On a night filled with great action and terrific finishes, the UFC Fight Night main event between Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua provided us with another spectacular finish in what would prove to be the Fight of the Night in Natal, Brazil.
The opening round of this light heavyweight rematch was fought at a more measured pace, as opposed to the frantic nature of their first meeting in 2011. Shogun chopped away at Henderson's legs, while Henderson kept searching for that famed H-Bomb right hand. It was Henderson who first hurt Shogun with a left, but Henderson himself was knocked down by a left hook. Shogun had the chance to salt it away early but Hendo's chin held up and the fight went to a 2nd round.
Henderson badly missed on a takedown to the point where he careened himself into the fence. Seconds later he was sent to the canvas by Shogun following a big uppercut, but unlike the 1st round, Shogun could only manage to lay in Henderson's guard and not add to the damage. After two rounds it was clearly all Rua and Henderson needed something in the last 3 rounds to get the victory.
Round 3 saw Henderson keep searching for the right hand as Shogun dictated the pace and was keen to stand in front of him. The two men went into a clinch and as they separated ... the H-Bomb detonated. Shogun flew back and was badly stunned, and Henderson moved in on the vulnerable Brazilian and started throwing several strikes, of which the legality of them have been called into question, to Shogun's head, and Herb Dean called it off. An incredible comeback by Henderson much to the dismay of the Brazilian fans in attendance. Official Result: Dan Henderson def. Mauricio Rua via TKO (punches) at 1:31, round 3.
What was the high point of the fight?
It's a cop-out to say the KO, so I'll pinpoint the late 1st round where Shogun was briefly buzzed by a left hand from Henderson and as Henderson came forward, Shogun dropped him with a left hook. As Shogun pounced it looked like Henderson was on his way towards a 1st round loss, but he survived and obviously went on to win.
Where do these two go from here?
Well that's a loaded question. Shogun (22-9) is now 3-5 in his last 8 and this is just about the first time I can recall him failing to finish off an opponent he had badly hurt. He was absolutely starched by that right hook from Henderson and that might just shut the door on him fighting top 10 ranked guys again. With the damage piling up, I'd prefer retirement, but I guess Shogun will just go on the senior circuit until he calls it a career.
Henderson (30-11) snaps a 3 fight losing streak in some style, and while the performance itself indicates a considerable decline, his power is still there and it showed against Rua in that 3rd round. Any talk of him being a title contender should be instantly defused, but he's obviously not finished competing against the best the UFC's 205 lbs division has to offer, so he'll probably continue getting those match-ups for however long he has left in the sport.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Now. Obviously won't live up to the first fight, but it was still filled with action and a highly climactic and unbelievable finish.