With UFC title challenger Dan Henderson recently stating that he does not care about the effect a win over Jon Jones would have on his legacy, the question of him being the best ever has to be brought up. Should Henderson gain UFC gold by defeating Jon Jones at UFC 151, his name should at least be put into the mix alongside Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko. This is a touchy conversation, so let’s take a look at both the reasons why and why not.
First of all, if he does beat the dominant champion Jones, it would make him the proud owner of two PRIDE titles, a RINGS championship, a UFC tournament title, and finally a UFC belt, the only title he never owned. This is quite a resume,one that is tough to argue against. I personally think a victory at UFC 151 does make Dan Henderson the greatest fighter of all time. I know Anderson Silva beat him. It was a good fight, I would like to see a rematch. Anderson Silva is on a fifteen-fight win streak, demolishing everyone in his path. Some of these wins were over much lesser competition, such as Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. Henderson fought the best and the baddest his whole career. If they weren’t at the top, such as Renato Sobral, he simply demolished them. However, Silva has not had the cross-promotional, all-encompassing success that Henderson has found. Silva was actually released from PRIDE. With a UFC belt, Henderson’s legacy is just unable to be matched. No one will do what he has done, simply because there is not that many promotions considered relevant anymore.
Is he better than the legendary Fedor Emelianenko? While Henderson’s run in PRIDE was quite amazing, no fighter will ever match that of Fedor. He was simply the best at the time, and it lasted for quite awhile. However, his success did not translate over to other promotions. He met Henderson in the Strikeforce arena last summer, rocking him to the point of what looked like an emphatic, defining knockout for The Last Emperor. However, somehow Dan Henderson weathered the onslaught and caught Fedor with an unlikely punch to knock him out. Quite the fight in my eyes, by both men. Fedor Emelianenko will always be one of the greatest fighters ever, and one of my favorites. But he never fought in the UFC, something that could have cemented his legacy as the GOAT. Henderson was well-traveled throughout his career and that serves him well in this conversation.
Henderson has a tall task ahead of him, to beat the man no one has figured out in Jones. A loss does not tarnish his legacy, but a win may define it completely. If he should pull the improbable and defeat the seemingly unbeatable Jones, it is tough to say he is not the greatest fighter of all time. He participated in arguably the greatest fight of all time versus Shogun Rua last November at UFC 139. His knockouts are legendary, the stuff of highlight reels that MMA is lacking in a downtime of endless decisions and injury-plagued cards. Will Henderson defeat the surging, nigh-indestructible Jones? Perhaps not, but if he should, the argument against him being the greatest of all time will grow increasingly tougher.