Photo by Esther Lin via MMAFighting.com
But what would the fight of the decade be without just a tad bit of controversy?
"Hendo" and "Shogun" went at it with everything they had for five full rounds. When all was said and done, the judges awarded Henderson the victory by way of unanimous decision with scores of 48-47 across the board.
But did they get it right?
The Fight Metric report (Fight Metric report (click here for the full report) shows differently. In fact, under their scoring system, Rua was the rightful winner, as his performance rating was almost a full 100 points higher than Henderson's. Even under the 10-point must system, the fight should have been a draw.
Let's look at how they came to that conclusion.
As you can see (click the picture for a higher-res version), Rua outlanded Henderson in total strikes by a margin of 191-113 and a staggering 161-73 to the head. Naturally, this leads one to wonder how that can be the case, especially if you saw the fight. "Hendo" looked fairly effective for the majority of the fight but if that's so, how are the numbers so heavily skewed in Rua's favor?
The answer is quite simple, really. Henderson had his most success in the first three rounds, while Rua had his in the final two. The key point to make here is "Shogun" was utterly dominant in both the fourth and fifth round, statistically more so the final frame.
In the fourth round, the Brazilian outlanded the American by a margin of 33 total strikes to 9. In the fifth? An incredible 79-8. Yet, the cageside judges failed to give Rua a 10-8 for the final round, which is utterly baffling.
Let's look at the grappling report:
Again, the total numbers overwhelmingly favor "Shogun." He was 5 of 10 on takedown attempts and was credited with a staggering six passes to mount, not to mention one to half-guard and one to side control.
Henderson, on the other hand, was just 1 of 4 on takedowns with one pass to mount and one pass to side control.
Once again, the key factor here is the scoring of the fifth and final round. In said round, Rua was credited with one takedown (on his lone attempt) and one pass to side control to go along with five passes to mount.
"Hendo" landed eight strikes in the round and spent almost the entirety of the five minutes on his back trying -- and failing -- to fend off a vicious assault from Rua.
Still, a 10-8 was not awarded.
On to the performance ratings:
Because of his overwhelming output, Rua was awarded the win under the Fight Metric system but that's not even what's important here. What is important is that under the 10-point must system, the fight should have been scored a draw.
That's because Henderson was more effective in the first three rounds (Effectiveness Scores of 129-60, 92-65, and 128-73) while Rua was more effective in the final two (Effectiveness Scores of 181-81 and 202-36). The draw comes in because "Shogun" utterly dominated "Hendo" in the final frame, to the point that a 10-8 is the only score that makes sense.
Yet and still, not one judge saw it that way.
Make no mistake, this contest is not tainted by poor judging. While there will undoubtedly be a great deal of dissent with the final scores, one thing is for certain -- the main event of UFC 139 is one fight fans won't forget for a long time to come.