The last time Dan Henderson met Vitor Belfort, the two fought in a ring under the Pride FC banner. Henderson won that fight, grabbing a unanimous decision.
From what “Hendo” remembers from the contest, he was on the winning end from bell to bell. The one thing he wishes he could have done better in that match is finish it before time ran out.
Being better now than he was back then, Henderson will look to finally get that finish on Saturday.
“It was a good fight. I just felt like I controlled and dominated the whole fight, but I didn’t finish him,” Henderson told reporters this week in Brazil. “That’s one thing I want to try and do: not leave it up to the judges this fight.
“I can’t say any one thing has changed, I’m just a better fighter … I’d kick my own ass from back then.”
Since the fight, both Henderson and Belfort have gone on to compete in different promotions and win match-ups in various countries. But since 2011, the two have called the UFC their home and now they’ll meet again, this time in the main event at UFC Fight Night 32.
When breaking down his opponent, Henderson noted the two recent wins on the Brazilian fighter’s record – knockouts stemming from head kicks. The two finishes Belfort collected in his most recent outings tells Henderson that someone’s been stepping up his game in the striking department.
“He’s improved a lot on his striking as well,” Henderson said of Belfort. “He moves his feet better than he used to. He moves his head and is more patient. And as we’ve seen in his last couple fights, he’s throwing some head kicks now.”
It will be a kind of homecoming for Henderson, even though Belfort will be the native son when the two fight in Brazil on Saturday night. Over 16 years ago, Henderson competed in his first two MMA fights in the South American country. UFC Fight Night 32 will be the first time he’s competed in Brazil since 1997.
With his career in its teenage years, Henderson is hoping he’ll have some fans in Saturday’s stands that remember his first Brazilian go-around.
“I was excited when they told me I was going to be fighting in Brazil again,” he said. “I had my first fights down here and haven’t been back since. Hopefully I have a couple Brazilian fans in the stands.”