History in the making: Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson nearly kill each other at UFC 139


"It was like death. Closest thing to dyin' that I know of." --Muhammad Ali, following his war against Joe Frazier in 1975

Things were finally starting to look up for Dan Henderson.

The longtime mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran had migrated from PRIDE Fighting Championship (PRIDE FC) with the highest of expectations, but faltered in his first two appearances for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Fight fans were willing to give the Olympian a free pass because in his defense, both appearances came against reigning champions. After getting outpointed by Quinton Jackson at UFC 75, "Hendo" was struck down by Anderson Silva at UFC 82.

He rebounded with three consecutive wins and bolted for Strikeforce when UFC wasn't cutting him enough cheddar.

Like he did in his Octagon debut, Henderson laid an egg in his first Strikeforce fight. He was able to come out strong against then-middleweight champion Jake Shields, but ran out of gas and got pushed around en route to a unanimous decision loss.

And, just like he did in UFC, he rebounded with three consecutive wins.

One of them was good enough to earn "Hendo" the promotion's light heavyweight championship. The other sent former PRIDE FC cohort Fedor Emelianenko back to Russia. Henderson, despite all his inconsistency after the fall of PRIDE FC, had won a championship and knocked out one of the greatest heavyweights who ever lived.

He was on the up-and-up.

The same could be said for Mauricio Rua, who like Henderson before him, came up lame in his UFC debut. Not only was "Shogun" strangled into submission at UFC 76, he was forced to submit to Forrest Griffin, the winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show.

It was a dagger in the hearts of elitists around the globe.

The Brazilian bounced back with a pair of technical knockout wins over fading legends Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell, before splitting a pair of bouts against Lyoto Machida, the latter of which secured him the 205-pound strap. Unfortunately, he would surrender it in his very next fight after Jon Jones destroyed him at UFC 128.

But every cloud has a silver lining.

The loss to "Bones" bumped Rua to the back of the line and right into a rematch with Griffin. This time, there would be no cardio issues, as "Shogun" sent the bestselling author crashing to the canvas in less than two minutes in front of an arena full of local fans.


And so it would come to be that Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua would have no one left to fight except each other, so the promotion matched them up for the UFC 139 main event, which took place on November 19, 2011, inside the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

Five rounds later, they were nearly dead.

"I was a little dizzy at the time because I lost so much blood," Rua would later tell Tatame. "I was very dizzy, I could see stars. I lost a lot of blood on the fight. Dan Henderson has alligator skin; he can handle punches without bleeding. I did my best, but unfortunately I couldn't get a positive result."

Henderson would go 0-3 in his next three appearances while Rua pulled even at 2-2.

As luck would have it, they'll step into the Octagon for another five rounds just over two years later as the headlining act of UFC Fight Night 38, which takes place inside the Nelio Dias Gymnasium in Natal, Brazil, on March 23, 2014. And if the second go-round is anything like the first?

It will probably look something like this.

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