LAS VEGAS — Dan Henderson thinks Jon Jones still has a lot to learn — and that he’s just the one to teach it to the youngest champion in UFC history when they meet in September.
“He’s still young and unorthodox, that’s his biggest asset, [but] he’s young and sloppy a little bit,” Henderson said Saturday afternoon in the media center at the MGM Grand, just hours before tonight’s Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen title fight. “He’s done well with his style but I feel like he’s never fought anybody like me.”
Henderson sat at the long end of the dais, circled by a gaggle of media eager to discuss his forthcoming challenge for Jones’ UFC light heavyweight title. The fight, initially confirmed following Jones’ defense against Rashad Evans back in April, was officially announced Saturday for September 1 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The 41-year-old Henderson is a 4-to-1 underdog against Jones, who is coming off his third defense of the UFC light heavyweight title since becoming the youngest beltholder in the organization’s history in March 2011. The Rochester, N.Y., native has now beaten four current or former world champions in a row since a third-round TKO of Mauricio Rua to capture the UFC’s 205-pound strap.
“For me it’s about beating the top guys out there, and everybody thinks he’s unbeatable,” Henderson said. “I love having the odds not in my favor.”
Henderson said the sinewy Jones, who is 10-1 since joining the UFC (16-1 overall), poses some unique physical challenges — a 13-and-a-half reach advantage, for starters — yet nothing he won’t be prepared for.
“I guess the difference is he’s got arms twice as long as everybody else I’ve fought,” Henderson said. “But it’s not rocket science. I’ve been doing it a while. There’s certain things I need to be careful for that he does well. I’ve just got to be aware of that, and implement what I want to do with him.”
When asked about the 17-year age difference between the two, Henderson quipped, “I guess I’ll have to show him what he can look forward to.”
The next time the UFC holds a card as big as tonight’s Silva-Sonnen headliner, it will be Henderson in the spotlight. For tonight he’s content to watch from the wings, where, appropriately, he expects another underdog to rise to the moment.
“Chael,” he said matter-of-factly when asked for his prediction. “It seems like his head’s where it needs to be at.”
– Bryan Armen Graham