UFC 161 headliner Dan Henderson has experience on his side

Dan Henderson is a former Olympic wrestler who has become one of the most powerful strikers in UFC

Dan Henderson is a former Olympic wrestler who has become one of the most powerful strikers in UFC

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 PM ET

Dan Henderson isn’t afraid to lean on his experience.

When the 42-year-old Californian steps into the octagon for Saturday night’s main event of UFC 161 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, you’ll have to excuse him for not being intimidated about being on the marquee.

“This is definitely an experience sport and hopefully that shows on Saturday,” Henderson said during UFC 161 media day. “Hopefully I’m not getting worse the more years I do it. You typically get better at something. I’m getting older, but I still feel great physically.

“The more experienced you are, the less mistakes you try to make. In every fight, I’m looking for a knockout. I would love to beat him in every aspect of MMA. Beat him on the ground, beat him in wrestling and beat him in striking. That’s my goal for Saturday and we’ll see if I can achieve that.”

Nobody is suggesting a loss will lead to Henderson’s retirement, but it would certainly be a serious blow to his chances to get himself a title shot.

Henderson, who is 29-9 in his career and is coming off a split-decision loss to Lyoto Machida in UFC 157, has been subjected to pressure-packed situations plenty of times, even before he got into mixed martial arts.

On two separate times, Henderson competed for the United States in the Olympics in the sport of Greco Roman wrestling.

“I wouldn’t trade any of my Olympic experiences for anything I’ve done since,” said Henderson, who placed 10th in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and was 12th at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. “It’s something that I cherish that will be with me forever. It made me a bit more of a Patriotic person too, to represent my country.”

Being able to compete on home soil was extra special for Henderson.

“I was the first American to come out and wrestle in that (1996) Olympics, it was pretty neat,” said Henderson. “They were waiting for someone to come out and I just happened to be the guy.”

With the threat of having amateur wrestling eliminated from the Olympics in 2016, Henderson is voicing his concern and trying to prevent that from happening.

“I’ve been doing what I can and it will be on my shorts again on Saturday,” said Henderson, who once held both the welterweight and middleweight PRIDE titles at the same time.

So how does an Olympic wrestler become one of the most powerful strikers in the sport?

“I don’t know, I just like doing it,” he said. “Anything that anybody likes to do, they’re going to get better at it real quick. I knew I hit hard and it was only a matter of time before I got technically better and started knocking guys out.”

That reputation as a puncher carries a lot of weight.

“It’s not a bad thing to have, to precede you,” said Henderson. “It definitely puts guys a little more on the nervous side when they fight you, for sure.”

Henderson has a pretty good idea of how Evans (22-3-1) will try to attack him in what is scheduled to be a three-round bout in the light heavyweight division.

“I expect that he’ll probably try to punch me in my face a few times and probably try to take me down too,” said Henderson. “It will be a chess match. He’s quick and dangerous on his feet and he’s a good wrestler.

“The bigger the challenge, the more excited I get to fight.”

Evans had plenty of complimentary things to say about Henderson on Thursday, calling him one of the best mixed martial arts fighters America has ever produced.

“Dan is extremely strong and he’s a good wrestler,” said Evans. “He has a lot of power in that right hand and if he delivers that right hand, he can put you to sleep.”


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