Henderson, Rua must do this again
For new fans tuning in after watching Cain Velasquez get finished by Junior Dos Santos in dramatic fashion last week in the UFC on FOX debut, UFC 139 couldn’t have been a better follow-up for fans just getting into the sport.
Compared to the big names headlining UFC 140 and 141 to close out 2011, UFC 139 was viewed as a bit of a novelty. But with a card of terrific fights to start, it was capped off by the fight of the year, one that deserves a rematch as soon as both men can compete. Light heavyweights Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua deserve that much after 25 minutes of blood, sweat and determination that gave us an agreeable result but not a perfect one.
It’s the only way we can really determine a winner.
The fight itself was a classic story told over three acts. In the first 10 minutes, Henderson looked like the fighter of old who terrorized Pride Fighting Championships and proved to be a two-division nightmare matchup. From the third round on, Rua managed to survive that early storm and capture the final two rounds definitively.
One could argue that Henderson (29-8) won a 10-8 round in the second in the same way that Rua (20-6) could be given the same result for the fifth frame. The first and last two rounds were definitive in who won them; the scoring of the third round is what really determined the victory. In such a close fight, that round proved pivotal and it was so close that it’s really hard to decisively give it to one fighter or the other in convincing fashion.
Too many questions remain for a fight that UFC president Dana White immediately called MMA’s version of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier 3. That fact that both fighters were taken to the hospital immediately afterward gives credence to how much it took out of both of them, as well; it’s easy to think that this war of attrition will wind up taking time off the end of both men’s careers the same way the “Thrilla in Manilla” seemed to do to Ali and Frazier. After such a war, and no clear victor, a rematch has to happen.
This was a fight that was supposed to have major title implications, hence the five-round format for a non-championship fight, and you can’t reasonably argue that Henderson deserves a title shot based on this fight. There isn’t any controversy, but the fight was so close that Henderson-Rua 2 makes more sense if only to give us resolution to the issue.
Henderson hasn’t shown in this fight that he deserves to cut in line ahead of Rashad Evans for a light heavyweight title shot against the Lyoto Machida-Jon Jones winner at UFC 140, which he could’ve conceivably done with a strong win. Rua showed an insane level of heart to come back and finish like he did. For someone who hadn’t answered issues that came up surrounding his knees in his fight against Forrest Griffin a short while ago despite a resounding victory, no one can think he isn’t as close to 100 percent as he ever will be.
With people arguing convincingly that Rua won, or that Henderson won or even that it was a draw, the consensus has to be one thing: a rematch. Nothing else can and will do in this case. We need a clear winner in all of this and while a second bout most likely can’t match the majestic nature of this one, it needs to happen if only for closure.
Whoever wins between the two ought to get a championship fight once the dust settle between Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. Right now we just don’t have a clear winner despite Dan Henderson’s hand being raised.