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UFC 139 Rewind

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship enjoyed perhaps its finest night Saturday in San Jose at HP Pavilion, where Dan Henderson returned to the Octagon to beat Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua in an epic five-round thriller at UFC 139.

Henderson hooked up his betting supporters as a plus-120 underdog, winning a unanimous decision that was scored 48-47 by all three judges.

Henderson dominated the first three rounds, nearly finishing Rua with strikes in each stanza. Henderson attempted a standing guillotine just 35 seconds into Round 1. When he sensed that he didn’t have the choke tight enough, Henderson landed a big knee that he followed up with three big right-hand hooks.

The 41-year-old ‘Hendo,’ who was back with the world’s premier promotion for the first time since UFC 100 in July of 2009, battered Rua with a plethora of big shots that had the Brazilian bleeding badly just 55 seconds into the bout. Henderson continued to get the best of the stand-up exchanges until Rua dropped him with a big right with 1:26 left in the round.

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But Henderson was quickly able to recover and then landed a bunch of big shots to easily win the opening round. VegasInsider.com scored it 10-9 for Henderson.

The second round was much of the same with Henderson punishing Rua with strikes galore. Rua was in trouble several times and was a bloody mess, but he continued to battle.

In Round 3, Henderson clipped Rua with a monster right that sent Shogun to the canvas with more than three minutes remaining. Henderson pounced on Rua and inflicted more damage as the Brazilian covered up.

Referee Josh Rosenthal appeared ready to stop the carnage but resisted when Rua escaped and attempted to execute a heel hook. When the submission failed and both men got back to their feet, Rua came forward and landed several shots before clinching Henderson against the cage.

At this point, Rua’s blood was all over his own face and all over Henderson’s body. But the former light heavyweight champ found a second wind from somewhere with about 1:15 left in the third. Showing incredible guts and a granite chin to survive Henderson’s third-round onslaught, Rua dealt out some punishment over the next 75 seconds.

In the late stages of Round 3, Henderson appeared completely bewildered by the fact that Rua was still standing and coming forward. ‘Hendo’ was also gassed after going all out in trying to finish Rua.

The momentum began to shift in the first minute of the fourth round. After scoring a takedown on the exhausted Henderson, a bloodied Rua began to go to work in ground-and-pound fashion. The next two minutes were spent on the ground as both fighters unsuccessfully attempted submissions.

With 1:45 left in the fourth round, Rua appeared fresher as both men were back on their feet. Rua landed a huge uppercut that rocked Henderson with 1:30 remaining. Shogun tagged Henderson with several more strikes before ‘Hendo’ answered and then both fighters exchanged blows in the center of the Octagon as the crowd went nuts.

Rua scored a takedown with about 35 ticks left and quickly moved to mount and inflicted more ground-and-pound punishment. To avoid the shots from Shogun, Henderson gave up his back and Rua went for the choke. However, Henderson escaped and regained the top position just before the bell sounded.

VI gave Rua the fourth round by a 10-9 score.

In the fifth and final round, Rua got another takedown and established full mount with four minutes remaining. Shogun started hammering Henderson with a combination of punches and elbows, as he maintained the top position for the rest of the round.

Knowing he was ahead on the judges’ scorecards, Henderson simply rode out the round by trying to avoid big shots from Shogun. Rua landed a slew of big shots, though, but apparently not enough to make it a 10-8 round.

VI gave the fifth round to Rua by a 10-9 count to agree with all three judges on the final tally, 48-47.

After his hand was raised, Henderson told Joe Rogan, “All I can say is that guy can take a f’n punch. I hit him hard and thought I could finish him but he stood in there strong and finished strong, but I knew I had the first three rounds easy. He fought with a lot of heart.”

The win earns Henderson a shot at the 205-pound title against the winner of Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida in the main event at UFC 140 on Dec. 10.

In the co-main event, Wanderlei Silva got back on track with a second-round knockout of Cung Le as a plus-130 underdog. Le, the 39-year-old kickboxer who was making his UFC debut, started fast and had ‘The Axe Murderer’ in trouble when he landed a spinning back fist that dropped Silva to a knee less than two minutes into the fight.

But in the last 90 seconds of Round 1, Silva began to close the distance and land punches. He opened up a cut above Le’s right eye with a straight right hand. Silva also landed a head kick late in the stanza. The round could’ve gone either way but VI scored it for Silva, 10-9.

In the second round, both men exchanged on their feet, as Le attempted an array of spinning kicks. Neither man established a clear advantage in the first three minutes, but the momentum shifted Silva’s way when he landed a combination with 1:35 left. The final minute of Round 2 was all Silva, as he hurt Le with a straight right and then five vicious knees from the muay-thai clinch. A big left floored Le and the referee intervened after Silva pounced and landed several shots from the top.

Urijah Faber earned another bantamweight title shot against Dominick Cruz by beating Brian Bowles via submission at the 1:27 mark of the second round. Faber cashed tickets as a minus-220 favorite at most books.

Martin ‘Hitman’ Kampmann bounced back from a pair of controversial decision losses to beat Rick ‘The Horror’ Story by split decision as a plus-110 underdog. However, Kampmann was nearly robbed again as one judge inexplicably scored the fight for Story, 29-28. But the other two judges had it 30-27 and 29-28 for Kampmann.

Stephan Bonnar won his third straight fight by capturing a unanimous-decision victory over Kyle Kingsbury in a light heavyweight showdown that kicked off the pay-per-view card at The Shark Tank. Bonnar used his superior wrestling and ground skills to dominate the second and third rounds.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The UFC selected a pair of matches for Fight of the Night honors, resulting in four competitors garnering the accompanying $70,000 bonuses. That cash went to Henderson, Rua, Le and Silva.

--Faber earned a $70,000 bonus for Submission of the Night, while Michael McDonald took home KO of the Night honors for his first-round finish of Alex Soto.

--After his win over Kingsbury, Bonnar indicated that he wanted to face Rampage Jackson in his next fight.

--Due to a lingering shoulder injury suffered in his win in Brazil in August, Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva isn’t expected to fight again until the summer of 2012. This means Chael Sonnen will have to wait for his rematch and could take a fight in a main event in early 2012. Mark Munoz is a potential opponent for Sonnen.

Brian Edwards can be reached at briane@vegasinsider.com.

For daily sports gambling analysis, follow Brian Edwards on twitter at Vegasbedwards.

  
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