Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua went to war for five rounds in an instant classic at UFC 139 this evening, with Hendo eventually coming out on top…but only just!
This fight was action-packed from start to finish.
Henderson had the best of the first round, dropping Shogun with his hammer of a right hand in the opening moments which left Shogun on all fours, before getting him in a headlock but then releasing it.
Shogun rose only to be met with a barrage of strikes forcing him to cover up, and when he re-emerged from his shell to throw a counter his face was bloodied badly.
The former champion would gain some retribution before the end of the round though when he dropped Henderson with a right hook behind the ear and finished the round taking the fight to him.
Hendo had Shogun hurt again in the second round as he backed him up with clean strikes and then unleashed an uppercut that landed flush and forced him to cover up again as he ripped more strikes in.
In the third round Henderson dropped Shogun with yet another fight hand and then looked for the finish with ground and pound, but the Brazilian wasn’t finished yet and countered with a leg lock that forced his opponent to back off.
Shogun, who’s face was by now sporting unsightly swellings along with a number of cuts, did manage to take Henderson down before the end of the round and launched a few left hands before he got back to his feet.
So far the fight had mainly been in Henderson’s favor, but in the fourth Shogun turned the tables, fighting through the pain and beginning to capitalize on the fact that his opponent was also now tiring after a series of takedowns and scrambles early in the round.
In the final two minutes of the round he lands a huge uppercut that rocked Henderson and followed up with a flurry of strikes that left Hendo reeling across the cage, barely able to stand.
Henderson was out on his feet and gasping for breath, but Shogun wasn’t able to put him away and opted for a takedown instead. He moved into mount and then got his back and looked for a rear-naked choke, but Henderson still had enough left to break free and somehow ended up on top as the round came to a close.
This remarkable fight couldn’t produce a winner in the final round, but despite having been through the wars and having the facial damage to prove it, Shogun was the one who came out with more purpose and energy for the final five minutes and was able to control a completely spent Henderson on the mat, though he couldn’t summon up the strength to provide a finish.
And so was down to the judges to decipher who wins this scintillating super-fight. They were all in agreement – Hendo got the nod 48-47 on all three scorecards.
This was truly a classic fight and was the perfect example of why the UFC made the right decision by recently making headliners five round even for non-title fights.
It’s just a shame there had to be a loser, and Shogun deserves enormous credit for being able to survive the early rounds and somehow still come on strong in the latter stages.
Hats off to Dan Henderson though who it shouldn’t be forgotten is now 41, yet still fights like a man half his age only with twice the power.