Dan Henderson vs Shogun Rua: UFC 139 fight is the reason to watch MMA

Photo of Dan Henderson brutalizing Shogun Rua in the UFC 139 main event, only to have the Brazilian miraculously turn the tables in the final two rounds via MMAFighting.com.

The buzz going into tonight's card ... actually, there's wasn't a whole lot of buzz. UFC 139 -- despite a solid set of fights from top to bottom - was the victim of being scheduled the week after the company's debut on Fox. The entirety of the promotional muscle was flexed in favor of the heavyweight title tilt between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.

Through no fault of their own, Dan Henderson, Mauricio Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Urijah Faber -- all hugely popular and box office draws in their own right -- were playing second fiddle to UFC on FOX 1 and the historic bout from last Saturday (Nov. 12).

It didn't seem that they -- especially "Hendo" and "Shogun" -- took the slight all too lightly.

The fans inside the HP Pavilion had just witnessed an incredible war between Silva and the former Strikeforce middleweight champion that saw "The Axe Murderer" pull off his first knockout since he loosened Keith Jardine from his consciousness way back at UFC 84. An extremely satisfied Brazilian had fended off calls for retirement, at least for one more fight.

After the cathartic experience that was Silva's win, it felt as if nothing -- even Henderson taking on Rua -- could top it. But somehow it did, somehow it managed to prove -- in the first instance on pay-per-view (PPV) -- that every main event should be and always should have been five rounds.

It wasn't the best fight ever. That's all subjective. But there's no denying the fight was a ton of fun.

That is fact.

The 25 minute war turned my Twitter feed -- mostly filled with fellow writers and bloggers -- into a collection of fanboys, excitedly professing how amazing the fight was. Men and women who are usually reserved to maintain a sense of professionalism couldn't stop talking about how incredible Henderson's performance was or Rua's toughness in a way not too dissimilar from how a normal fan would.

It reminded everyone how much fun the sport can be. After the 64 second shellacking that Velasquez took at the hands of "Cigano," the meme that began to spring up was casual fans asking, "Is that it?"

No! Oh my, no, that's definitely not it. Yes, quick knockouts -- like the one Michael McDonald scored during the Spike telecast -- are a big part of the sport but so are amazing back and forth battles where both fighters leave everything -- blood, sweat, and tears -- inside the Octagon.

As stated before, it didn't seem like anything would top the feelings and emotions experienced after a longtime fan favorite won what might have been the most important fight of his career. Only winning four of his last 10 fights, it appeared as if Father Time had finally caught up with the fearsome striker. So when Le -- hopelessly clinging onto his opponent's leg -- lay prone on the mat with a face that wouldn't land him any future movie roles -- aside from one in a horror flick, perhaps -- every Pride Fighting Championships fan's heart skipped a beat when Bruce Buffer called out Silva's name as the winner.

How could anything be better than that?

And early into the first round, it didn't seem like we would find out. The American wrestler landed one of his patented "H-Bomb" right hands and staggered "Shogun." The Brazilian kept fighting but took a pounding for the best part of three rounds. Then -- in what used to be referred as the "championship rounds" -- Rua stepped on the gas.

This was the second non-title main event to be slated for five rounds -- the first on PPV -- and thank the heavens for that. Had it not been, the fight would have ended after three rounds and we would have been robbed of the last 10 minutes that saw "Shogun" give Henderson the fight of his life. Had it been the main event for UFC 136, "Hendo" would have won 30-27 and while everyone would be talking about how great a performance the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ put in, there would not be the outpouring of unabashed fandom there is now.

Somehow, against all odds, Rua recovered and soldiered forward. In doing so, he and his opponent gave mixed martial arts (MMA) fans one the best fights we have had the pleasure of viewing. 

This -- THIS -- is why I love MMA.
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