The UFC 157 card is an important milestone for the sport of mixed martial arts and women’s sports. However, while the match-up of champion Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche is certainly intriguing, it’s not the best of the fight card.

That honor falls on the co-main event between former two-division Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson and former UFC light heavyweight kingpin Lyoto Machida.

Henderson was scheduled to challenge current champion Jon Jones in September, but a knee injury cost him not only a paycheck, but a title shot as well. The 42-year-old is riding a four-fight winning streak that includes wins over legends Fedor Emelianenko and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Now he’ll look to prove he’s the No. 1 contender once more.

Meanwhile, Machida is in a state of limbo. After pushing the aforementioned Jones for a round at UFC 140, he was submitted by guillotine choke. He bounced back with a violent knockout of Ryan Bader that was supposed to earn him a rematch, but the slick-talking Chael Sonnen claimed his title shot. A win over Henderson with give the Brazilian a strong case for another crack at Jones.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Henderson – 9, Machida – 10

Henderson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

What is a more valuable weapon in the striking department, power or technique? That’s the biggest question surrounding this fight.

Henderson’s right hand—appropriately dubbed the “H-Bomb”—has been turning out the lights on opponents for years. Four of his last five wins have come by way of strikes. But, while the power is always there, the setup isn’t. Many times “Hendo” will simply headhunt with his overhand right. If his opponent is smart with his footwork, he can simply outpoint the veteran and stay away from it. His setup of an inside leg kick with his lead leg is a dead giveaway and Machida is likely to be wise to it.

Many have called Machida a puzzle, especially during his rise to the light heavyweight title. But his awkward and frustrating karate attack was largely neutralized, first by the aforementioned Shogun’s aggressiveness, then by Jones’ length. While Henderson’s chin is made of some rare-earth element that cannot be broken, he can certainly be hit. Machida’s speed, elusiveness and, most importantly, technique are more than enough for the Brazilian to get in, land and get out before Hendo can find a home for a knockout blow. And it’s not like Machida doesn’t have pop, as nearly half his wins have come by strikes.

Ground Game: Henderson – 9, Machida – 10

Machida (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

The submission game of Henderson is virtually nonexistent. Outside of a finish of Allan Goes in 1997—yes, 16 years ago—the Californian has opted to utilize his heavy hands rather than look for tapouts. And in terms of defense, the American has fared well against a number of high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. But three of his eight career losses have come by submission, one to each Nogueira brother and one to Anderson Silva.

Machida is cut from the Nogueira mold on the mat. However, like his opponent, he hasn’t used it as a form of offense on many occasions. There have been flashes of his ground prowess—he owns a black belt in BJJ—in his submission win over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and near triangle of Tito Ortiz, but Machida is a striker first and foremost. Unless he’s desperate, don’t expect that change come Saturday night.

Wrestling: Henderson – 10, Machida – 9

Henderson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

As an Olympic alternate, Henderson’s wrestling credentials largely speak for themselves. Yet, with the success he’s had on the feet, the Team Quest fighter has mostly abandoned his takedown game unless he’s in trouble. And what should be most concerning for the veteran is how easily he’s been taken down in recent bouts. He was dominated by a smaller Jake Shields under the Strikeforce banner and even a battered Shogun was able to put him on his back with little trouble.

Machida’s biggest asset in the wrestling department is the aforementioned footwork and elusiveness. You have to catch him before you can think about taking him to the mat. Also, he has tremendous balance from his karate base. He has stifled multiple wrestlers during his UFC tenure, and it would surprising if he ends up on his back in this fight.

X-Factor

Not only did Henderson suffer a knee injury at his advanced age, but he’s been out of the cage for more than a year. Can he still perform at a championship level? Machida’s style has been a thorn in the side of numerous 205-pound fighters through the years, but can a grizzled veteran like Henderson show that an old dog has new tricks?

Scorecard: Henderson – 28, Machida – 29

Verdict: This fight is either going to end in a violent knockout or be a brilliant display of movement and strategy from Machida. Although Henderson might be able to offer something that current champion Jon Jones hasn’t faced thus far, don’t expect him to be able to solve the Brazilian. Machida by unanimous decision.

Top Photo: Lyoto Machida (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)