Countdown to Spider

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Posted February 28, 2008 in Arts & Culture

This Saturday night Temecula’s Dangerous Dan Henderson will fight Anderson “The Spider” Silva for the “unification” of the Pride and UFC Middleweight belts. Pride, of course, is dead . . . but that doesn’t mean it’s become Confederate money. The title is no less actual just because the belt has been bastardized by a business decision—Henderson still earned it with legitimate fists; he still clobbered Chonan with a wicked right, still destroyed the Axe Murderer with a spinning backfist, still disposed of Murilo Bustamante in 53 seconds like a loosed blood-dimmed tide. No matter that he crapped out in his close bout with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in London a few months back, Hendo gets a second chance to pick himself up a belt in the UFC at 185 pounds. Though this can’t be considered anything other than extreme speculation for extreme fighting, if Henderson ends up beating Silva, a small stretch of the imagination would divulge that he was thisfreakingclose to wearing four belts simultaneously, two theoreticals and two definitives, in two different weight classes, and with the sobering possibility that he could just keep cutting weight and destroy Matt Serra at 170 and then BJ Penn at 155, and then a small island of Japanese at 130 pounds, like a diminishing demon who disappears finally into a pile of belts.

He could, but he won’t. 

He’s too much of a gentleman. He’d rather beat up whoever’s put in front of him by Dana White, and in this case it’s the spirally Brazilian Silva whom many believe to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. Tell Hendo that and he smiles a most benevolently wicked smile, as if those sharp knees and elbows of Silva’s will be like snowballs crashing oaks on that miraculous chin of his. Hendo’s clinch is equally deadly, and he feels very comfortable (and safe) from that position. Greco wrestling, of which the former Olympiad Henderson is masterful, is tailor-made for moveable objects like the fleet-of-foot Spider. Or so the thinking goes.

But here’s the thing: Such rampant hype over how indomitable Spider is only nourishes Hendo’s inner-heart-of-hearts, and over the last few weeks, all through his training at Big Bear with the Snake Cyrille Diabate and the long trio of southpaw Frenchmen, he’s begun to undergo that strange atavistic transformation that boxers sometimes go through, when the man in all of his mortal domestic ways shifts to animal with no longer readable eyes. And for another, Henderson believes he can dump Silva onto the mat whenever he wants, where Silva is obviously most suspect and prone to submissions. And though he knows he can’t “out-slick” Silva toe-to-toe and that he’s most definitely inferior as a “technical fighter” on his feet, he also knows that it only takes one deafening right to tune the Brazilian blackbelt to channel zero. Small visualizations culled from camp insights (trainers Ryan Parsons and Darrell Gholar in his ear) and footage. All, of course, remains to be seen, but as the fight expert Robert Chavez says, “I’ve seen Hendo in a lot of fights, man, and he ain’t never got his ass kicked.”

One thing’s for sure—Hendo will be more aggressive. The harp has been that he was a little too tentative with Jackson in his last bout, and it’s been drilled into him by Parsons to commit and go.

“He’s fought a lot of guys who compliment his style,” Hendo said at his press day at the Team Quest Headquarters in Murrieta of Silva. “I knew he’d walk through them.” And truthfully Rich Franklin probably was fodder for the Silva’s Thai clinch, all those aerial strikes and the marksmen’s bony knees. He walked into them stumblebum, and made for a good cautionary example.

But Hendo is a bad match-up for Spider, and in a league of oscillating champions, all bets are that Henderson brings back the UFC’s Middleweight belt back to the IE.

Dan Henderson versus Anderson Silva, plus Keith Herring versus Cheick Kongo, Okami versus Tanner, Wilson versus Fitch, and more from Columbus, Ohio, UFC 82; Pay-per-view, 7PM, Saturday, March 1


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