UFC 139: Shogun vs. Henderson goes down this Saturday from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California and will feature a five-round, non-title fight in the light heavyweight division between Pride FC veterans Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan Henderson.
Supporting the main event will be two high-profile contests between middleweight striking experts Wanderlei Silva and Cung Le, as well as a high-octane bantamweight tilt between former champions Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles.
Also, don’t forget to check back at FightLine.com Saturday afternoon for our live, ongoing coverage of UFC 139: Shogun vs. Henderson.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson
This fight needs little introduction to the hardcore fans, who’ve been waiting to see Shogun and Hendo duke it out since the heady Pride days. The two will finally meet, in the light heavyweight division, and are possibly fighting for a shot at UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones’ belt.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua rebounded from a spring, title-relinquishing loss to Jon Jones this summer by emphatically knocking out fellow former champion (and the man who spoiled his Octagon debut) Forrest Griffin in the first round of their UFC 134 fight. Rua is best known for and best served by his unique style of Muay Thai. His strikes catch opponents off-guard by being deceptively powerful and coming from odd angles, their slight unorthodoxy being the key to their success. Rua is also apparently healthy right now, and he always does his best when he’s staying active and not returning from a knee injury layoff.
Dan Henderson is as accomplished a competitor as there currently exists in MMA; the 41-year-old has held titles in two different promotions (Pride and Strikeforce) across two divisions and boasts an Olympic-caliber wrestling pedigree. On top of his expert grappling, Hendo has some of the heaviest hands in the business and has dramatically separated some of the best fighters in the world from consciousness. Hendo is now running the home stretch of his career and is looking to add one more title to his mantle before he calls it done. His first step is getting past Shogun.
Mark: Shogun looked awesome against Griffin, but it didn’t quite erase the memory of the beating he absorbed at the hands of Jon Jones. Henderson is on a roll and I think he possesses the offensive grappling to give Rua a hard time, but he’ll have to actually mix in takedowns to his attack and not just focus on loading up on his right hand, looking for the knockout. Both men have incredible chins and this one figures to be contested mostly on the feet, but I think Hendo wins it in the scrambles. Henderson via unanimous decision
Dana: Dan Henderson seems to be a rejuvenated fighter despite his age. “Hendo” has more of an all-around game when it comes to MMA, but Mauricio “Shogun” Rua looked like his former self in knocking out Forrest Griffin earlier this year. With so much at stake in this bout, I think Henderson’s experience and mat skills make the difference. Henderson via third round TKO
Raj: Rua has a history of looking unimpressive after a long-layoff, but then looking tremendous in his follow-up outings. Dan Henderson wants another crack at UFC gold, and hopes that this fight will catapult him to a title shot. It all comes down to whether or not Shogun will be able to avoid the H-bomb. Unfortunately, that’s easier said then done, and I see Henderson catching Shogun late in the fight to get the win. Henderson via fourth-round TKO
Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le
This is a battle between highlight-reel generating middleweight strikers that is surrounded by questions. How sharp and in shape is Le after spending well over a year focusing on his movie career? Just how much does Wanderlei Silva have left in the tank and will he alter his go-for-broke style in the face of his most recent defeat?
The answers to those questions won’t be answered until Saturday night, but one thing that does seem like a foregone conclusion is whether or not the fight will deliver the excitement.
A veteran of the Pride Fighting Championships known for leaving a trail of crumpled and beaten opponents in his wake during his tenure with that promotion, Wanderlei Silva’s reign of violence has been inconsistent while competing in the UFC. The Axe Murderer has gone 2-6 over his last eight and has been knocked out four times, his most recent outing resulting in a quick first round knockout to Chris Leben. His hard-charging style often leaves him open to counters and, though he will attempt to prove us all wrong this weekend, it doesn’t look like his body can stand up to it anymore.
Where Silva is almost all violence and aggression, Le’s striking style is marked by technique, proficiency and precision. The Sanshou kickboxing expert works behind a kick-heavy offense, continually flicking his legs out using varied techniques and most often battering his opponents whether they block the strikes or not. At 39-years-old with a very sporadic recent stint in MMA competition, it’s hard to predict how Le will look, but he assures that he’s going to show up better than ever for his long-awaited UFC debut.
Mark: My heart says Silva but my mind says Le. The Axe Murderer just hasn’t shown the ability to adjust his style around what appears to be a diminishing ability to take shots and I think Le will be able to touch him with something during the course of their three rounder. It hurts me to do this and here’s hoping to see a return to vintage form for Silva, but I’ll take Le via first round knockout
Dana: Wanderlei Silva may actually hear some boos when he enters the arena for the first time in a long time, as Cung Le is a hero to the people of San Jose. I don’t think that will matter much to Silva, however, as “The Axe Murderer” is just too big of a fighter for Le to contend with. Silva has had a rough go in the past few years, but Le is exactly the kind of opponent he needs to see to get back on track. Silva via first round KO (strikes)
Raj: Le couldn’t ask for a better match-up for his UFC debut, as Le’s strength lies in his stand-up. Silva is looking to prove the doubters wrong and show that he still has some great fights in him. In my opinion, Le has never met a striker the likes of Silva, and will likely fall to “The Axe Murderer” early. Silva via first-round TKO
Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles
Though the rest of the card is still packed with high-quality match-ups, this bantamweight tilt between former champions Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles rounds out the marquee matches at the top of the card. It has not been confirmed, but the winner of this bout could very well set themselves up for a title fight with Cruz.
Former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber will be looking to get back in title contention with a win over Bowles, having fought current champ Dominick Cruz to a hard-fought, closer-than-the-scores-indicate unanimous decision loss this past July. The California Kid is one of the most well-rounded competitors in the game, having added potent striking and submission skills on top of a very formidable wrestling game.
Brian Bowles has the opportunity to make it three in a row this weekend, having taken out Damacio Page and Takeya Mizugaki in succession since losing the bantamweight belt to Cruz via TKO (broken hand) back in March of 2010. Bowles is similar to Faber in that he does just about everything well, blending striking and grappling together effectively and fighting very well in the transitions.
Mark: This is a tough one to call and should be closely contested, but I think Faber proved in his fight against Cruz that he’s still championship material and has a slight edge over the very formidable Bowles. Faber via unanimous decision
Dana: This is the “Fight of the Night” in my eyes, as Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles will put on a show and let everyone know this is what the bantamweight and featherweight divisions are all about. Both men will be willing to go toe-to-toe with each other, while they both hold excellent skills on the ground. Faber has been in a few big-time matches now in the UFC, so that might help him in regards to dealing with the nerves of such an important bout. Faber via split decision
Raj: Faber is looking for his fourth title shot since losing the WEC Featherweight Championship in 2008. In order to get it, he will have to get by the highly-underrated Brian Bowles. Bowles has lost only once — to current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz via doctor’s stoppage — and has finished his opponents in all but one of his victories. I think this will be a great fight, with Faber ultimately falling to Bowles’ knockout power. Bowles via third-round TKO