Now that The Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans bout has been promoted to main event status at UFC 161, some extra emphasis has been added to the fight. The clash of former champions may truly hold each fighter’s career in the balance, at least in terms of true relevancy. A win keeps the victor relevant, while the loser, barring any unlikely winning streaks, may be relegated to name drawing power only.
That’s a true testament to the cutthroat nature of fighting in the UFC. It’s amazing that I’m writing these words in only May of 2013 after both fighters were fighting for the UFC light heavyweight belt last year (although Henderson’s UFC 151 bout was famously canceled). In the Octagon, you have to win, and continue to do so, if you truly want to remain a top contender. Henderson is still ranked #3 and Evans #5, so it would seem they’re still near the top of the heap.
But Henderson dropped a very lackluster decision to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157. He looked out of touch with the elusive striking game of Machida. And while he has been knocking top fighters out in recent years, Hendo may be starting to slow down. Or, he may have still been recovering from the MCL injury that kept him out of UFC 151, and maybe he shows up healthy at UFC 161 to knock Evans’ head into the crowd with an H-bomb. It’s tough to say for sure, but it’s still a crossroads for Henderson.
As dire as Hendo’s situation may be, Evans is in one even more compromising. The once-mighty champion has seen a definite decline in the last few years, experiencing some high-profile but less-than-exciting wins mixed in with a few unfortunate injuries. His last fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 was proclaimed his worst fight ever, as he never got any offense really going. It lead Dana White to question the motivation of Evans after the fight, wondering if he still had the fire it takes to compete inside the Octagon. A loss to Hendo would make for the dreaded three-fight losing streak, and there has to be at least an outside chance that it could spell Evans’ retirement or rapid decline.
So what will happen at UFC 161? It’s an exciting fight on paper in my eyes, but if these two show up like they did in their last contests, we could be in for a boring matchup. And that would be a very sad occurrence in the career of these two legends. Both have extensive resumes with a number of great wins, with Hendo having the edge in legacy just a bit. But all that will thrown out the window on June 15th, because it’s time for Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans to sink or swim.