Dan Henderson earns shocking comeback KO of Shogun Rua
Two rounds down in the rematch of the grittiest, most grueling fight in UFC history, and in the midst of a three-fight losing streak, Dan Henderson appeared to be living a nightmare against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua when UFC on FOX analyst Brian Stann presciently noted that all was not lost for the 43-year-old.
"As we all know, Henderson holds a big stick of dynamite in that right hand," Stann said.
Ten seconds later, the UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Henderson II main event was all over, providing a stunning conclusion that allowed the sequel to live up to the huge reputation of the original.
The end came at 1:31 of the third round.
As the two broke out of a clinch, Henderson landed a blistering right uppercut that crushed Rua, and he followed with some cursory ground strikes to earn a stunning comeback knockout win.
The final assault left Rua with a badly broken nose. As the Brazilian legend tried to get back to his feet, he toppled backwards, showing the power of the closing sequence. He was eventually transported to the hospital.
"This one probably means more than most," Henderson said afterward. "Shogun has been such a big part of mixed martial arts. Such a talented and tough fighter. Especially with the year I had last year, coming off that, I wanted to make sure I got a win. I was a little too patient, but it means a little more than most fights, beating a guy like Shogun."
It should mean a great deal given all that came before it. First, there was the first fight between them that took place in Nov. 2011, and is viewed by many as the greatest display of guts and skill ever seen in an MMA cage.
And on Sunday night in Natal, Brazil, Henderson survived incredible adversity just to survive the first two rounds.
In the first, Rua (22-9) knocked Henderson down with a straight right/left hook combination. Henderson somehow withstood the barrage, but in the second, he found himself in severe danger again after Rua landed a thudding uppercut. Once again, Henderson found himself on his back, but he tied Rua up and survived again.
But this is what kind of hole Henderson (30-11) found himself in: after two rounds, Rua had out-landed him 67-22. It was a Shogun kind of night, until it suddenly wasn’t.
"He definitely dung me, he rang my bell a tad in the first round and then the second, too," Henderson said. "I decided to be patient, too patient. I wasn’t very offensive. In the third round we decided to get after it and pick it up where we left off the last fight."
That they did. For his efforts, Henderson won a Performance of the Night award, and he and Rua won Fight of the Night as well. The bonuses pocketed Henderson an extra $100,000, and Rua $50,000.
More importantly for Henderson, the win was also crucial in maintaining his relevance as a divisional contender. The No. 8 light-heavyweight had lost three in a row, but can now look forward after putting that streak — and one of MMA’s great rivalries — behind him in scintilliating fashion.
"I haven’t even seen the replay so I couldnt even tell you how exactly it went down," Henderson said. "I was just kind of living in the moment. Shogun is a tough guy and hits hard as well. I was worried that this second fight, the rematch wouldn’t live up to everybody’s expectations but I think it came close to the talk about the first fight. I think that the two of our styles is always moving forward and trying to finish fights, so thank you to Shogun."