Most of the time rematches do not live up to the original showdown. The second fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner didn’t. The rematch between B.J. Penn and Georges St-Pierre didn’t. But on Sunday, Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua showed that sometimes they do.
“After that first fight, I didn’t think we could do it better than that. I don’t think that fight could have been more exciting. But this one was definitely close to that one. Maybe we just bring the best out of each other as far as excitement goes,” Henderson told Fox Sports Live following the event.
They first fought at UFC 139 in November 2011 in a fight that would win Fight of the Year honors. While game plans changed in their second match-up at UFC Fight Night 38, the result was the same. Rua had Henderson hurt and on the brink of defeat in the first and second rounds. Henderson came back in the third frame, landing his patented right hand dubbed the H-bomb to put Rua down.
“It feels great to get that out of the way. I guess I kind of tried to reverse the roles a little bit and let him beat me up the first round, or at least during the second round, and then come back and beat him up,” said Henderson. “I think I just started a little too slow. Finally, I guess he worked me up in that second round, and I got after it in the third. I was pretty happy.”
Heading into the third round, Rua was in complete control. He was landing heavy leg kicks. He had knocked Henderson down twice. He was effectively working his jab. Henderson weathered the early onslaught, but admits he was in trouble.
“I felt like I was aware of what was going on. He definitely rocked me. I just was able to kind of clinch him a little bit, or hold on to him when I got on the ground. He just didn’t connect on the ground and I survived and got back up,” he said.
After landing the right hand that sent Rua crashing to the canvas, Henderson followed him to the ground looking to finish. After a series of hammer fists, he motioned to referee Herb Dean alerting him that Rua may be unconscious.
“I don’t know what I said. I don’t think I said anything. I just kind of motioned. I thought he was out. Maybe I did say something. He was just kind of laying there. I didn’t want to keep beating on him. And Herb wasn’t quite in there. I think I hit him one more time. But, you know, I’m a fan of Shogun too,” said the 43-year-old MMA legend.
Leading up to the fight, Henderson was coming off three consecutive losses. He suffered his first career knockout loss to Vitor Belfort in his last outing. People were starting to bring up the retirement word when talking about the former two-division Pride champion. After the fight, Henderson admitted that the win lifted a lot of weight off his shoulders.
“I do feel like a big weight is off me. I finally kind of got rid of that bad year I had last year and looking forward to this year being a positive one, “ he said. “I don’t think I felt pressure to win because I’ve been losing. I think I always put that pressure on myself. But after every win it feels good to have that pressure released after the fight.”