Yesterday I took a look at three fights on the UFC 139 main card. Today I’m back with a breakdown of the co-headlining clashes featuring Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le and Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua. Without question both were extremely entertaining affairs, an opinion supported by the company awarding dual “Fight of the Night” bonuses with one going to each.
Here we go!
Wanderlei Silva Wrecks Cung Le’s Welcome Party
Many had questioned Silva’s ability to compete at the highest level after his loss to Chris Leben but, undaunted, the Brazilian rose to the occasion once again against a renowned knockout specialist.
Silva started out tentatively in the first as he clearly was awaiting the trademark kicking demonstration from his opponent. Le obliged early and often but, a few body kicks aside, wasn’t able to land anything significant until a spinning backfist hit cleanly. Silva fell to the canvas but did well to avoid the barrage of kicks and punches and looked to counter once the pace slowed. Le was cut later in the round from a wild exchange and, as the frame closed out, Silva attacked more and was clearly settling into the fight.
Le was slowing down in the second and was soon in trouble as Silva turned up the heat from the outset. The round played out more in Wanderlei’s favor and the Brazilian landed a huge hook which duly opened the gates for the trademark berserker charge. Le looked to be in trouble but the clinch would prove to be his undoing as Silva landed several strikes before landed a textbook knee shattered his opponent’s nose brutally. Le fell to the canvas grasping a single and Silva hammered away to force the referee’s stoppage in a very entertaining co-main event.
Henderson and Rua Deliver “Fight of the Year” Frontrunner
For twenty five incredible minutes former PRIDE and Strikeforce champion Henderson and former UFC champion Rua put on one of the most incredible spectacles in the brief history of the sport.
The initial signs, however, did not indicate that this fight would go more than a few minutes as “Hendo” found a home for a short right hook that dropped his foe instantly. Rua somehow survived this early scare and fought out of a guillotine attempt but was instantly bloodied up for his troubles. Henderson uncorked a salvo of punches without finding the one he needed but, as the round wore on, it was clear that Shogun was badly hurt from those exchanges as he tried to find solace in the clinch.
The second round continued as the first had ended with some clinch work punctuated with sporadic striking but it wasn’t long before Henderson landed a crisp straight left down the pipe that opened the floodgates once again. “Shogun” covered up as his foe seemed to have all the time in the world to pick his punches but, once again, couldn’t hit the killswitch. Rua did enough to survive and landed some good strikes at the end of the second as the two circled to the round’s conclusion.
Round three saw Rua shrug off an early takedown from Henderson as the two locked up near the side of the cage. It looked a much closer round until Hendo landed his now trademark leg kick into overhand right which dropped Shogun once again in the center of the cage. The Brazilian miraculously survived and somehow emerged from the trauma with a heel hook attempt which Henderson did well to escape. “Shogun” finished the round with a takedown up against the cage but was unable to take advantage and, as the two gasped for air, it was clear this bout had already taken a huge toll.
The tide began to turn in the fourth as “Shogun” got the takedown he was looking for and began the assault but was quickly reversed and a breathless transition saw him crucifixed before rolling out from mount and back up to his feet. Henderson responded with a takedown of his own and, after Shogun toughed out a tight guillotine, the two stood back up but this time it was the Brazilian who took the advantage. Rua landed a huge uppercut that rocked Henderson and charged in for the kill but, like his opponent before him, wasn’t able to find the one shot he so needed to finish.
The fifth and final round was met by riotous applause as the crowd could scarcely believe what they were watching. “Shogun” got the early takedown and peppered Henderson from the mount with a barrage of punches looking for the one he needed. In one of the most back and forth fights in recent memory, however, round five was the clearest cut of all. Rua spent four and a half minutes of this round on top landing strikes and looking to finish and, as the two battled to the end, the audience exploded in a crescendo of noise as the bell sounded for the end of the fight.
Many could not believe what they had just seen but, for the judges, the verdict they had reached was unanimous. All three judges gave the fight 48-47 in favour of Henderson, awarding him the first three rounds.
Henderson vs. Shogun was the perfect illustration of why five round non-title fights, if used selectively, have the power to transform the great into the truly epic as no-one who witnessed the battle between these two legends will ever forget.