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MMA News: UFC 157 Preview – Dan Henderson Vs Lyoto Machida

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Dan 'Hendo' Henderson takes on Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida in the co-main event of UFC 157.

Dan ‘Hendo’ Henderson takes on Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida in the co-main event of UFC 157.

One of the more notable matches on February 23rd’s UFC 157 pay-per-view card is the one that pits wrestling brawler Dan ‘Hendo’ Henderson against Karate wunderkind Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida.

Because the match is likely to be a barn burner and also because I know you’re all just dying to hear me talk shit on the matter, I’m going to do an analytical breakdown thing of how each fighter could achieve victory in just over three weeks time.

There will also be a prediction of the match winner at the end, but read the rest of it first though eh? I’ll know if you don’t.

The rest of it is after the cut.

How he gets the ‘W’ – Dan ‘Hendo’ Henderson (29 wins, 8 losses)

HendoBomb

Make no mistake about it; Hendo’s ‘H-Bomb’ is some serious shit.

Ah, Dan Henderson.  An olympic-level wrestler who fell out of love with collegiate craft to pursue the newfound hurt that he could generate from his hands, ‘Hendo’ has gained a great deal of infamy for separating fellow fighting folk from their senses due to his nuclear missile of a right hand neatly disguised as a fleshy fist.  Its a tactic which by and large has brought him a great deal of success, allowing him to definitively lay waste to the likes of Fedor EmelianenkoRafael Cavalcante and Michael Bisping to name just a few.

The beauty however, is in how the Team Quest fighter lands the thing, despite the fact that his opponents know its coming.  Rather than being just a typical right hook thrown off of the rear foot (thought its not uncommon for it to be setup in a combo by a kick to the lead leg of his opponent), where Hendo usually manages to find a home for the devastating right is during times of chaos; usually during scrambles.

You see, you won’t witness any blast power-double leg takedowns from Hendo, thats not his style sadly; but what you will see is him doing is leveraging his extensive greco-roman prowess to close the distance and half-heartedly attempt a takedown and then land the strike in the shadow of mad and frenetic scramble and its here really that I feel he’ll seek to land the strike on the UFC’s premier Karateka.

And honestly, against a fighter with as much lateral movement, speed and high-level evasiveness as Machida, I don’t see any other way that Hendo gets it done quite honestly, especially in the early stages of the fight where Hendo’s less-than-legendary gastank is still pretty full.  Not only does Hendo adopt a relatively flat-footed approach to his striking game (itself limited to punches and the odd leg kick when outside clinch range), but as his aforementioned stamina begins to wane, his moves become more and more telegraphed and his capacity to initiate and sustain these crafty scrambles becomes increasingly finite as the bout wears on.

Unlike November 2011’s war with Chute Boxe product Maurico ‘Shogun’ Rua however, this fight will be two rounds shorter; going for three rounds instead of five.  This means essentially that Hendo will be fresher for a larger part of the fight and that by proxy, it’ll afford him more opportunities to sneak the right hand in, which if it connects Machida’s jaw with any sort of force, will likely mean an abrupt and jarring trip to the mat, face first, for the Belem native.

Have no illusions though, this really is the only way Hendo can realistically achieve victory here.

He can’t stand and trade with Machida on the feet for the simple reason that Machida not only commands an overwhelming speed advantage over the 43-year old former champion and has a far wider variety of strikes, but in addition ‘The Dragon’ boasts some of the most finely tuned and accurate counter striking outside of Middleweight king and pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva.

Just ask Ryan Bader.

So in conclusion, as a submission seems extremely unlikely and Hendo riding out any sort of top-control/wall and stall until the bell is just as improbable, Henderson will likely pour all of his efforts across the 15 minute match duration with a singular goal to find a home for that right hand and given how relatively one-dimensional his game has been, this is all he really can do in the face of a much faster, much more evasive and much more accurate opponent.

How he gets the ‘W’ – Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida (18 wins, 3 losses)

Lyoto Machida has some of the most precise and powerful counter-striking in the Light HW Division.

Lyoto Machida has some of the most precise and powerful counter-striking in the Light Heavyweight Division.

Lyoto Machida has a number of ways to get this done and outside of a submission (quick note; all of Hendo’s losses by finishes have come this way), lateral movement, accurate counter-striking and disengaging clinch attempts are really going to be the surest paths to success for the Brazilian.

As seen in the Ryan Bader example, ‘The Dragon’ is at his most lethal when overeager folks are trying to close this distance.  In short; if you try and get up in Machida’s grill from any sort of distance beyond the range of his strikes at speed, he will fuck you up and fuck you up good.  Conversely however, the more plodding style of ‘Hendo’, combined with his veteran instincts means that the Team Quest fighter hardly, if ever recklessly attempts to close the distance in any sort of expedient fashion.

The only issue here is Machida doesn’t always require you to come rushing at him like some sort of ‘roided bull to land a fight ending strike as he is equally quite happy to play the role of the sniper and land a knockout inducing strike whenever the window of opportunity opens.

His devastatingly cool ‘Karate-Kid’ knockout of Randy Couture being one such instance of this happening.

The other aspect of this fight to consider is that Hendo has an absolute granite chin and has never been finished due to strikes, but as we’ve been taught over and over, there’s always first time for everything and after picking his shots and angles, I would expect Machida to start sniping with the sort of fight-ending strikes that have characterised the highlight-reel of knockouts that have typified his career thus far.

As well as his excellent striking capabilities, another aspect of Machida’s arsenal (and one which is frequently overlooked), is his ability to take the fight to the ground with some well-placed trips.  Against Hendo’s greco-roman credentials, I would imagine that  this would be easier said than done, however should the trip prove successful, ‘The Dragon’ would have little to fear from Hendo’s guard and could drop bombs with relative impunity given that Henderson lacks any sort of real offensive capability off his back.  With that said, should Hendo manage to get up onto a knee and attempt a scramble, Machida would need to get the fuck out of Dodge post-haste lest he eat one of those right-hands causing him to wake up in a world where everything is red and tastes of blood.

Trips and submissions aside, wearing Henderson down with lateral movement, feints and strikes en route to senses-separating blow that slips through his guard is how ‘The Dragon’ gets it done.

Fight Prediction

If this was the Dan Henderson of earlier years, Machida would have a lot more to fear and gameplan for instead of just his atomic right hand.  As it is, and considering Machida’s stellar takedown defence, I just don’t see Hendo able to pro-actively get the fight to the mat or indeed, since he has fallen in love with that monstrous right hook of his; whether he would even want to.  Instead, I imagine the heavy-handed wrestler will stick to what brought him to the dance; he’ll relentlessly stalk Machida and look to trigger scrambles from the clinch or deliberately botched takedowns in order to setup delivery of that fight-stopping right hand.

Against just about anybody else, I would have said that the likelihood of the strike landing is an eventuality but the risk of Hendo landing that lottery-winning strike against his UFC 157 opponent I believe is effectively mitigated by Machida’s excellent movement and evasive strategy.  I just reckon that Machida is too savvy to get caught in a scramble and is far too adept at creating the sort of distance and angles which serve as a precursor to a fight-ending strike.

Hendo has never been finished before via strikes, but I believe there’s a first time for everything and ‘The Dragon’ will be the first guy to do it sometime in the final frame after wearing down brawling wrestler with strikes and decent movement.

Lyoto Machida by TKO in Round 3

Check back later for my preview on the Rousey/Carmouche main event too.  You’ll love it.  I promise.

UFC 157 takes place on pay-per-view on February 23rd, 2013.

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