In the history of the UFC, there are few bouts that could be considered the greatest of all time.
Tito Ortiz vs. Frank Shamrock ranks up there, and of course the iconic battle to close out season 1 of the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
On Saturday night at UFC 139, Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua did their part to claim a piece of the greatest fight in MMA history with a five round classic that words can barely do justice.
After conquering the best of the best in Strikeforce, Dan Henderson returned to the UFC on Saturday night with a goal of fighting for the UFC light heavyweight title in short order. Meanwhile, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua had the same thought in mind after losing the belt to Jon Jones earlier this year, but returning to form with a dominant win over Forrest Griffin in his native Brazil.
As the fight started, Henderson came out strong and threw his patented right hand, aptly nicknamed the ‘H-Bomb’, straight at Shogun’s head. While the Brazilian avoided it in the beginning, it didn’t take Henderson to find a home for his deadliest punch.
Henderson uncorked a punch that put Rua in trouble and as they two fighters pushed towards the cage, it was the American who opened a machine-gun like barrage to try and get the finish. Miraculously, Shogun survived, but as they separated he was wearing a crimson mask with blood streaming down the side of his face.
The fighters battled back and forth in the 2nd round, but in the third round Henderson again cracked Rua with a huge right hand that floored the Brazilian. Henderson followed up with shot after shot, trying as hard as he could to finish Rua, but like a character out of Robert Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’, the Brazilian simply would not go away.
“That guy can take a effin’ punch,” Henderson said.
“I hit him hard and clean a few times and I should have had him finished there, but the gas tank was running a little low at that point.”
When Henderson finished the third round it was clear that his cardio was depleted, and the 4th and 5th rounds were Shogun’s best chance to win.
Rua pushed the pace and went after Henderson with everything that he had. In the final round with Henderson in desperate need of oxygen, Rua got the mount multiple times and blasted away with punches, searching for a way to put Henderson away.
As relentless as Rua was in his attack, Henderson kept moving and slipping out of the mount to keep away from too much trouble.
The final round sounded with Rua in the mount and the crowd in San Jose on their feet, cheering one of the greatest fights in MMA history.
The judges’ scores came back a clean sweep at 48-47 with Dan Henderson getting the victory, but the real winners were the millions of fans that had the pleasure of watching two icons of the sport battle for 25-minutes in an epic blood-spattered, bone crunching classic.
Henderson has been involved in some wars in the past, but when asked by commentator Joe Rogan if that was the toughest fight of his career he answered ‘it very well could be’.
Technically, Mauricios ‘Shogun’ Rua walks away from UFC 139 with a loss on his record, but much like Griffin and Bonnar in 2006, he will always be remembered for one of the greatest fights to ever happen in the Octagon.
“Congratulations to Dan Henderson,” Rua said after the fight was over.
Both Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua made the trip to the local hospital following the fight and were unavailable to make the post fight press conference, but the victor did manage to hit his Twitter account with a quick message.
“Shogun is one tough guy, hope you all liked the show,” Henderson wrote. “I want a title shot next.”
With a performance like that, few would argue that Dan Henderson deserves anything less than a crack at the belt.