Dan Henderson’s vicious right hand claimed another victim. | Photo: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
They call it the great equalizer.
Dan Henderson, who turns 44 in a matter of months, denied Father Time yet again, as he stopped Mauricio Rua with a crushing right hand to the face and follow-up ground strikes in the UFC Fight Night 39 main event on Sunday at Nelio Dias Gymnasium in Natal, Brazil. Rua was deemed unfit to continue 91 seconds into round three, failing to avenge his controversial decision loss to the two-time Olympian in November 2011.
Henderson navigated quite a minefield in pursuit of victory. “Shogun” had the former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder searching for cover in the first round, as he nearly finished him with a two-punch combination and some savage ground-and-pound. Henderson’s situation did not improve in round two, where he was clipped and dropped with a ringing right uppercut from the Brazilian. However, the Team Quest co-founder survived and extended the rematch to a third frame.
Though the prognosis seemed bleak, Henderson kept his Howitzer of a right hand locked and loaded. He changed levels for an attempted takedown early in round three, only to be met by a clinch from Rua. As the two light heavyweights separated, Henderson swept a right hook across the Brazilian’s face and sent him tumbling backwards. The 43-year-old Californian closed the deal with Rua clinging to a leg on all fours, his lights dimmed and his nose badly mangled.
The win snapped a three-fight losing streak for Henderson, who remains an established superstar in a division that lacks depth in the star-power department. Daniel Cormier needs to beat a known commodity at 205 pounds to strengthen his resume and to make his case for a title shot. The undefeated American Kickboxing Academy export downshifted to the light heavyweight division for the first time at UFC 170, discarding the overmatched Patrick Cummins in a little more than a minute.
Rua, meanwhile, must deal with the sting of a devastating defeat. The 32-year-old Brazilian still has not recorded back-to-back victories since he brought down Ultimate Fighting Championship hall of famers Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell in 2009. A meeting with the loser of the forthcoming UFC 172 showdown between Phil Davis and Anthony Johnson might point Rua in the right direction, or he could always entertain the possibility of a move to 185 pounds.
In wake of UFC Fight Night 39 “Shogun vs. Henderson 2,” here are four other matchups that ought to be considered:
C.B. Dollaway vs. Costas Philippou-Lorenz Larkin winner: Dollaway has emerged as an unlikely factor in the UFC’s middleweight division. The Power MMA Team representative blasted through “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 1 winner Cezar Ferreira in 39 seconds in the UFC Fight Night 39 co-headliner, winning for the third time in four appearances. Dollaway, who showed no residual effects from his controversial split decision loss to Tim Boetsch five months ago, had not finished a fight with strikes in more than five years. Philippou and Larkin will duke it out at UFC Fight Night 41 in May 10 in Cincinnati.
Fabio Maldonado vs. Ryan Jimmo: Maldonado wore down former Ring of Combat champion Gian Villante with pace and precision en route to a unanimous decision. After spending much of the first round pinned underneath Villante, the 34-year-old Brazilian went to work with his hands and overwhelmed the American with accurate punching combinations to the head and body. By the end of the third round, Villante was so wracked by fatigue that he could barely stand. Maldonado has quietly pieced together a three-fight winning streak since being brutalized by Glover Teixeira at UFC 153. Jimmo will confront newcomer Sean O’Connell at “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” Finale on April 16.
Rony Mariano Bezerra vs. Nik Lentz-Manny Gamburyan winner: While Bezerra benefitted from what most viewed as a premature stoppage against Steven Siler, no one can argue the fact that “Jason” had set the American on rubbery legs with a thudding overhand right to the temple before flooring him with a left. Bezerra has won nine times in his last 10 appearances, losing only to the world-ranked Jeremy Stephens. Lentz and Gamburyan will lock horns at UFC Fight Night 41 in May.
Jussier da Silva vs. Justin Scoggins: Da Silva rebounded from his technical knockout loss to Team Alpha Male’s Joseph Benavidez with a first-round submission against Scott Jorgensen. “Formiga” did what he does best, as he bullied Jorgensen to the canvas behind an inadvertent head butt, transitioned immediately to his back and cinched the choke. Da Silva now has eight submissions to his credit, six of them via rear-naked choke. Scoggins, 21, staked his claim to a top 10 post at 125 pounds with a unanimous decision over Will Campuzano at UFC 171 on March 15.