By Case Keefer
Las Vegas Sun
In the aftermath of the UFC’s first-ever canceled event five months ago, everyone empathized with at least one of the involved parties.
Some sided with UFC President Dana White, who was enraged after Jon Jones turned down a last-minute fight with Chael Sonnen and bemoaned the loss of millions it caused the promotion. Others felt sorry for Jones having to endure the infamous wrath of White.
But neither Jones nor White ended up losing the most from UFC 151 in the long run. The two true victims of the whole situation meet in the co-main event of UFC 157 on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.: Dan Henderson (29-8 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Lyoto Machida (18-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC).
“Just like any fight nowadays, there’s a lot on the line,” Henderson said nonchalantly. “It’s definitely going to be a huge challenge.”
Henderson knows the stakes aren’t quite what they were supposed to be for his next fight, though. Henderson was set to challenge Jones in the main event of UFC 151.
Machida awaited the winner. Both ended up losing their spot in the title queue when the UFC scrapped the event.
Henderson had to pull out with an injured knee, which started the ripple effect. Machida was unable to fill in immediately and then turned down an opportunity to face Jones three weeks later at UFC 152.
“I obviously wanted a title shot a lot, but it wasn’t the right situation,” Machida said through a translator. “I had about 20 days to prepare for the fight and Jon Jones had been training for two or three months. It wasn’t the right time to do it. Everything happens for a reason, and hopefully I can get back on top this year.”
Watch four UFC 157 preliminary fights Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific. In addition, catch bonus early prelims on Sportsnet.ca starting at 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT.
There are no guarantees even though Henderson and Machida are ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 light heavyweights, respectively, in the latest UFC rankings.
White said Henderson would face the winner of Jones vs. Sonnen if he defeated Machida, who didn’t receive the same promise. In fact, it’s likely Machida would have to fight again, with White saying Alexander Gustafsson, who meets Gegard Mousasi at UFC on FUEL TV 9 on April 6, is also on a verge of a championship fight.
Machida openly protested.
“Whoever wins should definitely be the contender for the title,” Machida said. “If we’re No. 1 and No. 2, then the title shot should definitely be on the line with this fight.”
Machida’s attitude clashes with Henderson’s going into UFC 157. After not fighting for 15 months and having to pull out of a bout for the first time in his career, the 42-year-old won’t sit idle for long.
“I’m not going to wait around for a title shot,” Henderson said. “If the timing is not right, I’ll fight somebody else that’s the top guy and I’ll knock them off. But I also feel like I’ll be the guy to beat.”
Henderson can thank the UFC 151 fiasco for the development of that mindset.
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