Dan Henderson made his UFC debut all the way back in 1998. Despite having his body riddled over the years, he looked as fresh as ever in his UFC 157 co-main event fight against Lyoto Machida. Both fighters ended up with one takedown a piece. Machida dominated with head shots and kicks, but Dan Henderson hung around for the entire fight, landing some significant strikes of his own.
The first round was one where we hoped a clear-cut winner would be established, but the best action didn’t happen until the final seconds of the round. Machida tripped Henderson and took him down to the mat where he proceeded to devastate him with a fierce ground-and-pound attack. Before things could get too out of hand for Henderson, the round was ended and Machida’s momentum was put on hold. Hendo really struggled to deal with the Dragon’s range during the round, and that trend ultimately decided the fight,
The momentum followed Machida into the second round as he seemed to be toying with Henderson for most of its duration. Henderson kept threatening with kicks and wild haymakers, but whenever he started to attack he whiffed and made little or no contact. Machida’s strategy for the second round seemed to be avoiding the big hits and rushes from Henderson in an attempt to tire Henderson out, fitting in occassional counters when he deemed it safe.
Towards the end of the second, Machida’s technique of avoiding punches and kicks seemed to frustrate Henderson. The former Olympic wrestler went hard with some rushes, but only landed minimal damage. At one point the leg kick count was 9-1 in favor of Machida, so his second round was used as a refresher rather than a finisher.
In the third round, Henderson finally got a little momentum going when he took down Machida and turned the tables a little by trying to initiate his devastating ground-and-pound attack. After spending significant time in the round under Henderson’s top control, Machida was able to escape. Henderson didn’t land any significant blows, but he was literally on top of Machida for most of the round. The judges took serious note of this in their scoring.
Machida showed some desperation at the end of the round and did land a high kick, but the fight ended up going the distance. At that point, the decision would be left up to — GULP! — the judges. It was a split decision, with one judge ruling for Henderson, two for Machida.
The crowd ended up booing the decision, but Machida brushed it off after the fight. He thanked the fans, going as far as apologizing to the fans if they thought the fight wasn’t entertaining. Despite fan disapproval, Lyoto Machida knocked off Dan Henderson and ended up with a victory in UFC 157. Only time will tell if it was enough to earn a rematch against UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.