UFC Fight Night 38: 5 Key Takeaways from Brazil
On a night that featured seven finishes, three decisions, one majority draw and one cancelled bout, mixed martial arts legend Dan Henderson recaptured ultimate glory.
Fueled by speculation questioning his age and ability to dissect younger light heavyweight talent, the 43-year-old pulled off a comeback for the ages as he secured a third-round finish over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in front of a disappointed Brazilian crowd.
But as prominent and eye-opening as Henderson's finish was, it was not the sole lesson learned at UFC Fight Night 38.
Here are five key takeaways from Sunday's exciting Octagon showdowns.
Don't Sleep on Thiago Santos
Thiago Santos looked fantastic against Ronny Markes Sunday night, securing a first-round TKO victory on the heels of a vicious liver kick.
As one of the biggest underdogs on the UFC Fight Night 38 card, Santos proved that he's the wrong fighter to sleep on. I guess someone forgot to tell Markes, who came into Saturday's weigh-ins at 190 pounds (four pounds over the 186-pound limit).
Now it's uncertain whether or not Markes was unprepared to battle the versatile Santos, but his inability to withstand the 30-year-old's pressure and precision surfaced fairly quickly.
Santos left the Octagon victorious in what was easily his most impressive performance to date. He'll look to sustain relevance in an evolving middleweight division.
Fabio Maldonado Can Be a Star
Fabio Maldonado is beginning to build a legacy.
Not in the sense of consecutive title defenses or unbeaten streaks, but instead by displaying the sheer heart and perseverance needed to put on some of the best Octagon action you'll ever see.
He did it once again at UFC Fight Night 38, outlasting and outpointing a very game Gian Villante, who seemed battered beyond oblivion when the final bell sounded (kudos to the New Yorker's gigantic chin).
Maldonado may not have gotten the finish, but his reputation and overall marketability continue to rise. He's already a huge star in Brazil, possessing some of the best hands the country has to offer.
As long as he can maintain his Diego Sanchez-like tenacity and peppering tactics, the 34-year-old is sure to catch on here in the U.S.
He now owns an impressive three-fight winning streak in the rather shallow UFC light heavyweight division.
The Doberman Packs a Bite
In search of a victory after dropping a split decision to Tim Boetsch back in October, CB Dollaway derailed the thunderous hype train that was Cezar Ferreira Sunday Night in front of a wild Brazilian crowd.
Now the owner of two victories over two of Brazil's most heralded prospects (Ferreira and Daniel Sarafian), "The Doberman" seems poised to make a run at the middleweight division's interchanging Top 10.
Dollaway's first-round TKO finish over "Mutante" not only showcased his evolving skills as a power puncher with timing and patience along the cage, but more so his ability to perform when the spotlight is brightest.
If his wrestling remains relevant and his hands continue to fly, The Ultimate Fighter alum should make waves when he gets a crack at a ranked opponent.
Mauricio Rua Needs to Make a Move
After losing three of his last four fights at light heavyweight, there's really nothing left for Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the 205-pound division.
Now while losing to Dan Henderson isn't the most demoralizing thing imaginable, it's still a knife in the back of a guy who desperately needed to capture a win Sunday night.
Rua now has to reconsider his career path and decide if a move to the middleweight division would do him any good. Not for nothing, but former light heavyweight kingpin Lyoto Machida did it and he's already in position to capture a title.
In any case, the UFC needs to understand that the Brazilian is still one of the most popular names in the sport today, so releasing him is completely out of the question.
Dan Henderson Still Has It
As if we didn't already know Dan Henderson possessed world-class one-punch knockout power, he goes and stuns Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the third round at UFC Fight Night 38.
In an epic rematch of their initial five-round war two-and-a-half years ago, the 43-year-old shed off some early scares to capture yet another miraculous finish over the former champ.
For people that were writing Henderson off after his collapse at the deadly hands of Vitor Belfort, this is something you didn't expect to see. So while "Hendo" seemed to be on the last legs of a legendary career, the timeless legend proved otherwise in front of a stunned Brazilian crowd.
This victory surely puts Henderson back on track in the light heavyweight division, and should only increase his overall prestige as one of the UFC's top draws.
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