By Justin McGillivray-Zanelli / @RivalsStubbs
The careers of Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson are irrevocably intertwined. Ever since Henderson’s right hand connected with Bisping’s jaw at UFC 100, you couldn’t speak of one without thinking of the other. So it seems fitting that now that both fighters are on the precipice of propelling their legacies to the next level, they should meet again at UFC 204.
For Bisping, UFC 204 provides him with not only the opportunity to validate his middleweight championship, but also to achieve personal redemption against the opponent who handed him his signature loss as a professional.
Knockouts, especially like the one Bisping received, can derail, if not end, an MMA career. A vicious overhand right followed by a leaping forearm to the chin at UFC 100 could have been the last we ever heard from the brash Brit, but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
In his 17 fights proceeding his first meeting with Henderson, Bisping has gone 12-5. Three of the five losses, however, came to fighters who were on testosterone replacement therapy, which, of course, has since been eliminated from the sport. Bisping has always been viewed as a solid middleweight, capable of winning fights, but never considered truly great. Even after knocking out Luke Rockhold to obtain the title he so desperately sought, many believe his reign as champion is a fluke. He has a chance to silence those claims at UFC 204.
Dan Henderson, on the other hand, isn’t looking for validation in the last fight of his career — everyone recognizes his place in the sport — but he is seeking the last piece in what could be considered a top five MMA career of all time, a UFC belt.
Henderson has been one of MMA’s greatest superstars over the better part of the last two decades. He has won both the Pride middleweight and welterweight world titles in 2005 and 2007, along with the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in 2011.
The avid MMA fan knows Henderson is great, but he often gets overlooked when it comes time to talk about all-time greats. A victory at UFC 204 will end that preclusion. After all, a win gives Henderson an astonishing 33 victories in his MMA career. And if he walks away from the sport, at 45, as UFC middleweight champion, they’re going to have to make room on the UFC Mount Rushmore.
This fight is unique in the fact that while the outcome will affect someone’s spot among the sport’s most accomplished competitors, it is not career-defining for either fighter. Both Bisping and Henderson have had tremendous success at the highest level of the sport. They have nothing left to prove to anyone but themselves.
That is why people should tune in Saturday. Not because these are two up-and-coming fighters trying to make a name for themselves in the sport, but because these are two superstars, facing off one last time, trying to once and for all cement their legacies.
A writer and politican of all things college football and college basketball from Boise State to UCA and beyond.