Former multi-class Pride champion Dan Henderson has seen it all in his storied MMA career. The only accolade that has eluded him has been that elusive UFC title belt, and at 42 years of age, he’s still training hard to one day climb that mountain. He has to win, and most likely win impressively, against Rashad Evans at this weekend’s UFC 161 in order to retain any hope of getting a title shot.
That’s a lot of pressure for any fighter, even Henderson, because it’s never easy to know that your last chance could be looming. I don’t see Hendo as a fighter who wants to collect paychecks well into his forties being a gatekeeper, so it is basically win and continue, or lose and face a fade into irrelevancy. But the shockingly powerful striker from California doesn’t seem too worried about the task at hand. In fact, he spoke up to Frank Trigg of MMA Oddsbreaker to say he’s found some holes in Evans’ game that he’ll look to exploit come Saturday:
“I think he gets a little nervous sometimes in there. I’m going to be pressuring him, but not overly aggressive where I end up getting taken down easy. I want to make sure I pressure and control the middle and wait for him to kind of come at me a little bit, but still just pressure him and be aggressive, but not to where I’m going to be getting taken down.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying scared. He’s just a little bit shy when it comes to that. He’s a little hesitant sometimes. Maybe he’s thinking too much, I don’t know.”
Indeed Evans was maligned for his hesitancy and ineffective striking in his lackluster decision loss to Rogerio Nogueira back in February. And being hesitant is the last thing you’ll want to do against Henderson, because one punch can put your lights out. If that happens, there’ll be many fans calling for ‘Suga’s’ retirement, claiming that he no longer has what it takes. This could serve to motivate him, as he’s said he’s returned to the training tactics that got him to the top, or it could freeze him up and result in another loss.
While this weekend’s main event does definitely have the capacity for fireworks, it also could display some tentative action from the combatants with so much on the line. Hendo insists that he’ll push the pace, but not enough to play into Evans’ wrestling, because the fight could be a snoozer if he does just that:
“It’s really got the potential to be a really good fight if the action kind of gets pushed, and it’s got the potential to be a pretty boring fight too if he takes me down and puts me on my back too much then that slows it way down.”
Rashad Evans’ movement and elusiveness have always helped him throughout his UFC tenure. But now it’s time to stand and fight, albeit with a gameplan, if he wants to remain at the top levels of the UFC. Does Hendo have a point here in his analysis?
Check out the full interview below: