Some have Dan Henderson as the winner. Others say Rua should have gotten the nod. The majority of fans and pundits say the fight was a draw. They saw Henderson winning rounds 1-3 and Rua capturing the last two rounds, with round five a dominant 10-8 score for the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
Before we get into who is wrong or who is right, let me begin by saying that this fight couldn't have happened at a better time in both men's careers.
At 41 years young, it seems as though Henderson has developed a strong second wind on a career that is already headed to the Hall of Fame. He has won his past four fights against pretty tough competition and looked good doing so.
Shogun seems to have bounced back from a devastating loss to current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones as well as some debilitating knee injuries that threatened to derail his once-mighty career. While his win over an uninspired Forrest Griffin at UFC 134 in Brazil was less than impressive, his performance against Henderson this past Saturday night clearly showed he still has the skill and more importantly the heart to remain competitive.
Getting back to the scoring of Saturday night's main event: To be honest with you, it could have gone any of the three ways described above, and no one would be worse for wear. What both men did inside that Octagon is the stuff legends are made of and will never be forgotten by mixed martial arts fans as long as the sport is around. Henderson and Rua not only are supremely talented athletes, but are truly men motivated to put on performances like the one they put on at UFC 139.
If I was a trainer and had an up-and-coming fighter who was maybe lacking that something that wasn't physical—whether it was his heart that was in question, or maybe the intestinal fortitude that is so very necessary to have in such a grueling sport—I would sit him down and make him watch Henderson-Rua over and over again.
This fight was more about heart and a will to win than it was about sheer physical talent. A fighter could have all the quickness, strength and athletic ability in the world, but without heart they have nothing.
Rua should walk away from this fight feeling as much a winner as Henderson. Maybe Henderson will enjoy the fruits of the victory by obtaining a title shot, but Rua should not and will not be slighted just because he has an "L" in the record books. Shogun fought back from adversity when all thought he was finished and almost managed to finish Henderson. There is no shame in the performance he displayed.
As far as a rematch is concerned, why tarnish what is considered one of the greatest fights of all time? There is no way they could possibly repeat the magic that we witnessed inside the Octagon in San Jose.
Take a look at the Urijah Faber-Jens Pulver bout from WEC 34 in June of 2008. Those two put on one hell of a fight, each man giving it their all for five rounds. They would meet again just six months later, and Faber won by choke in the first round. It was hard to watch after seeing the war the two had put on just a short time before.
That's not to say that either Henderson or Rua would dominate the other should they meet again, but wouldn't it be fairer to the fans and both fighters to remember the history that was made rather than trying to repeat something that was a once in a lifetime event?
Maybe somewhere down the line the two will meet again, Shogun is a former champion and Henderson seems to have earned a title shot. Who knows what could happen, but now is neither the time nor the place for these two warriors to do battle once again.
It'll take a long time for their fight to really soak in, and it'll be fun to reflect back on it whenever we feel the need. Why tarnish those memories when we should just sit back and enjoy them?
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