Today Dan Henderson completes his trilogy with Vitor Belfort, where they are currently 1-1, but this isn’t Dan’s only multi fight rivalry.
Here are the top 5- (updated)
Dan Henderson vs Renato “Babalu” Sobral
Their rivalry started over 15 years ago, in the Rings King of Kings tournament final. Both men fought three times in one night in this open weight tournament. Dan was severely outsized but managed to win a close decision.
Their rivalry continued in Strikeforce, Babalu was the former champ at 205 and the winner would receive a title shot. Dan ended the rematch quickly with a Knockout to end the rivalry.
Rivalry winner- Hendo
4. Dan Henderson vs Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira
Nogueira has cemented himself as an all time great, but the future UFC and Pride champ was just getting started when this rivalry began. On the same night Dan beat Babalu in Rings, he first had to get passed top ten heavyweight- Nogueira. The fight was not very action packed and Dan won a VERY controversial decision that most feel Nogueira won.
A few years later in PrideFc, Nogueira needed an opponent on short notice, step in Hendo. Severely outsized he accepted the fight and made it a fight. But his H-Bombs and takedowns had little effect on Nog who ended the fight via submission.
Rivalry winner- Nogueira (but he did have a 30lbs weight advantage)
3. Dan Henderson vs Vitor Belfort
Their rivalry began nearly a decade ago in Pride. Dan was the Pride 183lbs champ and He accepted a fight with Vitor at 205. Dan weighed less than 200lbs while Vitor cut to make 205 giving Vitor a huge size advantage. It wouldn’t matter. Dan dominated the fight with takedowns and took and easy 30-27 decision.
Fast forward to 2013 in the UFC, Dan accepted a rematch at 205. Though Vitor was moving up weight, he was still the bigger man. Vitor caught Dan early and finished him a minute in by KO, the first KO loss of Dan’s career.
Chapter 3 was nearly the same as 2- Dan lasted a bit longer but ducked into a head kick and was finished again.
Rivalry winner- Vitor Belfort
2. Dan Henderson vs Wanderlei Silva
Wanderlei Silva was Pride’s best 205er, and Dan Henderson was a 195lbs undefeated Rings and UFC tournament champion. Dan would suffer His first ever defeat at the hands of Wanderlei Silva. It was a back and forth fight but with several knockdowns, it was clear Wanderlei had won the fight.
Years later, Hendo was the 183lbs champion and Wanderlei was the ONLY Pride 205 champion. Dan would even the score, KOing Wanderlei ending his long title reign and becoming the first fighter to win two legit world titles in different weight classes simultaneously.
1. Dan Henderson vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
They both fought in Pride together for years, Dan even beat his brother “Ninja” and his close friend and parter Wanderlei Silva but the fight never came to be. It was even rumored Dan’s first Pride middleweight title defense would be against Shogun. But Pride went out of business and closed the door on the fight.
Fast forward 4 years and Shogun is now the number 2 205er in the world and a former UFC champ earlier that year. Dan was the current Strikeforce 205 champ and was coming off a KO over former Pride heavyweight champion- Fedor Emelianenko. It was the perfect fight for Hendo’s UFC return.
Dan started their five round main event furiously, rocking Shogun several times in round 1. Round 2 was another one sided round and round 3, Hendo dropped a major H-bomb and nearly finished Shogun. Shogun was able to get back up and hold Hendo against the cage and stall until he recovered and even got a takedown of his own.
Round 4 was the closest round of the fight- Dan starred strong, but was rocked late and mounted. Hendo would reverse the mount and land an elbow.
The final round saw a gassed Hendo taken down and dominated via mount and ground and pound.
In in the end Hendo won a 48-47 unanimous decision/ in a fight that could have been a draw. The fight was almost unanimously considered fight of the year.
Years later, both on the downside they were matched up again but it would go much differently.
In round 1 Hendo briefly dropped Shogun with a left hook. As he over aggressively followed up Hendo was countered by Shogun and even briefly knocked out it appeared before recovering and surviving the round.
Round 2 saw Hendo dropped again with an uppercut and mostly dominated. But round 3 it all changed. Dan landed a huge punch to the Nose, shattering shoguns nose and finishing the fight ending their rivalry.
Rivalry winner- Hendo
(photo credit- MMA Weekly, Evil Master ZUFFA)