- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- While describing UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to media last weekend, No. 1 contender Dan Henderson used many of the terms we’ve grown accustomed to hearing -- lengthy, unorthodox, devastating elbows.
He may have added a brand new one, though: sloppy.
“He’s young and sloppy a little bit,” Henderson said. “He still has a lot to learn, technically.”
Henderson (29-8) is listed as a heavy underdog for the September title fight against Jones at UFC 151 in Las Vegas.
Despite the fact Henderson holds one of the most impressive resumes in the sport’s history, many believe his only shot at defeating Jones (16-1) would be to land his signature overhand right.
The former Pride and Strikeforce champion says he isn’t obsessed with landing that right hand and believes his style is conducive to winning the fight in a variety of ways.
If the knockout happens, terrific. If not, he’ll claim rounds over the champ.
“My focus is to win every round, not to land the ‘H-bomb,’” Henderson said. “I’ll make sure I win every round and if I hit him good along the way, hopefully it knocks him out.
“A lot of people who think [Jones is unbeatable] have never fought before. They see what he’s done from the outside. He’s done well with his style but I feel like he’s never fought anybody like me. [My style] really goes well against someone like him.”
Henderson earned his shot at Jones with a taxing decision win over Mauricio Rua in November, arguably one of the greatest fights in UFC history.
Prior to that, he had recorded three straight finishes, including a first-round knockout against all-time great Fedor Emelianenko and a third-round finish over Rafael Cavalcante for the Strikeforce 205-pound belt.
None of those, however, were perceived to pose the challenge to Henderson as Jones does. The 24-year-old champion has run through four former UFC champions in his last four fights: Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans.
Henderson acknowledges Jones’s awkwardness is part of what has made him great, but says it leaves plenty of openings to expose.
“I’ll never go into a fight or accept a fight if I didn’t think I could beat the other guy up,” Henderson said.
Henderson added UFC light heavyweight and teammate Cyrille Diabate has been instrumental in preparing for Jones. Diabate’s reach is typically listed at 81.5 inches, which compares to the 84.5-inch wingspan of Jones.
At 41, Henderson says he hasn’t considered his exit strategy from the sport; in fact, it’s a far thought from his mind as he prepares for what could be his final shot at winning a UFC title. He’s come up short in two previous title fights.
Should he pull of the upset, Henderson says that defending the belt does still interest him at this stage in his career. That question is irrelevant, though, if he doesn’t knock off Jones.
“I’d like to do that but first I need to make sure I beat Jon Jones,” Henderson said.
21dAndrew R. Davis