Ronda Rousey may be the main event of UFC 157--and deservingly so. But the most exciting fight on the card is obvious.
After a year long absence from competition, Dan Henderson makes his long awaited return to the octagon on Saturday night against Lyoto Machida. Stylistically this matchup is a prime example of why the UFC has risen as the supreme brand in MMA.
Here's a closer look at what is sure to be one of this years most talked about fights.
Machida is a master of angles and is easily one of the best counterpunchers in the sport -- just ask Ryan Bader. His southpaw stance, coupled with a karate base, make Machida one of the toughest puzzles for any light heavyweight in the world to solve. He proved so by giving current light heavyweight champ Jon Jones a run for his money in the first round of their title fight back in Dec. 2011.
Although he was stopped by Jones in the very next round, Machida was able to use his elusive movement and precise straight left hand to knock the champ off balance. It was the first time we saw Jones lose a round in the UFC.
Machida will have to rely on his feints while baiting Hendo to chase him around the octagon until he finds his timing. He will also have to avoid Hendo's explosive power, particularly in his right hand by using constant motion and circling away.
Machida has been knocked out before and Hendo is perhaps the hardest hitting man in all of MMA. Expect Machida to use his effective knee-dash attack to the body to slow the older, battle worn Hendo down while he exploits the clear speed advantage he has over his adversary.
If the fight ends up seeing a third round, don't be surprised if a gassed Hendo gets taken down at some point since Machida also possess a sumo background along with his Shotokan karate.
The most dangerous weapon in all of MMA is arguably Hendo's right hand. Before dropping Shogun Rua repeatedly in his last UFC bout en route to a decision victory, Hendo was on a tear in the now defunct StrikeForce organization. After two vicious KOs against Brazilians Babalu Sobral and Rafael Feijao, Hendo shocked the world when he destroyed legendary heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko back in July of 2011 with one punch.
However, on Saturday Hendo faces a man who stalks more than he actually fights. Most of Hendo's success comes against men who make the mistake of standing and trading with the heavy handed wrestler, but you can bet your house money that Machida won't be one of them.
It's easier said than done but Hendo needs to close the distance and keep the faster fighter in front of him while looking for the brilliantly named "H-bomb". Though he does have a legendary chin, Hendo will need to find his man while avoiding the urge to rush in because Machida will be waiting with his stellar counter attack.
It would also not benefit him at all to go into the later rounds as he is known to fade as the fight goes on but I can assure you that Hendo will be looking to touch Machida's chin early. I'd expect Hendo to mix up his strikes more than usual just to set up that huge right hand. Remember when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva with a left hook?
A Dan Henderson fight is never complete without seeing a clinch or two. Although he doesn't use his wrestling in an offensive manner, Hendo does have the ability to wrap his arms around his opponent's torso and drag him to the ground. Look for him to smother Machida in anyway possible whether it comes on the feet or on the ground.
The Bottom Line
Both men are armed with some of the most effective styles in the game. Sure they may not be as well-rounded in all areas as some of the new breed seems to possess, but make no mistake, they both are the best at what they do. We expect nothing more than a fantastic bout on Saturday night so you better make sure that cable bill is all paid up buddy.
Zachary Hutton is the lead boxing writer and an MMA contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can see what he's up to at his band's website myunclethewolf.com or also subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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