I’m willing to bet that more than a few sports writers have pointed out that four years ago, Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would have been just as worthy of main event status as it was last night at UFC 139. That four years later, we’re still willing to pay to watch guys like Wanderlei Silva, Cung Le, Urijah Faber, Stephan Bonnar and Miguel Torres. That last night’s event appropriately enough took place in Strikeforce’s old stomping grounds in San Jose. For that matter, I’m pretty sure you heard all of that stuff at some point from Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan last night.
I tried to avoid those clichéd observations, but they’re too appropriate to ignore. As fans of mixed martial arts, we’ve been waiting at least four years for a fight between Pride legends Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to come together. Yet for as long as we’ve wanted to see this fight, what we were given last night was worth every second of the wait.
If you didn’t get to see it, please accept my condolences. There is no way to adequately sum up the five round, back and forth battle between Henderson and Shogun without watching the fight. In the end, Dan Henderson triumphantly returned to the UFC with a hard fought unanimous decision victory over Shogun that demonstrated why five round non-title main events could not have come at a better time.
The only thing left to say about last night’s main event is that Josh Rosenthal deserves much respect for allowing the fight to continue. There were multiple points- especially in the third round- where a lesser referee would have stopped the fight. Being a referee in MMA is a lot like being a punter in football: No one knows who you are until you mess up. Thankfully, Josh Rosenthal called the bout well, and fans were treated to what Dana White is calling one of the top three fights of all time. The $70k that both men took home for Fight of the Night was just the icing on the cake.
The evening’s co-main event got off to a depressing start, with “The Axe Murderer” getting caught early in the first round, and then appearing gunshy against Cung Le’s unorthodox attack. Yet as the fight went on, Silva managed to find his rhythm against Le, and began to push the pace against the former Strikeforce middleweight champion.
I’ll say this much about the “controversial” stoppage: You’re right, perhaps Cung Le was attempting to take down Wanderlei Silva. But after Le took multiple knees directly to his head, got dropped by a punch and then ate hammerfists from The Axe Murderer, can you really blame anyone who thought the whole scene looked more “clinging onto Wanderlei’s leg for dear life” than “in total control and attempting a takedown”? If you answered yes to that hypothetical question, take a good look at Cung Le moments after the stoppage. Let what you’re seeing really sink in.
For the record, Wanderlei Silva and Cung Le were also both awarded $70k for FOTN honors. It’s strange to see this fight on the same level as Henderson vs. Shogun. But when you arguably have the best fight in the history of the sport on the card, perhaps it’s best to give out two FOTN bonuses.
If Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles took place back in 2007, odds are it would have looked almost identical to the fight we saw from them last night. Brian Bowles managed to tag Faber with some heavy shots, but couldn’t put together a significant offense against the former WEC featherweight champion. Once Faber dropped Bowles in the second round, the fight was over, as Urijah utilized some brutal elbows en route to a fight finishing guillotine choke. The victory earns Urijah Faber the $70K Submission of the Night bonus.
Also of note, Martin Kampmann nearly fell victim to a controversial decision again last night. Despite dominating Rick Story, Kampmann still lost the fight on one of the judge’s scorecards, earning him a split-decision victory over Story. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, the decision was the result of a judges error and the fight has since been ruled a unanimous decision victory for Kampmann. Stephan Bonnar made it three straight victories last night with an impressive unanimous decision victory over Kyle Kingsbury. Bonnar completely neutralized Kingsbury’s attack with his wrestling. After the fight, “The American Psycho” did two things that pretty much nobody expected: He apologized to Josh Koscheck and called out “Rampage” Jackson. Furthermore, the $70k Knockout of the Night bonus went to Michael McDonald for his first round knockout against UFC newcomer Alex Soto. McDonald improves to 14-1 overall, as well as 3-0 in the UFC.
Dan Henderson def. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
Wanderlei Silva def. Cung Le via knockout (strikes) – Round 2, 4:49
Urijah Faber def. Brian Bowles via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 1:27
Martin Kampmann def. Rick Story via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Stephan Bonnar def. Kyle Kingsbury via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 30-27)
Ryan Bader def. Jason Brilz via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:17
Michael McDonald def. Alex Soto via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:56
Chris Weidman def. Tom Lawlor via technical submission (D’arce choke) – Round 1, 2:07
Gleison Tibau def. Rafael dos Anjos via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Miguel Torres def. Nick Pace via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Seth Baczynski def. Matt Brown via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 0:42
Danny Castillo def. Shamar Bailey via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:52