There's a lot to talk about following Dan Henderson's close win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, but what jumps out at me most is how instrumental the UFC's move to five-round non-title fights was in creating this kind of classic.
When the UFC announced the move to extend non-title main events to five rounds instead of the usual three, there was some consternation from stubborn MMA fans who felt that those two extra rounds should be reserved for title fights.
Here's proof to the contrary.
Imagine if this fight had ended after three rounds instead of five. Sure, it would still have been a good fight, but it would also have been a pretty straightforward win for Dan Henderson, who took the first three rounds on all three official scorecards.
Those two extra rounds allowed Shogun to storm back into the fight, adding to the drama, and ultimately making it one of the best fights in the UFC's short history.
It takes a full 25 minutes to let the drama really unfold in a way that can't be done in 15.
If you want further proof of this, you don't have to look back any further than to the fight between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler that happened only hours earlier for Bellator's lightweight belt. Had that fight been only 15 minutes, Alvarez would have won a decision in an entertaining bout. Yet with the extra available time, Chandler was able to pull off a dramatic, come-from-behind upset.
While we should celebrate the fact that main events in the UFC will now all be scheduled for five rounds, we shouldn't be satisfied.
There's still a place in MMA for 15 minute fights, but do we really need to limit five round fights to main events?
Who wouldn't have wanted to see two more rounds of Henderson vs Guida or Sanchez vs Kampmann?
At the bare minimum, all co-main events should also be five rounds.
Until that happens, we should be thankful for five-round non-title fights. Tonight's fight may have been the UFC's first non-title fight to go past three rounds, but thankfully it's just the beginning.
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