If you wind the clock back to late 2011, you will come across one of the most exciting fights in the history of MMA.  At UFC 139, Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua fought in a five round non-title affair for the ages.  Henderson emerged victorious by unanimous decision after the bloody battle came to a conclusion, and the former Pride two-division champion had done enough to eventually earn himself a title shot.

They say that there are fights that take years off of a fighter’s career, and the fight that “Hendo” had just won may very well have been one of them.  In the fifth round of their fight, it was clear that he was gassed when he was incapable of getting out from the bottom after Shogun took control from the top—and keep in mind that Rua is a fighter who has had terrible gas tank issues of his own in his recent fights.

The Olympian, Henderson, has been known as one of the ageless wonders in the sport of MMA, the kind of guy that finds a way to crank the engine into an even higher gear despite logging way too many miles on the odometer.  But realistically, that fifth round against Shogun may have been a turning point.  When a knee injury forced him out of his title fight at UFC 151, speculation loomed even further.  Was it a situation where it was bad luck due to the injury bug, or was it a sign that the 42-year-old is actually human and that his body is wearing down?

When you look at all of the elements at play on one side of the cage, and combine them with that of his opponent across the cage, it makes for an interesting match-up in the co-main event at this Saturday’s UFC 157.

Lyoto Machida has been a tough riddle to figure out for everyone who has come across him, even for those who have defeated him.  If there was a textbook out there about how to counter strike in MMA, there would be a picture of “The Dragon” on the cover.  The Brazilian patiently waits for his opponent to throw a vulnerable strike, and then pounces on it like a snake striking for its dinner.  That is exactly what he did in his last outing against Ryan Bader, and that is what he will most likely try to do to Henderson.

But, since the clock is already wound back to 2011, we can also find a little bit more of an aggressive Machida in his two fights that year.  He stole the show at UFC 129 with a Daniel LaRusso-style front kick to Randy Couture, and he was the first fighter to really have light heavyweight champion Jon Jones on the ropes after the first round of their fight.  “Bones” ended up choking out “The Dragon” in the second frame, but the message that he was being overall more aggressive was laid in print.

When these two fighters step into the cage to square off, who knows what will happen.  We could have an old, sluggish Henderson taking on a patient, quiet Machida.  Or it could be a fresh, iron-chiseled American taking on an aggressive, surgical Brazilian.  Mix those up any way you like, and that could be on display as well.

The point here is that you should never turn your head from the screen, or even go as far as to blink when these two go at in on Saturday.  A win for either fighter won’t necessarily earn a title shot based on how mixed up the division has been recently, but both of these fighters will be going into the fight with the mindset that they want their hands on the title. Because of that, this fight is going to be a war rather than a snoozefest.

UFC President Dana White loves fighters that make lasting impressions, and he rewards them nicely.  Look for these two to try to make that impression at UFC 157.

Photo: Lyoto Machida (L) (Tracy Lee/Yahoo! Sports)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.