted UFC belt?