Niko Price has produced one of the knockouts of the year at UFC Tampa.
There was a reason hardcore fans were especially pumped up for UFC 139’s main event between Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
It wasn’t because they are two of the premiere light heavyweights in the world or because they are a reminder of the glory days of the Pride Fighting Championships. It is because Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua are fighters. They are fighters in every sense of the word.
In an age of game planning and athletes performing within themselves, Henderson and Shogun remain as two fighters that just throw whatever they have whenever they have to.
Sunday’s main event showed what happens when you pit two fighters of that ilk against each other as Henderson and Shogun fought what many have labelled as the greatest fight in Mixed Martial Arts history.
It began with Henderson showing the power in his right hand that fans have come to know and fellow fighters have come to fear.
For the first two and a half rounds Henderson battered and repeatedly dropped Shogun with it. On more than one occasion Shogun looked finished but no more than in the third round where Henderson landed his best of the night.
The blow forced Shogun to turtle up in a manner similar to his destruction at the hands of Jon Jones earlier this year, but Henderson could not find the finishing blow and seemed to blow out his energy in the process.
Amazingly Shogun turned the situation to his advantage as he spun into a heel hook that more than anything stopped Henderson from punching him in the face.
That was only the beginning of his comeback though as he survived that round to turn it around and stagger his exhausted opponent midway through the fourth round. Henderson could barely manage to defend himself and Shogun capitalised to score a takedown and batter the former Strikeforce and Pride champion from mount.
The fifth round was all Shogun who again secured mount and spent the majority of the final round battering Henderson from that position. There was a case for a 10-8 round in the third and final rounds for either fighters which could have made the scorecards interesting.
However, the judges opted for 10-9 scores throughout resulting in Henderson taking the fight three rounds to two for a unanimous decision.
It was a truly amazing fight that saw both fighters having to go to the hospital afterwards. Henderson may very well have leaped Rashad Evans to be the next in line to challenge for the light heavyweight title but it seems at the moment all anyone wants is another five rounds from these two.
If it wasn’t for that fight, the biggest storyline of the fight most likely would have been the return of vintage Wanderlei Silva, albeit for just thirty seconds of the second round.
UFC newcomer, Cung Le showcased his exceptional “traditional” martial arts background in the first round as he kept the ‘Axe Murderer’ at bay with his flashy arsenal of tricks. He even managed to drop Silva with a kick/spinning back fist combination.
But his 18-month layoff stopped his success from continuing as his fatigue allowed Silva inside and from there the Axe Murderer got his Pride on. The finishing blows were some quickfire punches to a desperate Le on the ground, but it was the nose-crushing knee on the feet that was the clincher.
I’m not sure what to do with Silva following this victory but it is nice to see the Wanderlei of old, even if just for a brief moment.
Urijah Faber secured a much-anticipated third date with UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz as he put a beating on the quietly spoken, Brian Bowles.
Some fans were bemoaning before the fight that Faber has to do less than other fighters to earn a title shot, but I’m going to assume most of those guys aren’t going to complain now as Faber turned in the best performance of his career.
Brian Bowles is no mug but Faber made him look that way. Faber was simply all over Bowles in every department, with his stand-up especially looking the best it ever has as he thumped Bowles with an uppercut and brutalized him on the ground before submitting him with his trademark guillotine.
The rest of the main card saw Martin Kampmann firmly putting an end to Rick Story’s rise with a one sided (even if the judges scored it a split) decision win and Stephan Bonnar switching things up and opting to grind out Kyle Kingsbury on the ground for a comfortable unanimous decision win.
Fight of the Night: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua and Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le
KO of the Night: Michael MacDonald
Submission of the Night: Urijah Faber
Dan Henderson def. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
Wanderlei Silva def. Cung Le via knockout (strikes) – Round 2, 4:49
Urijah Faber def. Brian Bowles via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 1:27
Martin Kampmann def. Rick Story via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Stephan Bonnar def. Kyle Kingsbury via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-25, 30-27
Ryan Bader def. Jason Brilz via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:17
Michael McDonald def. Alex Soto via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:56
Chris Weidman def. Tom Lawlor via technical submission (D’arce choke) – Round 1, 2:07
Gleison Tibau def. Rafael dos Anjos via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Miguel Torres def. Nick Pace via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Seth Baczynski def. Matt Brown via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 0:42
Danny Castillo def. Shamar Bailey via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:52