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UFC Fight Night 38: Keys to Victory for Dan Henderson

Feb 23, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Lyoto Machida (blue shorts) and Dan Henderson (white shorts) during their UFC heavyweight bout at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2014

Dan Henderson is a bona fide mixed martial arts legend whether he wins this weekend or not.

But as a prolific athlete and life-long competitor, it makes sense that Henderson would be willing to leave his heart inside the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 38 if it meant victory.

That's the type of fighter he is and always will be, making him forever dangerous in a UFC light heavyweight division currently undergoing a youthful transition.

Come Sunday, "Hendo" will have a chance to stop an unheralded three-fight losing streak, the longest of his career. He will also have the opportunity to regain his footing on the 205-pound ladder, capture another victory over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and prove to the UFC that he can live out his promotional contract.

In order for the 43-year-old journeyman to do that, he'll have to abide by some familiar rules of combat—ones that will ultimately make the difference between winning and losing.

Here are three keys to victory for Henderson as he enters this weekend's main event desperately seeking a win.

 

Mix it up

Henderson is not Georges St-Pierre. Never has been, never will be.

He just doesn't possess the versatility to command respect from his opponents in all facets of the fight game. But he is athletic and strong enough to mix it up a little when he meets Rua for the second time.

Jun 15, 2013; Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Rashad Evans (right) fights Dan Henderson during their light heavyweight bout at UFC 161 at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Instead of rushing forward and slinging leather like he was handing out free Gucci bags, Hendo might find it more effective to sit back and pick his shots.

Make Rua come to him. Make his opponent attack first and don't be afraid to throw in some kicks, feints and takedowns.

Henderson is capable of doing all that and more, but he just has to get away from this notion that it's either highlight-reel knockout or nothing.

 

Land early

If Henderson is unable to uncork his power and desperately needs to unload on Rua's chin, he has to do it early.

When it comes to throwing a fighter off his game, there's nothing better than landing big shots on him early and often.

Rua is the type of fighter who gets better as the fight goes on, so getting to him in the first few minutes could knock him off his rocker. From timing to precision, technique to fluency, Shogun will find it more and more difficult to secure his footing if Henderson's fists are firing freely.

 

Leave it all in the cage

Nobody knows for sure, but at 43 years of age, this could very well be Henderson's last appearance inside of the Octagon.

With three disappointing losses behind him, it's time for Henderson to get back to business and establish himself as a serious contender in the light heavyweight division. Because with his power and overall experience, there's no telling how resilient and resurgent he can become if he rediscovers himself.

With all that said, he has to realize that his time is coming to an end. There are no more second chances and no more room for error. 

If he truly wants to give himself the best chance to win this weekend, as well as every fight afterward, the MMA legend needs to fight like he's competing for the last time inside the cage.

 

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