UFC 139 breadkdown: Rua vs. Henderson

BY foxsports • November 17, 2011

Two of the greatest light heavyweights in history will finally cross paths as former UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua battles former Pride king Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 139 Saturday in San Jose, Calif.

Meanwhile, mixed martial arts icon Wanderlei Silva looks to prove his critics wrong when he battles former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le in the co-feature.

Here's a closer look at the main event:

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (20-5) vs. Dan Henderson (28-8)

In a battle of Pride Fighting Championships legends and all-time great light heavyweights, world-renowned knockout artists "Shogun" and Henderson are vying for top contendership in the 205-pound division. Neither man is a stranger to the title picture as both are universally recognized as decorated mixed martial artists with vast accomplishments between them.

Rua, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, won the 2005 Pride middleweight grand prix and later captured the UFC light heavyweight championship with a stunning knockout of Lyoto Machida last May. During his reign of dominance in Japan, Rua was widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

Henderson, meanwhile, a two-time US Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling, won the UFC 17 middleweight tournament, 1999 Rings King of Kings tournament, Pride welterweight championship, Pride middleweight championship and, most recently, the Strikeforce light heavyweight title. Henderson is still the only man to simultaneously hold two major belts as he was both the Pride 185-pound and 205-pound kingpin when the promotion folded.

Fresh off a first-round knockout of Forrest Griffin at UFC 134 this past August, in which he avenged his shocking 2007 upset loss in his UFC debut, the 29-year-old "Shogun" is eager for a shot at reclaiming the title he lost to Jon Jones in March. His career victims have included Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell and Machida.

Based primarily in his native Brazil, Rua has been criticized for his old-school training methods. However, the Brazilian's mentality has seemingly altered since he dropped his title as he warmed to the idea of reuniting with former Chute Boxe head coach Rafael Cordeiro at his Kings MMA Academy in California, at least temporarily. However, his camp for this fight was held in Sao Paulo with Rua repeatedly emphasizing the importance of refining his boxing.

A multidimensional combat machine, Rua's vicious muay thai arsenal has led the way in his career with 17 of his 20 wins coming by form of knockout. However, Rua is also adept at the submission game and his wrestling, too, is often overlooked. In fact, Rua's takedowns were a vital key in his win over Noguiera at Pride Critical Countdown 2005. Nonetheless, Rua will be looking to trade strikes with the crafty American veteran as he ultimately aims to become the first fighter to put him away.

At age 41, Henderson remains one of the most dangerous punchers in the division. Since transitioning from Olympic wrestling to mixed martial arts in 1997, Henderson's assembled quite the résumé, defeating the likes of Carlos Newton, Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Renato Sobral, Renzo Gracie, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, Renato Sobral and Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante.

Henderson's most recent win — a first-round knockout of legendary heavyweight icon Fedor Emelianenko — is perhaps his most notable accolade. After all, Henderson fought out of his weight class against one of the most feared fighters of all time and he finished him in the first round. Emelianenko's best days are certainly behind him, but Henderson's triumphant performance was a career highlight that will also infinitely live in MMA highlight reels.

A co-founder of Team Quest, his home base in Temecula, Calif., Henderson's wrestling, clinch game, dirty boxing and trademark ground-and-pound have cemented him as one of the best American mixed martial artists of all time. The former Olympian's signature overhand right has become a weapon of choice in recent outings with Emelianenko, Cavalcante, Sobral and Bisping all succumbing to its fight-ending power.

Henderson has returned to top form since he dropped a one-sided unanimous decision to Jake Shields in a 2010 Strikeforce middleweight title bout. As expected, the weight cut to 185 pounds has become more difficult with age and Henderson will likely stay at light heavyweight unless a potential rematch with Anderson Silva can come to fruition.

When the cage door closes, both Rua and Henderson become Berserkers. They are rarely involved in dull fights as they willingly bang in the center of the Octagon, which guarantees fans will be treated to an entertaining clash on Saturday night. This matchup was initially expected to take place during the Pride era, but it never actually materialized.

The quality of Rua's training camp will be a key factor on fight night. Little is known about the training partners or methods employed during his preparation in Brazil. With Henderson, however, there is little doubt he'll be ready to grind on Rua for five rounds.

If Rua has undergone an adequate camp, he should be favored to prevail based primarily on his youth and athleticism. Furthermore, he's a more dynamic striker who utilizes kicks and knees to his advantage, though his takedown defense will be pivotal. With injuries recently plaguing the Brazilian, the more consistent Henderson will be looking to exploit Rua in his weakest areas.

The clinch will be Henderson's saving grace when Rua is winging wild punches his way. If Henderson effectively times his counter-punches and frustrates Rua by tying him up and taking him down, he could prevail after 25 grueling minutes in a fight that could unquestionably end the moment a big shot connects.

Verdict: Henderson via decision

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