While UFC 173 may be a month away, its main card is still a work in progress.
UFC officials have been forced to rebuild the May 24 pay-per-view from the ground up after the event's initial lineup was torn apart by injuries and unusual circumstances. Now both original headliners are absent (Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort), two intriguing co-main events have been postponed to later dates (Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva and Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miotic), and the most unlikely of title challengers, T.J. Dillashaw, will vie for Renan Barao's bantamweight strap in the night's main event.
UFC officials have yet to make anything official, although Cormier's head coach Javier Mendez confirmed on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour that both the match-up and the switch are expected.
"That's what we're planning for," Mendez said of Cormier's calendar come May 24th. "Going against the H-bomb."
The date would be a quick turnaround for Henderson, as the 43-year-old was nearly knocked out twice during a recent March 23rd skirmish against Shogun Rua at UFC Fight Night 38.
"In that regard, it might be a little surprising," Mendez acknowledged. "Because I would think that maybe you'd want a little more time off. But you know what, maybe his thought process is, ‘I'm in shape now. I'm older, it's harder to stay in shape. Why don't I just take care of it now since I'm in shape?' That's what I would be thinking."
In part due to Henderson's age, and in part due to the beating Henderson sustained against Rua, Cormier has already been labeled an overwhelming favorite to defeat the veteran on his way to an inevitable light heavyweight title shot.
But, Mendez warns, the assumption that Cormier will handle Henderson with ease is both dangerous and misguided.
"If you watch [Henderson vs. Rashad Evans at UFC 161]... it could've gone either way, in my opinion. Yeah, Evans won that fight, but it could've gone either way," Mendez explained. "When Daniel was fighting Evans (at UFC 170), a lot of people didn't think Daniel was going to steamroll Evans.
"So here we got a guy (Henderson) that actually could've taken it from Evans when they just fought not too long ago. Outside of Vitor Belfort blowing him out, who's blown him out? Machida was a split decision also. So for us to think that we're going to blow him away, that's pretty ridiculous. He's very dangerous and very experienced, and we have to be cautious about that."
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