One is trying to get his career back on the championship track, the other coming back to the very promotion he most despised only a couple of years back. With a title eliminator bout looming in at UFC 139 this Sunday, November 20, both Shogun and Hendo can basically consider this a last-chance run at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Mauricio Rua, 29, is coming off an impressive 1st round TKO victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC: Rio last August, which is a much needed win for the former champion who shockingly lost his title by means of devastating fashion against light heavyweight prodigy Jon Jones earlier this year. Shogun’s looking to end the year with a win.
Dan Henderson, 41, is currently celebrating a three-fight winning streak, also winning the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title in the process. His previous knockout win over Fedor Emelianenko immediately scored him a second stint with the UFC, and is now one match away from earning a title shot against the champion.
Should these fighters finally collide this Sunday, suffice to say we’re looking for a knockout finish, and we’re not merely saying this to hype the fight – over 30 knockout wins have been recorded between Henderson and Rua. Their last three victories, respectively, all ended with a vicious KO. It’s an unlikely match-up on paper, but this is actually two insanely good knockout artists being pitted against each other.
Henderson is obviously the more experienced fighter, main event-ing and winning fights since his days in Pride FC all the way to the UFC and Strikeforce, and now back in the Octagon. Hendo, ironically, is also a former Pride Welterweight and Middleweight champion, at one point simultaneously holding both titles. And holy shit, the punch that KO’ed Michael Bisping in UFC 100 was super ridiculous. Punch of the year in our book.
Most of his career losses, interestingly, came from the hands of Brazilian fighters – Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Noguiera, and Ricardo Arona, among others. Shogun, himself a Brazilian, bears the same background as Wanderlei, but is obviously much younger. Henderson is always, always, looking for the knockout, which at times has worked against him.
Rua has all the advantage against Henderson – he’s in his prime, has phenomenal and aggressive striking, has good but somewhat unproven Jiu-Jitsu, faster, younger, and more charismatic. His UFC career however, has not been smooth from the get-go – an upset submission loss against Forrest Griffin in 2007 and a bad beating from Jon Jones are verification. Rua has long been a victim of upset losses.
Shogun and Hendo both lost their aura of invincibility many fights ago, nor are they ever going to be the best pound for pound fighter in mixed martial arts, but a victory over the other, especially if pulled off in exciting fashion, would be the pinnacle of both fighters’ legitimacy in the Octagon. Rua versus Henderson, in fact, would have been considered a superfight if done 3-4 years ago.
But we always have to bet on someone, and that someone is gonna have to be Shogun. Henderson is a much better grappler, a lot more lethal even, but he knows better than to not give Dana and the fans the show that they want and go for the kill. He wouldn’t even be satisfied with a decision victory. The problem is Rua just might knock him out first.