This Sunday, Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua battle it out in one of the most sought after rematches of all time. At UFC 139, the two battled for twenty five minutes in a bloody, hearty, entertaining war that had fans on their feet and was the talk of the sport for the subsequent weeks. The rematch has been somewhat overlooked and a lot has changed since the pairing first went at it, so will it live up to the expectation of the first?
Since his fight with Shogun, Dan Henderson has been awarded a title shot, pulled out due to injury, and then lost three in a row. After earning a shot at Jones’s belt by defeating the Brazilian, it is somewhat surprising how different his path has been. However when breaking down the losses, perhaps the connotations that come with the label of ‘three losses in a row’ are a little misconstrued.
First and foremost, all three losses have been against former UFC champions and have all been in either co-or-main events. The first and second were both close split decisions in which some fans and media had the fights in Henderson’s favour – the losses to Machida at UFC 157 and Evans at UFC 161. The third was more decisive, but came against a fighter many rank amongst the pound-for-pound best in the world and as a consensus top 10 fighter in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, Vitor Belfort.
Another shared theme between these two opponents which Henderson lost to is that they have remained very relevant in their respective weight classes; Belfort pulling out of a shot at the middleweight title only to be replaced by Machida, and Evans remaining in the mix at 205. However the most significant story of this three fight losing streak is that ‘Hendo’ was knocked out for the first time in his 51 fight career, and the knock-on effect from this could be deadly.
As we have seen with fighters such as Chuck Liddell in the past, once great chins can become glass jaws with just one brutal knockout. Will this happen to Henderson, or will he be able to withstand Shogun’s punching power as with the first fight?
Shogun has also had an up-and-down spell since losing to Henderson in San Jose. A loss to the man who went on to have a war with Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson, seemed costly at the time, but Gus has grown leaps and bounds and this is no bad loss to have on a resumé stacked with talented fighters. The Sonnen loss was perhaps the most troubling and one which the Shogun of old would have won handily, but he was overwhelmed by the wrestling prowess of Chael which ultimately led to the guillotine finish. His comeback fight, a highlight reel knockout over James Te Huna, put all of that to one side.
Both fighters have had rocky paths since their first fight and are certainly on the fast track to retirement. Another run at the title seems unlikely for both fighters and any future bouts may be booked merely from an entertainment standpoint rather than having any implications.
If Shogun and Henderson can go to war for a second time, their recent losses will be put behind them and their legacies will be cemented as two of the toughest veterans of the sport.