Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was one of the greatest fights in the 22 year organized history of mixed martial arts. Years from now, historians will chronicle this epic encounter as one of the sports legendary nights. This fight had everything you could ask for. It was a brutal symphony of action, excitement, suspense, and drama between two veteran warriors with an undeniable will to win. Hendo was awarded the unanimous decision victory as all three judges scored the bout 48-47.
The various opinions regarding the bout are widespread even though no one is screaming robbery. Henderson slowed down as the fight progressed as the former Olympian dominated the first two rounds and did just enough to win the third, which had Rua controlling the last minute. The Brazilian came back from behind to win the 4th round and dominated the final frame in such a fashion that had a lot of people scoring it 10-8.
The fight came down to a matter of time. Public opinion of the decision is split because Henderson lost the last 11 minutes of the fight after winning the first 14 minutes. Ascetically, the last thing people saw was Henderson having nothing to offer from the bottom in the 5th round as Shogun finished the fight, pounding Henderson from the full mount.
Ironically, a battle between two legends of the PRIDE Fighting Championship garnered such a result since Shogun would have been awarded the decision if this fight happened under the defunct promotion’s banner. Their judging criteria scored fights as a whole as opposed to the 10-point must system under the unified rules.
Time was of the essence for Rua since this was the second non-title five-round fight in UFC history. The sophomore installment of this rule change paid dividends for Shogun since operation under the previous policy spells flawless victory for Henderson, instead of barely winning by one point.
This clash of former champions represents the best of MMA because of how organically everything has transpired. I scored it the same as the judges, the first three rounds for Henderson and the last two for Shogun. I’d completely understand if Rua would have won a 10-8 round in the 5th. While Henderson didn’t land a single offensive maneuver, he fought and scrambled through last the round. By comparison, the opposite can be said for the first round of the second Edgar vs. Maynard fight, where Edgar lost 10-8 because he didn’t fight back at all, but he somehow miraculously survived.
The trials and tribulations Hendo and Shogun experienced in the octagon at UFC 139 will serve them as a badge of honor. At the same time, media personnel and fight fans all around the world will reminisce to future generations about the privilege of watching these two on the grandest stage in combat sports.