UFC Fight Night 38: Rua vs. Henderson wasn’t labelled “March Madness” by our friends at ZUFFA.
But as it turns out, it may as well have been.
For those who don’t know:
This year’s edition of “March Madness,” as American sports fans have dubbed the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament, has been a wild one, with upsets often seeming the norm rather than the exception. Yesterday, the top-ranked team of the Midwest region, undefeated Wichita State, fell in defeat to #8 Kentucky. It was a barn-burner of a game, with both teams at an offensive and defensive peak — and the balance of the game coming down to the final possession.
For some hoops fans with entire brackets of betting to watch over, it was another heartbreak — another game that just didn’t pan out as expected.
For many of us though, the numbers won’t be remembered as well as that great, great game.
It’s safe to say that fight fans will say the same about Dan Henderson’s upset victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua last night.
Henderson entered the Octagon a two-to-one underdog, and that seemed charitable. The man they call “Hendo” (alternatively, “Dangerous Dan” or “Hollywood Henderson” at different phases of an almost 20 year career in MMA) was on a three fight losing streak and was looking to beat the odds, fighting a Brazilian legend in front of a rabid Brazilian crowd… approaching his 44th birthday.
The legendary career of Dan Henderson, which began in June of 1997 and carried through knockout after knockout everywhere from Brazil’s wild vale tudo days, the heyday of PRIDE and Japanese MMA, Elite XC’s failed attempt at mainstream acceptance, and today’s ZUFFA age, seemed to entering its final chapter… and possibly, its last stand.
Still, he’s hung on to a top ten ranking, and with memories of Rua and Henderson’s great first bout in 2011, many of us looked with excitement as the main event approached.
In an interview with Caged Insider last week, former UFC contender at current commentator Brian Stann noted: “With Dan Henderson and ‘Shogun” Rua, you’ve got relevancy in the top five in the light heavyweight world on the line. One of these guys is going to stay relevant in this weight class — the other, people are going to say, well, maybe their time as a title challenger has passed.”
Still, Kenny Florian, another former UFC star turned commentator, echoed the sentiments of many fans as he casually predicted a TKO victory for Rua.
It sure looked that way to start. Rua beat Henderson to the punch throughout the early rounds, dropping Henderson to the canvas for hard punches from mount to end the first round, and nearly knocking him out with an uppercut in the second. Henderson looked slow and confused, winging his trademark right hand wildly.
But then, on an awkward exchange in a clinch, that right hand, the one which scored most of Henderson’s fourteen career knockouts, found its home.
Rua crumbled to the mat. Some of the follow-up punches by Henderson may have hit the back of the head, sure — but Rua was already motionless.
Henderson’s future is still hazy. The “Testosterone Replacement Therapy” which he has used in recent years, including last night, has been banned. But, last night as least, it was his night.
It was a night where nine out of eleven fights were won by the underdog. Only one man who entered UFC Fight Night 38’s main card as a betting favorite would end his bout with his hand raised in victory.
It was madness. But, it was a great night of fights. And, it was a night that belonged, again, to Dan Henderson.