It was one of the most anticipated 205-pound fights in mixed martial arts history. After years of waiting, former Pride champions Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua finally stepped into a cage opposite one another Saturday night at UFC 139. And they put on a show for the ages. The fight was action-packed from beginning to end, with some are already calling it the most-exciting fight ever in MMA or boxing.
“People who have been watching this sport a long time appreciate what [Henderson and Rua] did in there [Saturday night],” UFC president Dana White said.
“To dig down deep in a five-round fight -- that was our [Muhammad] Ali-[Joe] Frazier III. It was incredible.”
This fight had everything: cuts, bruises, knockdowns, individual will-power, high-level techniques and near knockouts. Henderson-Rua is a fight that will be talked about for many years. But despite all the excitement and postfight accolades, there was one hiccup that can’t be overlooked: the result. Henderson was declared the winner by unanimous decision. And if this were a three-rounder, there would be no arguing the ruling. But this was a five-round fight. The final two rounds (especially the fifth) have many observers still questioning the outcome. Henderson won each of the first three rounds and came close to finishing Rua in the third. Each judge correctly had him winning 30-27 heading into the fourth.
Rounds 4 and 5, however, belonged to a bruised and bloodied Rua. He showed the heart of a champion by outworking Henderson to take the fourth, 10-9. Trailing by two points (37-39), the fresher Rua poured it on Henderson during the fifth. He knocked Henderson on the ground and beat him up for 4-plus minutes.
It was a dominant round for Rua, definitely one deserving of a 10-8 score. But not a single judge saw fit to score that round correctly -- and that’s a shame.
Rua is too great of a fighter and fought too hard in that final round to be short-changed by the scoring officials. He didn’t simply win the fifth; he completely overwhelmed Henderson. If ever there was a 2-point round, it was the fifth in Henderson-Rua.
Not known as one to complain, Rua felt compelled to chime in on the judges’ fifth-round scores.
“It certainly was a great fight,” Rua said. “I do not know how the judges made the final round of counting, could or should have been 10-8 to me. That takes nothing away from Dan Henderson, he is a legend and one of those fighters who has created a legacy. But I want revenge.”
As years go by and Henderson-Rua is recalled, hopefully MMA historian will accurately note the wrong that was done to Rua on Saturday.
Henderson won by unanimous decision -- but only because Rua got shafted by the judges. Those judges failed Rua in San Jose, Calif., but the UFC has a chance to do the right thing and keep him in the light heavyweight title mix.
Rua did nothing Saturday night to diminish his standing as a high-ranking contender. If anything, his effort arguably enhanced his position.