For years in the UFC, Randy Couture was dubbed Captain America and fought bravely to make sure that moniker earned hall-of-fame status.
His infamous comeback in 2007 aged 41 was impressive in its own right, slaying the giant Tim Sylvia to be crowned UFC heavyweight champion.
Couture went on to fight seven more times, with his last bout being in April 2011 when losing to Lyoto Machida, but Dan Henderson is now 43 years old and still winning fights at the very highest level, surely a man worthy of taking on the Captain America mantle moving forward.
Despite Couture having an amazing career, one that saw him hold both the UFC heavyweight Championship and light heavyweight title, it is nowhere near on the par of Henderson’s.
Looking at Couture’s record, it is fairly impressive. He’s seen off Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell when competing and is definitely a pioneer for modern mixed-martial-arts.
Nonetheless, Hendo has himself fought at much higher level of competition for a longer timeframe during his storied career.
Whilst fighting in PRIDE, he met the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort and Shogun Rua and also held the famous Japanese organisation's middleweight and welterweight titles at the same time.
It’s Henderson’s most recent performances that should gain him the name Captain America though. Couture gained the name in his later years, when he was facing people like Brandon Vera and Mark Coleman. Unfortunately, these names are not comparable in terms of star power to of the fighters Henderson has beaten in his later years.
All Superheroes have their enemies. Batman has The Joker, Spiderman has the Green Goblin. Henderson has faced a few enemies in his past. Fedor Emelianenko is one for Hendo. When Henderson met the Russian, it was just after ZUFFA had purchased Strikeforce.
Henderson knew that he was going to be added to the UFC roster when Strikeforce liquidated. The problems between Fedor and UFC President Dana White are infamous. They had been disputing for years as White tried to sign Fedor, however contract negotiations always broke down.
With Henderson now fighting for White, he was meeting the enemy. The enemy who caused White a lot of pointless trouble, an enemy who teased all MMA fans for months about a mouth-watering fight with then UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.
Fedor was viewed as invincible when he was the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion. Henderson on the other hand, is a natural middleweight and an underdog at 40 years old as he entered the cage with a Russian who had been dubbed the best fighter on the planet by some not long before.
Hendo had a war with Fedor and like all superhero’s, he came back when he was down. Fedor dropped Henderson with a flurry of strikes in round one. With Fedor reigning down strikes on him, the fight looked all but done with. Yet, Henderson survived and landed a huge right hand on the Russian after reversing him, that forced referee Herb Dean to end the fight. Henderson defeated the enemy and sent him into abyss in the most dramatic fashion.
All Superheroes too have their trusted weapon. Captain America has his shield, Thor has his hammer. Dan Henderson has his trusted H-Bombs. The power Henderson possesses in his right hand is possibly the most in MMA.
We have seen him land it countless times whilst competing. The knockouts of Michael Bisping, Wanderlei Silva and Rafael Cavalcante have all been via the use of the once two time PRIDE champion’s lethal weapon.
To this, all Superheroes have the heart and determination to get up when down. Henderson has been in many difficult positions when in the cage. In his fight against Fedor he was dropped however came back. In his two fights against Shogun, he has been battered multiple times in different rounds.
Henderson’s granite chin is something else. Despite having eleven losses on his record, he has only been finished one by Vitor Belfort in November 2013. If anything, you could compare Belfort to a villain in a hero’s comic. The use of TRT Belfort is on has been questionable and has given him ‘superhuman strength’, finishing Henderson, Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold all by head kick KO.
Further, all Superheroes are pushed to their absolute limit when facing their enemy. Hendo has been in some absolute wars over time. His epic first fight against Maurico ‘Shogun’ Rua at UFC 139 was an unbelievable encounter. It was completely back and forth throughout the whole fight, with hero and villain getting the upper hand at different stages of the fight. Despite Henderson being fully mounted by Shogun for the whole of the fifth round, Henderson hung on to have his hand raised.
If you compare Henderson’s record to Couture, the two share little similarities. Whereas Henderson beat former UFC light heavyweight champion Shogun twice, and has lost two very close split decision fights to former champions Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida.
Couture on the other hand beat average opponents in Vera, Mark Coleman (who was also well into his 40s’) and boxer James Toney in his first MMA bout. Couture’s last fight against Lyoto Machida really showed that he was not on the same level as Dan Henderson, as he was dominated throughout the fight before being finished by a devastating crane kick.
I’m not taking anything away from Randy Couture’s career. He done absolutely great things, some that we will never see inside the cage again. Yet, Dan Henderson is the one who deserves the nickname Captain America. He ticks all the boxes of being a true superhero who has the qualities of being the very best with his back against the wall.
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