SAN JOSE, Calif. - This is why fans of mixed martial arts waited 10 years to see Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua fight each other. The former PRIDE champions never did face one another in Japan, instead saving it all for UFC 139 at the HP Pavilion on Saturday night.
There aren't enough cliches to use to describe this light heavyweight. And, really, none of them would do any justice to what Henderson and Rua displayed in the octagon.
Henderson knocked down Rua. Rua knocked down Henderson. Henderson bloodied up Rua. Rua bloodied up Henderson. Henderson mounted Rua. Rua mounted Henderson.
That each fighter made it through each onslaught, gave it right back to the other fighter, then took another six or seven on the chin speaks to the amazement of what occured.
Then, somehow after 25 minutes of what is unquestionably the fight of the year, a winner must be declared. Some 12,000 people all stood on ther feet, waiting to cheer for a winner and salute the defeated fighter. All three judges scored it 48-47 in favor of Henderson.
"That [guy] can take a punch," an exhausted Henderson said after the fight.
Henderson (29-8) got the best of Rua twice in the first round with big right hands that dropped him and nearly ended the fight. Rua came back, and late in the round, floored Henderson and nearly ended the fight. The same happened in the second round, in the third round.
In the fourth round, Rua (20-6) landed a monster uppercut that staggered Henderson for what seemed like two minutes. But Rua lacked the energy to finish him. Or did Henderson lack the will to give up? Rua set up for a rear naked choke with a few seconds left in the fourth round, but Henderson reversed and finished the round in full mount, very nearly winning.