If UFC 204 is truly Dan Henderson's swan song, it was a fitting sendoff.
The 46-year-old Henderson came within inches of capturing the UFC middleweight title on Saturday night in Manchester, England, as Henderson downed Michael Bisping twice with his fabled right hand before fading in the championship rounds and dropping a contentious unanimous decision at UFC 204.
"I had it even going into the last round, and I had Bisping winning the last round," UFC president Dana White said on FOX Sports 2 following the fight.
"Dan Henderson, I tweeted during the fight that he's built out of leather and rock, man. The guy is so durable, so tough, was in the fight the whole time. I never pictured that thing being a competitive five-round fight. I thought Henderson might catch him early, like he did, or Bisping would just pick him apart and be too fast for him throughout the fight. It was a damn good fight."
Now retired, Henderson is an icon and pioneer of the sport who made his UFC debut all the way back in 1998, when he won two fights in one night to claim the UFC 17 middleweight tournament crown. A two-time Olympian, Henderson went on to become one of the most decorated fighters ever, capturing titles in Rings, Strikeforce, and Pride FC, while also establishing his "H-Bomb" as one of the most feared weapons in the history of mixed martial arts.
Henderson made it clear that he was walking off into the sunset after UFC 204, win or lose, however he nearly penned his own storybook ending on his way out, as he toppled Bisping with right-hand bombs in each of the opening two rounds in the pair's championship rematch. "Hendo" ultimately slowed as Bisping swept the final three rounds on the judges' scorecards, but still he left the battered Brit far worse for wear, and White couldn't help but be impressed by the final performance of a surefire UFC Hall of Famer.
"At his age now -- what is he, is he 46? -- he's 46; I'm 47, I can barely get on a treadmill in the morning, let alone go in and fight five-round main events in another country," White said. "Dan Henderson is an absolute warrior, one of the toughest guys to ever do it, and he's still scary at this age and everything. If he didn't want to retire today, he's still scary to people in that division."
Henderson now exits the sport with a 32-15 record and a laundry list of impressive wins over big names, while Bisping moves forward having secured his first successful defense of the UFC title he improbably won with a first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. But while Bisping left the Manchester Arena victorious on Saturday, the road only gets tougher from here as the top-four of the middleweight division -- Chris Weidman, Rockhold, Ronaldo Souza, and Yoel Romero -- are expected to vie for the next shot at Bisping's belt as 2016 comes to a close.
"The division is very exciting right now," White said. "Basically, over the next couple of shows, we have this whole tournament going on in that weight class, which is going to be fun and which will determine who will fight Bisping next."