Best Case, Worst Case: UFC Fight Night 38: 'Shogun vs Henderson 2'

Esther Lin

In a rematch not many fans were asking for (or wanted to see), two longtime veterans of the fight game will try to recapture lightning in a bottle when they spend 25 minutes punching each other in the face in Brazil. But like every contest, this one is not without its consequences, both good and bad.

The sequel is never as good as the original.

There are exceptions, of course, but the chips are stacked against the light heavyweight headliners in this Sunday night's (March 23, 2014) UFC Fight Night 38 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which asks Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson to run it back and try to duplicate their grueling, five round death match from 2011.

That's a fairly tall order.

Not because they don't have the talent, but let's not pretend we're dealing with a couple of young bucks here. I wouldn't say the Brazilian is over the hill at 32, but MMA years are like dog years, and when you consider the abuse he's taken -- coupled with his multiple surgeries -- "Shogun" is somewhere around 102 years old.

And Henderson is coming off the first knockout loss of his career.

Going to sleep in combat sports is like that first pee break when you go out drinking. Once you break the seal, it starts happening with more and more frequency. How well can "Hendo" hold up against the Muay Thai strikes of his attacker? That could all depend on his gas tank.

There are probably a dozen different scenarios that can play out, and as we coast into this weekend's big shebang on FOX Sports 1 in Brazil, we need to look at the best and worst of them.

Mauricio Rua

Best case: I hate to kick a guy when he's down (PRIDE pun intended), but the best case scenario for Rua is a clean, convincing finish. The Brazilian was able to erase the painful memory of his submission loss to Chael Sonnen last August by jaw-jacking James Te Huna "Down Under." Unfortunately, the fight was over in 63 seconds, so we it's difficult to say Rua is "back."

After all, we already knew he was a devastating striker.

But inconsistency has dogged him throughout his UFC career. The last time he was able to secure back-to-back wins was 2009, when he scored technical knockout victories over Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell, two aging veterans with one foot out the door.

Bringing home the bacon this weekend in Natal would justify his change in camps, get him back into the 205-pound title hunt and pair him off against a top-five opponent in his next fight.

Worst case: As crazy as it sounds, watching Rua get plastered in the first round wouldn't be that bad, if you consider he's fighting a guy who hits like a jackhammer and swings for the fences on every punch. What nobody wants to see is the Brazilian run out of gas in the first round, or just come out flat and lethargic, en route to a lopsided beating.

There's a difference between having heart and having chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

It's much easier to say "Hey, I got caught."

Rua has only lost consecutive fights once in his storied career and it would probably take three straight before we started revisiting the retirement discussion -- or talk of a drop to middleweight -- but an ugly performance that makes us wonder why we ever went to five-round main events would undoubtedly be the worst case scenario.

Dan Henderson

Best case: I think it's pretty obvious in combat sports that best case = win and worst case = loss. While that's true, there's usually more to the story (see Rua, Shogun). Not for Henderson, as he just has nothing going for him right now. He's 43-years-old, has lost three fights in a row, and was knocked out for the first time in his career.

On top of that, he's going to lose the ability to use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

To that end, "Hendo" needs a win. Forget about landing the "H-bomb" or doing some other fantastical finish. This guy needs a victory by any means necessary. The good news is, he already has one over Rua and knows what to expect. The bad news is, he was in all kinds of trouble in the final round of their UFC 139 headliner.

If Henderson can walk out of Brazil with a win in any way, shape, or form, then he's achieved his best-case scenario.

Worst case: While losing four straight would be a tough pill to swallow, you can argue that his split-decision losses to Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida were close enough to potentially score in his favor, since at least one judge did in both contests. Running out of gas and going down on points would suck for the fans, but it would hardly be enough to put Henderson on the unemployment line.

But if he got KTFO?

That is unquestionably his worst-case scenario. Part of the reason he's been able to hang around for so long is because of his iron jaw. Right now, "Hendo" can chalk up his last defeat to the TRT superpowers of Vitor Belfort, who clowned him with a head kick.

He can't say that with a knockout loss to Rua. will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 38 fight card on Sunday night (March 23, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card action that will begin at 7 p.m. ET.

To see the entire UFC Fight Night 38 fight card and line up click here.

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