The last time Dan Henderson fought in the United States, it was February 2013. He lost a split decision to Lyoto Machida in Southern California — a fight that a number of people thought he won — and he’s been globetrotting ever since.
Sure, Henderson would love to fight in his homeland again, but he’ll take a fight abroad if it means staying active.
“It would be much better for me logistically if I had a fight in Vegas or local here, and would prefer that,” he told The Great MMA Debate Podcast on MMAWeekly.com. “But I’d rather be fighting than not.”
So for the third fight in a row, Henderson will stamp his passport and make his way out of the country to headline a UFC card. A familiar foe, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, will stand across the cage from Henderson.
The two have the burden of living up to the level of their first fight, which is tossed around MMA conversation as arguably the greatest bout in the sport’s history. Their November 2011 cagefight in California continues to be echoed as an epic 25-minute affair, and Henderson said putting on the encore will be a tough task in terms of living up to their first encounter.
He’s felt that way ever since they stepped out of the cage together the last time.
“I felt like there would probably be a rematch at some point, and that fight’s going to be hard to duplicate,” he said.
This time around, the plan for Henderson is the same as it was the last time he faced off with Shogun: get the win. And while he came out of a grueling five-round war with a unanimous decision, Henderson wanted to the finish.
As pleasing as a bell-to-bell fight can be for fans, Henderson plans on clocking out from work a lot sooner in the sequel.
“I made some game plan adjustments to where the fight will definitely be a little bit different this time,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to finish him and take advantage of some things that he does.
“Obviously, I’m going to try and finish him earlier, which won’t make it quite as exciting for the fans.”
One of the questions that comes up most in the days leading up to a Shogun fight is how in shape will the Brazilian fighter be once he enters the Octagon. Times before, Rua’s conditioning has been visibly inconsistent, having moments when his ferocity is unmatched, as well as periods where his cardiovascular strength is lacking. It’s been a thorn in Shogun’s side since he came to the UFC in 2007, but Henderson said he isn’t planning on meeting the out-of-shape Shogun.
If one thing will undoubtedly remain the same from their 2011 fight, Henderson said it will be that Shogun will be ready for another five-round battle of epic proportions. And this time, Shogun will have the home-field advantage in Brazil.
“You never know which Shogun will come to the fight, and what kind of condition he’s in, and if he’s going to be able to catch somebody,” he said. “There’s a lot of variables every time he fights. You never know. When he showed up to fight me last time, he showed up … in shape. I’m imagining that’s going to be the same case this time.”
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