The Uncrowned King | Dan Henderson | 2001 to 2007


Hendo is one of the most revered fighters in the history of MMA. The reason he is listed first here is not only because of the sheer depth of competition from the very beginning of his career - but also the number of weight classes he competed in. Known early on as "Decision Dan", Hendo used his Greco-Roman Wrestling credentials to take his opponent down to land ground and pound (and sometimes win close decisions). Just three years into his career, he had already beaten the likes of Carlos Newton, Big Nog, Gilbert Yvel, and Babalu over the course of two tournaments. Throughout his historic career, Hendo dropped his patented "H-Bomb" on many victims. His wrestling along with his power and durability carried him to some impressive feats: he is a former PRIDE Welterweight and Middleweight Champion, a former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, and is the second fighter to hold a belt in two weight classes at the same time. He also challenged for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship one time, the UFC Middleweight Championship 2x, and the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship once.

Scoring the Best Resume

I have created a simple point-based system to help determine the highest ranked fighter. The system I created is simply too much information for this article so if you'd like to see exactly how I came up with these results, you can see the criteria here.

The Basics

Organizations: UFC, PRIDE, Strikeforce, RINGS

Weight Class(es): Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight, Heavyweight

Years Active: 1997-2016

MMA Record: 32-15

Win Percentage: 68%

Finishing Rate: 56%

Best Wins: Fedor, Big Nog, Wanderlei Silva, Shogun Rua x2, Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, Michael Bisping, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Renzo Gracie

His Wins

His defeat of Big Nog in 2000 was great - however, Nogueira had yet to rise to the legend he would later become in PRIDE against guys like Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman and Heath Herring. Dan's career ended just like it began - littered with top quality opponents. I will be omitting the three tournaments Hendo fought in early in his career, because they were openweight (and not in major organizations). In just his fourth pro fight he faced The Ronin himself, Carlos Newton. Let's take a look at all of Henderson's top wins. When looking at Hendo's top wins, lets keep in mind that there are some notable differences between PRIDE FC and the UFC. The Middleweight division in the UFC had a weight limit of 199 pounds pre-UFC 33, and a limit of 185 pounds post-UFC 33. The same weight class in PRIDE had a limit of 205 pounds (what we now know as Light Heavyweight). For the purposes of scoring, we will consider 205 pounds to be Dan's "home", as he won two of his three belts there and that's where his most sustained run of success was.

Event: UFC 17

Opponent: Carlos Newton

Opponent's Ranking: 15 (Middleweight - 199 lbs)

Result: Win // Split Decision

Score: 1.5 points


After getting rocked early by a right hook, Henderson recovered and put Carlos on his back several times. Although he had to survive Newton's own takedowns and submission attempts from the bottom, Hendo took home a split decision win after this back and forth affair.

Event: PRIDE 13

Opponent: Renzo Gracie

Opponent's Ranking: 4 (Middleweight - 205 lbs)

Result: Win // KO (punch)

Score: 6 points


Dan's next significant win was none other than Renzo Gracie - he had wins over Otsuka and Maurice Smith, and was the number 4 ranked Middleweight at the time. After stuffing a few early takedown attempts from Renzo, Henderson landed a powerful right uppercut as Gracie was shooting in. After two more unanswered strikes on the ground, the fight was stopped.

Event: PRIDE Final Conflict 2003

Opponent: Murilo Bustamante

Opponent's Ranking: 10 (Middleweight - 205 lbs)

Result: Win // TKO (Punches)

Score: 4 points


Let's be real here. Murilo was undoubtedly one of the best Middleweights on the planet for a long time. He stopped Dave Menne to win the UFC Middleweight belt at UFC 35, and defended that belt against Matt Lindland at UFC 37. At the time Hendo fought him, he was ranked at both 185 pounds and 205 pounds. This contest turned out to be a short one. After missing on a right hand, Hendo sprawled on a takedown attempt and landed a left knee to Bustamante's face. He followed up with a barrage of punches and the fight was over in less than a minute.

Event: PRIDE 28

Opponent: Kazuhiro Nakamura

Opponent's Ranking: 10 (Middleweight - 205 lbs)

Result: Win // TKO (Shoulder Injury)

Score: 2 points


Known for his flashy entrances to the ring, PRIDE Judoka Kazuhiro Nakamura was Hendo's next opponent. After taking a right hand from Dan early on, Kaz shot in for a single leg. Moments later Hendo can be seen on the ground kneeing Nakamura in the head from top position, and the fight is stopped moments later. It appears as though Dan was pulling Kaz's upper body towards him when throwing the knees, likely to generate more power. Within seconds, the fight was stopped due to an injury to Nakamura's left shoulder.

Event: PRIDE Shockwave 2004

Opponent: Yuki Kondo

Opponent's Ranking: 8 (Middleweight - 205 lbs)

Result: Win // Split Decision

Score: 3 points

Hendo then faced the experienced Kenpo practitioner and Japanese Gangster, Yuki Kondo. After being taken down and dominated on the ground for much of the first two rounds, Hendo came back to out strike and out grapple Fudoshin in the third frame. He ended the fight in side control and was declared the winner via controversial split decision.

Event: PRIDE Bushido 9

Opponent(s): Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono

Opponent(s) Ranking: 5 (Welterweight - 183 lbs), 12 (Welterweight - 183 lbs)

Result: Win // TKO (Punches), Win // KO (Punches)

Score: 9 points (0.5 bonus points given in each for moving down in weight)



I grouped Chonan and Akihiro together because Dan beat them both on the same night for the 2005 PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix. In the fight against Chonan to open his night, Henderson landed two right hands in the first exchange of the opening round to knock the karateka down. He didn't have to follow up for long, as the referee stopped the fight at just 22 seconds into the fight.

After beating Ryo in the first round, Hendo went on to face Akihiro Gono. In the early moments of the fight, Dan dropped Gono with a jab. They spent most of the remaining time exchanging on the feet, which led to Henderson landing multiple Wanderlei-style left hook-right hook combinations. He dropped Gono against the corner ropes, and the fight was stopped at 7:58 of the first round.

Event: PRIDE Shockwave 2005

Opponent: Murilo Bustamante

Opponent's Rank: 3 (Welterweight - 183 lbs)

Result: Win // Split Decision

Score: 5 points (0.5 bonus points given for moving down in weight)


Dan faced Bustamante for the second time at PRIDE Shockwave on New Year's Eve in 2005. This time, the stakes were higher: The winner of this fight would not only win the PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix, they would also become the PRIDE Welterweight Champion. More competitive than their first fight and much longer, the early parts of the fight were spent with the combatants exchanging takedowns and submission attempts. After multiple striking exchanges and several guillotine attempts by Henderson, both guys were exhausted at the sound of the final bell. Based on the damage done by Hendo over three rounds, the judges awarded him the decision. The score given to Dan here is based on the fact that while he did challenge for the undisputed belt, Murilo was not the belt holder and essentially the fight was for the debuting Welterweight Championship. At the time there was no PRIDE Welterweight Champion, Hendo would be the only champion in that division before the UFC bought out PRIDE FC.

Event: PRIDE 32

Opponent: Vitor Belfort

Opponent's Rank: 10 (Middleweight - 205 lbs)

Result: Win // Unanimous Decision

Score: 3


After a disappointing loss to Misaki in a rematch that prevented Dan from exiting the first round of the 2006 PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix, he faced Vitor Belfort. After a brief exchange on the feet early, Hendo was able to take Belfort down and control top position for the majority of the round. In the second, Vitor curiously pulled guard. Henderson capitalized on this by pounding away at Vitor's skull for the entire round. While the third round look similar to the first two, the Phenom swept Hendo from half guard and was able to gain top position. Henderson was able to escape this a minute later, as he obtained side control off of a scramble and landed some heavy shots. Dan Henderson came away with the unanimous decision win.

Event: PRIDE 33

Opponent: Wanderlei Silva

Opponent's Rank: 3 (Middleweight - 205 lbs)

Result: Win // KO (punches)

Score: 8 points

Susumu Nagao's Photograph

After beating Vitor Belfort at PRIDE 32, the very next event saw Hendo dethrone the reigning PRIDE Middleweight champion: The Axe Murderer, Wanderlei Silva. Wandy had held the Middleweight belt since 2001, defending it four times and winning the 2003 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix during his run. At Middleweight Silva was virtually unbeatable, so you can understand why he was expected to continue his reign of terror against Henderson. Dan, however, had other plans. After a quick takedown, Silva spent the first several minutes of the fight controlling top position in Dan's full guard. Wandy ended the round by stunning Dan. Henderson was able to secure a takedown in the second, controlling Wanderlei and doing some heavy damage from inside the guard. In the third, Hendo failed on a takedown attempt and then eventually landed a huge left hook, which put Wandy completely out. Hendo landed his famous superman shot, and the fight was stopped.

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