One week after the biggest fight in UFC history between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez on Fox, fans may have witnessed one of the greatest fights and greatest cards in UFC history when Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua capped of a memorable UFC 139 event on Saturday night.
Rua and Henderson were fighting for a crowd that was nowhere near the size of the 8.8 million that witnessed UFC on Fox 1 in the United States alone last week. But that did not prevent them from putting on one of the greatest fights in not only UFC history, but MMA history, as well. The latter part of that statement is more special due to the fact that both of those men made their name in PRIDE, which is still held to the highest standard amongst longtime MMA fans who know their MMA history.
Henderson has long been known for his powerful overhand right punch. That was certainly display on Saturday, and much more than Shogun and his wife would ever want.
Henderson came close to ending the fight multiple times throughout the first three rounds, coming closest in the third. Credit referee Josh Rosenthal for allowing the fight to continue, as Shogun showed he was able to fight back.
That is just what he did, as Shogun was able to somehow recover from those shots that have put down so many opponents before him, including most recently, the legendary Fedor.
Shogun himself came close to ending the fight via strikes, albeit never as close as Henderson was. He displayed excellent guard defense, covering up to deflect Henderson’s strikes from ending the fight, and reversing the wrestler a few times to create his own offense.
Regarding the scoring of the fight, personally, I had the fight as a draw, giving the fifth round to Shogun with a 10-8 score. Henderson landed no significant strikes, and Shogun was able to pass into full mount five times.
At that point, Henderson was completely exhausted, which has become a problem for the 41-year old. It has been reported that he suffered from an illness the week of the fight, but regardless, with little defense and even less offense, Henderson showed nothing in that round to have it scored as a somewhat competitive 10-9.
The loss continues a pattern for Shogun, as he is now 4-0 in the UFC in all fights outside of the United States, and 0-4 inside the United States, including 3 losses in California.
This all came after a great sequence of fights preceding the main event.
Whether it was Wanderlei Silva coming back from the brinks of defeat (and possibly forced retirement) to defeat UFC newcomer Cung Le, Urijah Faber dismantling Brian Bowles to earn another title shot and opportunity against Dominick Cruz, and a great night of preliminary fights, this event stacks up next to the greatest in UFC history.
Biggest winner: Urijah Faber
Prior to the fight, a few pundits came into the main event thinking it could be a primer to see who the next person to challenge Jon Jones would be. With the war that took place, it does not seem we are any closer to determining that, as even in victory, Henderson did not prove he should be the next to take on the champion (barring he defeats Machida). That position still belongs to Rashad Evans, who is hopefully able to hold that position.
Regarding Faber, yes, he did earn the title shot that was promised to the winner of the fight. However, I feel a fighter should win at least two fights following a championship loss. Regardless, Faber looked very impressive against Bowles, as he will look to avenge his most recent loss in a rubber match with Dominick Cruz.
Biggest loser: Cung Le
Le looked excellent during the first round against The Axe Murderer. Unfortunately for Le, his cardio once again came into play, as Silva was able to demolish Le late in the second round. Just like in his loss to Scott Smith, Le put on a striking clinic, but after being unable to put him away, he was eventually knocked down and the referee decided to stop the fight.
Also just like the Smith defeat, Le’s face was destroyed, which puts his acting career into question. That career will be around longer than his MMA career, so every fight he enters can possibly be his last, due to both his age at 39-years old, and because of his budding acting career.
Biggest question: Where does Chris Weidman stand in the middleweight division?
Weidman was again incredibly impressive on Saturday, defeating Tom Lawlor in the first round with a D’arce choke. The former All-American wrestler has had a great 2011, easily winning all three of his fights in his debut year for the UFC. The New Yorker has, as mentioned, a strong wrestling pedigree, but also a strong BJJ arsenal that has been on display his last two matches, along to go with continually improving striking.
In the weak middleweight division, Weidman could be well on his way to the top of the division in just his second year in the organization.
Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua II:
This five round war will have an effect on these two for a while, and could possibly cause them both to never look the same. Those kinds of fights always leave some sort of mark on a fighter.
Regarding the pair’s future, Henderson’s place at 205 is confusing. Even as the Strikeforce champion, he did not look impressive enough to prove he is the true next contender for the championship. He has stated he would drop to 185 to fight Anderson Silva, and only Anderson Silva. The middleweight champion is recovering from a shoulder injury, and is not expected to fight until June 2012, against Chael Sonnen.
With a fight that was so close and so exciting, the best option available is to have them put it on again.
Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz III:
A rubber match is something never seen before at the smaller weights, and it seemed inevitable after the close decision that Cruz won over Faber at UFC 132 in July. Faber looked the best he ever has since joining the UFC on Saturday. Whether that transitions to the third matchup with Cruz is to be determined.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Retirement:
Prior to the matchup with Le, it was hinted that Dana White would ask that Silva retire if he lost. Even with the win, I feel it would be best for Silva to retire. Going out on a win in this fashion is the best way to leave for The Axe Murderer. His legacy is cemented, and he has already moved on to many non-UFC contributions, as he will be setting up a non-profit gym for lesser privileged kids in Las Vegas. In this matchup, I am obviously taking Silva via knockout.
Ryan Bader vs. Stephan Bonnar:
Bader made sure not to make 2011 a complete disaster, as he picked up his first win on the year against Brilz. Seeing as he took no damage, and he will want to ride the momentum, he will probably look to return to action rather soon. Bonnar also looked impressive, defeating Kyle Kingsbury to notch his first three fight win-streak in the UFC in over five years. The two behemoths of light heavyweights would certainly put on an exciting fight that will put the victor in the upper echelon of the division.
Michael McDonald vs. Takeya Mizugaki:
McDonald, at 20-years old, looks more outstanding every time he enters the octagon, and the knockout of the night performance was his best since joining the organization. He can prove he belongs in the top of the division with a victory over a tough opponent in Mizugaki. The Japanese star has struggled at times during his time in the WEC and UFC, but he has never failed to put on a great fight. A UFC 144 matchup in Japan would be a matchup that would be well received by the Japanese crowd.
Pictured: Dan Henderson (via UFC.com)