Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans have a lot to prove at UFC 161 in Winnipeg. Win and they'll break a losing streak. Lose and they might never see a UFC light heavyweight championship belt around their waist.
Henderson lost his last bout with Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 last February. Evans has lost his last two fights against Ant¥nio Rog©rio Nogueira and Don Jones. Henderson and Evans haven't been on the winning side of a UFC fight since 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Throw in the fact their main-card match was bumped to the headliner after the Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland fight was cancelled and that's a lot of eyes turned their way. Including those of UFC president Dana White.
"I love when two really good wrestlers fight 'cause usually it ends up standing up and these are two really good wrestlers who can both knock you out, so it should be a good fight. And it's a big win for both of these guys. Both of these guys need this one bad," White said. "Anything is possible. They could lose this fight and go on an eight-fight win streak, but I'd say statistically it will be tough to come back from this loss."
Evans (17-3-1) goes into the fight with respect for the more experienced Henderson (29-9). But that doesn't mean he will let Henderson off easy.
"He's an old man, but he's still got young ambitions," Evans said. "Dan has a lot of tools and there's a lot of tools that he hasn't even used yet. I think one thing that Dan has been so effective at using is his overhand right. He hasn't had to use anything else for a while. But I think having a challenge and having to fight me I think has definitely forced him to go back to the things that made him effective before."
Henderson, 42, understands he might only have two more years left in him, but can stand toe-to-toe with anyone thanks to his experience in what is a very mental game. But when it's all said and done, it's Henderson's big right hand that Evans needs to look out for.
"I think every fight I'm looking for a knockout. So I would love to knock him out, I'd love to beat him up in every aspect of MMA. Take him down, pound on him, beat him in wrestling and beat him with striking. That's my goal for Saturday and we'll see if I can achieve that," Henderson said.
Despite Henderson's powerful punch, Evans believes he can counter with some force of his own.
"I believe I have the heavier punch," Evans said. "But Dan Henderson, his punch is legendary. He's silenced a lot of people with it."
Henderson's opponents have fallen under criticism for trying to avoid his punch and Evans is aware of what he's up against. He's even fine with taking a little criticism if he has to avoid it.
"I can take any criticism if I run. As long as it means I'm not picking my teeth up off the floor and being informed by the referee what happened to me after being knocked out by that big ass right hand," Evans said. "I'll do my best to avoid it, but at the same time I'm not going to run from it. I know I have power of my own and before the fight's over he's going to understand that."
Henderson won't be taking Evans lightly either. He acknowledges Evans is a tough competitor, but a bigger challenge means a greater reward.