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UFC 139 Fight Card Breakdown: Dan Henderson Vs. Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua

A comprehensive break-down, preview, and analysis of UFC 139's headliner between Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Nate Wilcox makes his prediction for the winner.

Photo by Esther Lin for<a href="" target="new"> MMA Fighting</a>.
Photo by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting.

Dan Henderson (28-8) and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (20-5), two MMA legends headline UFC 139 in a light heavyweight bout that could earn Henderson a shot at Anderson Silva's middleweight title. The UFC has long used 205lb and 195lb catchweight bouts to determine fighter's worthy-ness to face Silva. Rich Franklin has long served as the gatekeeper for Silva at both 195 and 205 pounds. He's already lost to Henderson so Rua gets the nod here.

Besides which, the two legends have somehow never faced off in the cage or the ring, despite both men having fought for Japan's Pride Fighting Championships and now the UFC for several years. It's a fight that should have big sentimental meaning for long-time fans of the sport.

UFC 139 Results | Dan Henderson Interview | Weigh-In Results

Henderson has been on a hot streak since losing back-to-back UFC title shots in 2007/2008. He's gone 6-1 with four of those wins coming via KO or TKO. Most recently he beat the Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko in a heavyweight bout in July.  A multiple division Pride and Strikeforce champ Henderson has never worn UFC gold. Henderson is 40 years old.

Rua has won one fight since losing his UFC light heavyweight title to Jon Jones at UFC 128. He looked terrible against Jones in March but made short work of Forrest Griffin at UFC 134 in August. He's battled troubled knees for the past several years, requiring extensive reconstruction of ligaments in both knees.

Provided that Henderson doesn't suddenly show his age and that Rua's knees are in decent shape, this should be a treat for the fans. Henderson, a former U.S. Greco-Roman Olympic team alternate, eschews his wrestling in the cage preferring to use his atomic right hand to score the big KO. He's got absolutely murderous ground and pound as well and excels at avoiding submissions on the ground.

Rua is one of the most dangerous Muay Thai specialists in MMA history. His knees from the clinch are the stuff of legend. He's also known for the tactical acumen and discipline that allowed him to "figure out" the baffling style of Lyoto Machida and end the "Machida Era" in a classic pair of bouts at UFC 104 and UFC 113.

Look for Shogun to have an edge at range, especially with leg kicks, but Henderson's one-punch KO power and iron chin could even things out at any time. It would be surprising, although not unheard of, for Rua to actually take Henderson down as Hendo often neglects his defensive wrestling when he's looking to slug it out. Rua's wrestling skills are pretty much limited to trip take downs from the clinch though so don't expect him to be shooting double legs, especially with two bum knees. 

I'm picking Henderson here but it should be a very close fight.

Aspect Henderson  Points Rua Advantage
Range Fighting

Boxing H Bomb Excellent Tie
Kickboxing Limited Excellent Rua
Wrestling Not As Good As You'd Expect 1 Weak Henderson
Clinch Fighting        
Dirty Boxing Excellent 1 Very Good Henderson
Thai Clinch Very Good 1 Best of Show Rua
Throws/Trips Very Good 1 Ok Henderson
Ground Fighting

Positional Control Excellent 1 Good Henderson
Ground and Pound Brutal 1 Brutal Tie
Submissions Limited 1 Good Rua
Conditioning Generally Good 1 Questionable Henderson
Intangibles 40 years old 1 Injuries Tie
Overall When You're Hot You're Hot 5/3 Ex-champ Henderson