UFC 139 breadkdown: Rua vs. Henderson
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
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
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
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
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
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