Dan Henderson can feel age advancing when he awakes in the morning and the aches of climbing from bed hit.
But the 42-year-old Murrieta fighter soaks up enough energy in training camp to speculate there is no reason he can’t defeat former Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida on Feb. 23 at Honda Center, and return to a title shot of his own.
“He’s obviously pretty good at not being around, being evasive, then rushing forward and striking when he wants, but I plan to pressure him … hit him more than he hits me,” Henderson told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone conversation Wednesday morning.
“I’m confident I won’t let him stay on the outside of me and pick me apart because of my pressure. I’ll be cutting him off, trying to take him down, get him in a clench.”
Henderson had a September title shot at UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but Henderson tweaked an injury to the medial collateral ligament of his right knee and the fight was canceled.
Instead of waiting for Henderson, the UFC summoned charismatic former middleweight Chael Sonnen to fight Jones in April and star in “The Ultimate Fighter” reality television series currently airing on FX.
It appears obvious the winner of the Henderson-Machida bout -- a three-round fight that will serve as the co-main event to the first UFC women’s title fight between champion Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche -- will get the Jones-Sonnen winner later this year, but Henderson still chafes at being replaced.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve got it until it happens,” Henderson said of a title shot. “I have to make sure I win this fight. If I do, it should happen, and if it doesn’t, the fans will be missing a great fight.”
Henderson, by the way, distanced himself from the comments of his former boxing coach who said Rousey should not be in the Anaheim main event.
Henderson said he plans to watch Rousey fight, and is pleased his fight "is just three rounds instead of five," like Rousey's, "with me returning from this knee."
Henderson did not undergo knee surgery after the August training camp injury, relying instead on a rehab program.
“I’m still being careful with it, doing exercises to ensure it’s 100%,” Henderson said. “It’s stable now. I’m just careful with it because it hasn’t given me trouble for quite some time.”
Should the knee remain sound in the fight -- a big if considering Machida, 34, is a karate master capable of delivering punishing leg kicks -- Henderson says his built-in wisdom as a former PRIDE and UFC title fighter should decide the fight.
A powerful puncher, Henderson is also a skilled wrestler. His most recent fight was a victory over another ex-UFC light-heavyweight champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
“No matter where the fight goes, I feel I have plenty of experience to be there with any younger guy … my strength and conditioning is still there,” he said. “I’m most dangerous on my feet, so this is a matchup that makes for an exciting fight.”