Scheduled to take place on May 24 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, UFC 173 needed some serious star power.
Today, it has acquired just that, as UFC President Dana white revealed on ESPN’s “Sportscenter” that the rumored Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson light heavyweight co-main event is official.
The bout had been talked about for July 5’s UFC 175 co-main event, but those plans changed when both Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva and now Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis pushed their way onto the growing card, which features a pivotal middleweight title match between Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida.
After that fight was pulled from UFC 173 due to Weidman’s recent knee injuries, the event had a fraction of the hype it once did. The card now features a bantamweight championship contest between surging champion Renan Barao and upstart contender T.J. Dillashaw, but it could be argued that the Cormier/Hendo throwdown is going to get a lot more attention.
And perhaps it should, as White also speculated that the winner of the bout could not surprisingly be in line for the next light heavyweight title shot after Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson gets the chance he earned by finishing Jimi Manuwa at UFC Fight Night 37 in March.
Of course, divisional champion Jon Jones will defend the belt in his highly anticipated bout against Glover Teixeira in the main event of this Saturday night’s (April 26, 2014) UFC 172 from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. Although Jones is heavily favored to win, a Teixeira upset could throw a massive wrench in all those plans.
Gustafsson has been promised the shot regardless of who comes out victorious in Baltimore, so Jones would likely face the winner of that bout unless he were to square off with the winner of Cormier vs. Henderson for a No. 1 contender’s spot.
That’s a lot of “ifs,” but it’s definitely not bad news because all of the sudden, light heavyweight is rife with new and exciting possibilities.
Henderson recently resurrected his illustrious career (which many thought was nearly finished after three straight losses) with a thunderous come-from-behind knockout of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC Fight Night 38 in late March. Still, his bout with Cormier will be his first without testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) since 2006-2007.
Cormier has yet to prove himself against a top competitor in the UFC, but he’s fought and beat some of the best heavyweights in the world during his undefeated rise to contention.
We also can’t forget this weekend’s Phil Davis vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson co-main event, because the winner of that will firmly supplant himself in the title picture as well, especially with a finish.
With so many top-level challengers populating the 205-pound arena, will this spell the end of Jones’ reign, or merely serve to make it even more legendary?
Photos: Tom Szczerbowski for USA TODAY Sports