Gegard Mousasi and Dan Henderson each entered the Octagon at UFC on FOX 14 on Saturday in Stockholm, not so much looking to thrill the second-largest audience in UFC history as to try and get his career back on track.
Neither was preparing to walk away following a loss, but with each man still harboring aspirations to get back in the middleweight title picture, a win was a must, as a loss could mean never again being part of UFC title talk.
Mousasi entered the bout having lost two of his last three bouts, sandwiching a win over Mark Munoz with losses to Lyoto Machida and Jacare Souza.
Henderson entered the fight in an even more desperate situation, losing four of his last five bouts, including having been smothered and then submitted by Daniel Cormier in his last outing.
There was a little blood around Henderson’s left eye, and Mousasi slowed and pointed to it, later indicating that he perhaps thought the referee should step in and have a doctor check it, but he let the fight continue.
Henderson said he was having a little trouble seeing out of his left eye after that, but didn’t want to give the referee any cause for concern, so he stepped his pressure on Mousasi, but it cost him.
Mousasi clipped Henderson with a right hand to the temple that sent Henderson stumbling backwards. A grazing left hand sent Henderson fully to his backside up against the fence.
“I could have landed a good shot, but I didn’t because I thought he was already out,” said Mousasi after the fight, but in the moment, he decided he needed to continue to make sure the referee would stop the fight.
At that point, he landed a left hand flush to Henderson’s face as the ref was stepping in to wave off the fight.
Henderson had his arms wrapped around Mousasi’s leg as the fight was stopped, and with blood trickling around his left eye, he was adamant that he should have been allowed to continue.
“He clipped me a little bit, but I was aware the whole time,” said Henderson.
But it was too little, too late. The fight was over, Mousasi getting his hand raised for the TKO stoppage.
It was an important victory over a legendary opponent for Mousasi, who said he is ready for whomever the UFC deems is next.
“If I’m ready, I could beat anyone.”
For Henderson, he’ll go back to the drawing board, but was insistent prior to the fight that, even at 44 years of age, he would continue fighting whether he won or lost.