SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With every knockdown, and there were many, with every full mount, and there were many, with every submission attempt, and yes, there were many, Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua grew in legend.
It is not a stretch to call their epic, five-round light heavyweight bout at UFC 139 the greatest fight of all-time. Part of that is the immediacy of the moment and our keen ability to forget the past and remember only what we just witnessed. But the main reasons are Henderson and Rua.
“That’s without a doubt one of the top three fights ever in MMA,” UFC president Dana White said. “That was like our Ali-Frazier III. It was unbelievable.
This type of fight doesn’t happen in a movie. It doesn’t happen in a video game. We may use those types of metaphors at first to help us process the magnitude of 408 pounds of man hammering away at one another for nearly half-an-hour. But the reality is this: if this happened in a movie, the Internet would implode from all the lack of believability comments before theaters even let out. If it were a video game, you’d start looking for the receipt to return the game.
Instead, we’re left to comprehend the uncomprehendable – how two men can search for the courage to keep moving forward, how two men can will themselves to even lift their arms and attempt one more punch.
“I tried to finish him, he just tired me out,” Henderson said. “I thought I was one or two punches away.”
Henderson outlanded Rua, 106-66, in the first three rounds, according to CompuStrike. Each of the three judges gave the first three rounds to Henderson. Rua held an 84-19 edge in the last two rounds, and won them on all judges’ cards. Rua outlanded Henderson in total power strikes, 90-58 and had five takedowns of the former two-time Olympic wrestler.
The exact details of which punch landed where and when and by whom seems irrelevant when set against the bigger landscape that is the entire fight.
“Those are the type of fights that create a legacy,” Rua said. “I can’t believe it went five rounds.”