Several years ago, mixed martial arts, more specifically the UFC, took over from boxing as the number one combat sport in the world. The reasons for this are still up for discussion, even today. However, one of the strategies the UFC used in its rise up the sports ladder was to stack cards – to make the undercard just as valuable as the main event. Meanwhile, the “sweet science” of boxing has always been a marquee, one fight promoted event. This Saturday at UFC Fight Night 32 from Brazil, the UFC goes the way of boxing.
While no disrespect is meant, this Saturday’s Fight Night card, headlined by Dan Henderson vs. Vitor Belfort is for all intended purposes, a one fight card. Yes, the hardcore MMA fan will be excited to see Cezar Ferreria finally battle Daniel Sarafian, the general fan is excited for one fight and one fight only.
Henderson and Belfort are legends in the world of MMA – and both are fighting for more than just reputations or legacies on Saturday. For Belfort, a win on Saturday vaults him to the front of the line for a UFC Middleweight title shot, while a dominant performance by Henderson in enemy territory keeps him in the mix for a title shot at light heavyweight or middleweight, even coming off two losses.
While it may seem like Belfort has everything to lose on Saturday with a loss, it is Henderson who is backed into a career corner. As legendary and as popular as he might be, the retirement sign has been hanging above his head after two close losses to Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. However, Henderson believes there’s more in the tank, and who are we as an audience to tell him he’s wrong? A strong outing on Saturday will prove to MMA fans and UFC brass, that Henderson isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet.
For Vitor Belfort, his career resurgence is a nothing short of a great story, coming off decisive victories against Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold. However, the story has some asterisks within it due to his use of testosterone replacement therapy. While technically, he’s doing nothing illegal, other fighters have questioned the legitimacy of his rebirth due to to the controversial practice. Will a victory over Dan Henderson silence those critics? Probably not. Does Belfort care? The answer is probably the same. A victory seals a probable title shot, and for “The Phenom”, that’s all that truly matters.