Author’s note: This fight card will air on Sunday, March 23, NOT Saturday, March 22
Back at UFC 139, fans witnessed what has widely been considered the greatest fight in mixed martial arts history.
In an epic 25-minute war, former 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Champion and UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua dropped a heartbreaking decision to former Pride middleweight and welterweight champion and Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson in front of a sold-out crowd at the HP Pavilion in San José.
As both men battered each other to the point where Shogun’s left eyes were swollen shut and Henderson’s white shorts turned red from the carnage, it was truly the fans who were winning as they witnessed to warriors leave their heart and soul inside the octagon.
If you have yet to witness this historic fight between two future hall of famer and you have 25 minutes to spare, I highly recommend you watch the following video.
Since that memorable night, both men have struggled to find consistency in the cage as they have gone a combined 2-5 against some of the top fighters at 205-pounds. So with their legacy on the line, expect fireworks from both men as they look to maintain relevancy in the twilight years of their career.
Henderson will most certainly look to land his legendary overhand right, dubbed by his peers as the “H-Bomb.” History has shown that if “Hendo” can connect with this devastating weapon, chances are his opponent will be sent crashing to the canvas as his 17 total knockdowns trail only Mirko “Cro Cop,” Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva for most all time in the combined history of UFC/Pride FC/Strikeforce. However, in their last fight Shogun not only survived several of haymakers but also seemed to absorb the full impact of Henderson’s blasts without so much as a wince. This could be a sign that Henderson’s power is fading. If that is the case he will have to pick his shots carefully as Shogun showed what happens if he catches his opponents off-balance in his knockout over James Te Huna at UFC Fight Night 33.
This victory not only gave Shogun 15 career knockout victories under the UFC/Pride FC banners, the most by any fighter in light heavyweight history, but also pushed his knockout streak to six straight inside the octagon. Combine that with a 825 significant strikes landed in UFC/Pride FC — the second most in light heavyweight history and a 52.4 percent significant striking accuracy, third among active UFC light heavyweights and fifth highest in company history — and Shogun has proven that he will hit fighters hard and often.
While Henderson has become more known for his knockout power in the last few years, fans should not forget that many years ago the former Sun Devil was once considered of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers on the planet. As a former two-time Olympian and Pan Am Games medalist, Henderson skills when he wraps his arms around his opponents are undeniable as he has landed 87.5 percent of his takedowns from the clinch in UFC/Pride FC/Strikeforce competition.
Shogun, on the other hand, has been taken down eight times in his last three fights while defending of meager 34 percent of takedowns during his time inside Octagon. If Henderson is smart he will look to turn this into a 25-minute wrestling match. If he decides to shy away from landing the ‘H-Bomb’ he should have no problem adding to 48 careers takedowns, the fourth most ever by a fighter competing at 183 pounds or heavier in UFC/Pride FC/Strikeforce history.
Massive Edge: Henderson
Henderson has not lost a fight by submission since his 2008 middleweight title fight against Anderson Silva at UFC 82. Prior to that the only time a fighters who forced him to tap were Silva’s coaches in the legendary Nogueira back in the Pride FC days. Shogun may have more skills on the ground, specifically with his leg locks, but do not expect him to secure his first submission victory since his Pride 32 kneebar victory over Kevin Randleman. But if he leaves his head open like he did against Chael Sonnen in their main event matchup UFC Fight Night 26, Henderson could lock on a guillotine and hand the Brazilian his fourth career submission loss.
Anything is possible but don’t look for this fight end in a submission victory for either man as both men showed great submission defense in their first meeting and rarely look to showcase their jiu-jitsu skills inside the octagon.
Henderson has not finished any of his eight UFC opponents at 205-pounds while Shogun has never won a decision victory in the UFC. So history shows that if Henderson can survive the 25 minutes of hell on Sunday, his hand will be raised in the end. However, Shogun has revealed he lacked motivation heading into their initial meeting and a newly motivated Shogun is about as dangerous as anyone in the light heavyweight division. So I know fans are expecting another instant classic but in the end I see Henderson extending his losing streak to four straight as Shogun walks away with yet another knockout victory.
Rua via Round 3 TKO
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
Main Card (PPV, 7 p.m. ET)
- C.B. Dollaway def. Cezar Ferreira
- Norman Parke def. Leonardo Santos
- Gian Villante def. Fabio Maldonado
- Michel Prazeres def. Mairbek Taisumov
- Rony Janson def. Steven Siler
Prelim Card (FOX Sports 1, 5 p.m. ET)
- Diego Brandao def. Will Chope
- Ronny Markes def. Thiago Santos
- Scott Jorgenson def. Jussier Formiga
- Kenny Robertson def. Thiago Perpetuo
Digital Prelim Card ( Fight Pass, 4 p.m. ET)
- Noad Lahat def. Godofredo Pepey
- Hans Stringer def. Francimar Barroso