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MMA Analysis: Henderson Defeats Rua in Classic Battle at UFC 139

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The main event of UFC 139 read like that of an old PRIDE card.  Dan Henderson versus ‘Shogun” Rua.  Hell, it was enough to have you double checking the fight card to see if Sakuraba would be making an appearance.  Alas, those days are long gone but that does not mean that a Henderson vs. Rua fight in 2011 is any less enthralling.  With Henderson’s late career resurgence and Rua’s establishment of a force in the UFC light heavyweight division this fight held the interest of many people within the world of MMA.

However, what fight fans were treated to was a fight that will go down as an all-time classic war.

Despite being 41 years old, Henderson of late has been a pretty quick starter and such was the case tonight as he came out aggressive in the opening round and looked to have had the victory in the bad early on.  With a massive Henderson right hand connecting on the head of Rua, “Shogun” went down where Henderson tried to end things with a front choke.  However, Rua would manage to survive Henderson’s flurries and his huge right hand to see the second round.  With the pace slowing a tab bit in round two Rua looked capitalize in the early parts of the round by landing some good knees while in the clinch.  Henderson would come rallying back with some huge bombs of his own rocking Rua.  Despite being rattled Rua continued to press the action but paid the price by eating some more hard flurries from Henderson.

The third round began in earnest with both fighters methodically trading punches.  Then, Henderson changed things with a huge right hand that floored Rua again.  Henderson jumped on the prone Rua and unleashed an absolute storm of vicious shots on the ground.  But despite opening up a can of “whoop ass” on Rua, “Shogun” impressively managed to survive to see the end of the round.  At the start of the fourth round, it looked that Henderson may have punched himself out during the action of the third round.  This seemed evident as Rua managed to take Henderson down but was unable to keep him on the ground.  Henderson soon returned the favor, shooting in and securing a double leg takedown of his own but he too was unable to do much of anything.  Back on their feet Rua began to gain momentum, rocking Henderson with a huge uppercut that wobbled the legend.  After eating some more shots, Henderson was able to score a takedown but Rua still was beating Henderson like a drum.  Surviving on nothing more than guts and adrenaline, Henderson managed to somehow make it to see the end of the round.  With Henderson gassed out entering the fifth round Rua looked to capitalize and seemed to do just that taking Rua down and getting the mount where he unleashed some ground and pound.  While Henderson never stopped trying to survive it all seemed in vain as Rua was all over him, securing the mount and and again rained down punches to Henderson’s head.  However, try as he might, Rua could not get Henderson to quit as the fight closed.

All three judges scored the fight 48-47 in favor of Henderson who did enough in the first three rounds to secure the fiercely contested war.  With the win Henderson returns to the Octagon victorious and improves his record to 29-8; Rua, though valiant in defeat, falls to 20-6 with the loss.

“I hit him hard, thought I could finish him the first three rounds,” explained Henderson in his post-fight interview. “I hit him hard and clean a few times...the gas tank was running low in there.  He stayed in there with great heart like a champion should.”

Some fights just scream excitement the moment they are announced.  Such was the case for me when it was announced that Wanderlei “The Axe Murder” Silva would fight former Strikeforce champion Cung Le at UFC 139.  When you put two fighters with such dynamic striking ability in a cage against one another fireworks are all but guaranteed.

While the fight may not have been an all-time classic affair, it was nonetheless and exciting, fun little scrap.  Cung Le established the temp first in the opening round using his uncanny array of kicks to keep Silva at bat and event rock the former PRIDE FC legend.  But just as PRIDE never dies, so too does Silva never quit and “The Axe Murder” closed out the round with a flurry of punches that opened up a cut over the eye of Le.  This ebb and flow continued into the second round as but Le and Silva took turns swapping punches and kicks, each throwing as if they were trying to take the other’s head off.  But as the second round wore on it appeared that Le was running out of gas.  Not that Silva looked all that fresh but Le’s snap and energy seemed to wain as the round continued.  With Le clearly losing the snap on his attacks Silva soon seized upon his fatigued opponent.  A hard right hand from SIlva dropped Le to the canvas.  Silva, as he’s done his whole career, pounced on his wounded opponent and after landing some absolutely vicious knees to Le’s head, the follow up hammer fists that bounced of Le’s head was enough to prompt the referee to stop the fight.

The official time of the stoppage was 4:49 in the second round.  With the win Silva improves his record to 34-11-1, 1 NC; Le falls to 7-2 in defeat.

“He hit me hard because I wan’t moving my head,” explained Silva after the fight.  “He’s a real tough guy.”

It’s hard to find two more diametrically opposite fighters than California’s golden boy Urijah Faber and country quite Brian Bowles.  Whereas Faber’s star burns bright as a crossover success you would be hard-pressed to find too many fight fans who could pick Bowles out of a police line up.  However, the one trait that both fighters do share is their penchant for fighting.  And fighting is just what these two diminutive warriors did on Saturday night.

Behind a high guard and lightning fast salvos, Faber walked down Bowles for most of the round.  While Bowles would fire off some hard combinations of his own whenever Faber pressed the attack, it was Faber who landed more often than not.  Faber would go on to punctuate a good first round with a hard takedown to close out the round.  Faber firmly established himself as the better man in the second round as he rocked Bowles back on his heels with a monstrous uppercut that put Bowles on shaky legs.  Smelling blood, Faber pounced on the hurt Bowles where he simply tenderized Bowles until sinking in a guillotine choke to end the night.

The official time of the submission was 1:27 in the second round.  With the win Faber not only gets the victory but gets a rematch with current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.  Faber’s record improves to 26-6; Bowles falls to 10-2 in defeat.

“That’s how you finish fights,” Faber stated to his home state fans.  “Dominick you can run gut you can’t hide.”

In what boiled down to your classic crossroads fight Martin Kampmann and Rick Story met.  Much of the Rick Story hype train was derailed following his loss to Chris Brenneman earlier in the year.  For all the promise that the Dutch kickboxer Kampmann poses in terms of talent his career has been largely unremarkable to date in the UFC.  With the possibility of acceding up the ladder to welterweight title contender status Story and Kampmann met.

Early in the fight it appeared that Story was going to regain some of that lost luster as he rocked Kampmann with a number of heavy shots that had him stumbling.  However, Kampmann would shake off the cobwebs and finished the round strong, landing some shots of his own. Kampmann began to fund his rhythm in the second round and landed some thudding right hands that had Story down shifting his gears a bit.  Story would regain his bearings a bit and looked to work the body of Kampmann with each shot having been thrown with murderous intentions. 

Sensing a need to change things up, Kampmann took the fight to the ground with a sneaky little sweep where he tried mightily to get an arm triangle locked in but it would be to no avail.  With the fight having been a closely contested battle for two rounds the third round was do or die for both fighters.  Story struck first, rushing in and landing an absolute brutal punch to the body of Kampmann.  Kampmann would respond with a takedown but he was unable to do much of anything.  However, the fight would soon be reduced to a battle of clinches and takedown attempts that left the crowd restless and the fight in the hand of the judges.

In the end it was Kampmann who would emerge victorious with a split decision with the judges scoring the bout in his favor 30-27, 29-28, 28-29.  With the win Kampmann improves his record to 18-5; Story finds himself on a losing streak dropping to 13-5 in defeat.

There us sort of a controlled chaos in the manner in which Stephan Bonnar fights.  Despite looking slow and uncoordinated in the throws of battle, there is a warrior like single mindedness in the way the man aptly dubbed, “The American Psycho” fight.  While he may never make it to the status of title contender in the UFCs staked light heavyweight division.  But, for all of Bonnar’s perceived shortcomings the very real fact us that Bonnar will always make for entertainment in the Octagon and that is why the UFC brass will always have a place for him on their cards.

Bonnar did not disappoint in this aspect on Saturday night as he grounded out a dominant, if not exactly eye-pleasing, descsion over Kyle Kingsbury.  The fight started in typical Bannar fashion as he plodded forward behind a lazy jab to pepper Kingsbury with punches to the face.  While Kingsbury had some success with his knees while in the clinch, for every strike landed by the AKA trained prospect, Bonnar would retort in kind.  The fight would be contested on the ground in the second and third rounds as Bonnar simply smothered Kingsbury over the course of the remaining rounds.  With a constant bombardment of submission attempts and sneaky shots on the ground.

It wasn’t pretty but in the end it was all Bonnar. The reading of the scorecards was a mere formality as all judges scored the bout 30-27, 30-27, and 30-25 in favor of Bonnar.  With the win Bonnar improves his record to 17-7; Kingsbury falls to 11-3, 1 NC.