• UFC 139

Hendo edges one of the greatest battles in UFC history

ESPN staff
November 20, 2011

Dan Henderson's UFC comeback will go down in history as arguably the most memorable return to the Octagon of all time after he edged an absolute war with Mauricio Shogun Rua where the result almost became irrelevant.

Forget all talk about Fight of the Year candidates, the UFC 139 main event sent all others into the shadows. It was the kind that may leave both fighters different men when they leave the cage, it was the kind that left judges desperately searching for a box that said "both win", and it was the kind that defines a fighter's career.

MMA fans had waited years for these two Pride icons to share the same cage, but while many thought the boat had been missed, it seemed Henderson and Shogun were just being allowed to mature, like a fine wine.

After five rounds - and thank God we had five rounds - that saw former light-heavyweight champion Shogun given arguably an even worse beating than he received from Jon Jones, only to then swing it all back in his favour, it was Henderson who took a unanimous 48-47 decision that would have seemed unfair against either man.

"That guy can take a f***ing punch!" Henderson shouted, using any energy he had left. "I hit him hard but couldn't finish him and he finished strong. I knew I had the first three rounds easy, one of them 10-8. I hit him hard and clean three times, I should have finished, but my gas tank went. That could be the toughest fight of my career."

Looking at both men's faces, there was a clear winner. Henderson was marginally bruised, Shogun was unrecognisable. After years of waiting for these two Pride legends to meet, the Brazilian could have been finished in the first round. Henderson dropped his foe with a big right hand and, after looking for a front choke, he then teed off as Shogun desperately covered up.

Shogun did, however, recover enough to drop Henderson, but in round two it was more of the same as Henderson left his rival bleeding heavily from his nose. Then came what should have been Hendo's 10-8 round, the third, when he crumpled Shogun again with a big right, before raining down so many bombs that Rua could barely have been closer to being stopped.

However, chasing the finish, Henderson appeared to gas and the tide turned in the fourth with Shogun rocking his opponent with a huge uppercut. Hendo's lights were on but nobody was home, Shogun mounted his foe, but when he looked for the rear naked choke Henderson somehow slipped out.

It was now all Shogun in the final round, getting the takedown and once again moving into full mount, where he dropped a series of unanswered blows. It was a clear 10-8 for the Brazilian, but when the scores were rendered it wasn't enough. Henderson's arm was raised, but it was a fight for which both men will be remembered when they finally hang up their gloves.

Two Pride legends... now undoubtedly two UFC legends.

In the night's co-main event, Wanderlei Silva rolled back the years with a quite outstanding knockout of Cung Le that had every supporter out of their seats. Both men rocked each other on several occasions, but a vicious Muay Thai assault ended matters with 11 seconds remaining in the second round.

Wanderlei Silva knocked out Cung Le © Getty Images

Cung, in front of his home crowd, came out in typically flamboyant style, wobbling Silva badly with a spinning back fist. He also hit the Axe Murderer with 360 spinning heel kicks, axe kicks and a stepping side kick, a lethal cocktail that Silva barely coped with.

However, towards the end of round one a Wanderlei hook cut Cung above the eye, and the Brazilian bided his time before pouring it on in the second. A huge head kick/straight right combination dropped Cung, who then ate six or seven thudding knees to the head on his way back up. Wanderlei jabbed and kneed again, finishing his foe off with hammer fists for a classic victory.

Urijah Faber produced one of the best performances of his career, and undoubtedly the finest of his UFC stay, to defeat Brian Bowles and book a bantamweight title rematch against Dominick Cruz. The California Kid was clearly superior to the highly-talented Bowles, and after a brutal second-round onslaught he locked on a guillotine choke at 1.27 of round two.

Displaying sharp hand speed and excellent footwork - as is his trademark, Faber took round one before lighting fire in the second. A huge left uppercut, which Faber later credited to TUF 14 finalist TJ Dillashaw, rocked Bowles, who then suffered a fierce elbow as Faber knocked him to the ground. From there the crowd favourite went to work, locking on the same guillotine choke that he once used to inflict the only defeat of Cruz's career.

"That's how you finish fights," roared Faber. "Dominick you can run but you can't hide boy. Bowles is very tough, he's mentally strong, but I wanted showcase my hands a little bit."

Martin Kampmann weathered an early storm to kick-start his revival in the welterweight division, beating Rick Story via a split 28-29 30-27 29-28 decision. Kampmann, who was coming off back-to-back losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, got cut early by a Story flurry against the cage, but the Dane used his superior kickboxing to pick his rival off before the final klaxon prevented a late rear naked choke.

In the opening fight of the main card, Stephen Bonnar used his superior wrestling to highlight Kyle Kingsbury's questionable cardio en route to a unanimous 30-27 30-25 30-27 decision. Kingsbury started fast, landing a big left hook, but Bonnar responded and rounds two and three saw him dominant on the ground.

UFC 139 results
Dan Henderson bt Mauricio Shogun Rua by unanimous decision (48-47 48-47 48-47)
Wanderlei Silva bt Cung Le by knockout at 4:29 of round 3
Urijah Faber bt Brian Bowles by submission (guillotine choke) 1:27 of round 2
Martin Kampmann bt Rick Story by split decision (28-29 30-27 29-28)
Stephan Bonnar bt Kyle Kingsbury by unanimous decision (30-27 30-25 30-27)
Ryan Bader bt Jason Brilz by knockout at 1:17 of round 1
Michael McDonald bt Alex Soto by knockout at :56 of round 1
Chris Weidman bt Tom Lawlor by submission (D'arce choke) at 2:07 of round 1
Gleison Tibau bt Rafael dos Anjos by split decision (28-29 29-28 30-27)
Miguel Torres bt Nick Pace by unanimous decision (30-27 30-27 30-27)
Danny Castillo bt Shamar Bailey by TKO at 4:52 of round 1

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