The rematch between Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua couldn’t possibly live up to the epic nature of their first encounter, a five-round classic back at UFC 139. It came pretty close, though. Dan Henderson’s come from behind third-round knockout will be remembered as one of the best moments of 43 year-old’s career, which is already filled with highlight-reel knockouts. The card as a whole gave us plenty of finishes, and also some odd refereeing decisions. Here are the night’s biggest winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 38.
Biggest Winner: Dan Henderson
Dan Henderson came into this fight on the only three-fight losing streak of his 17-year mixed martial arts career. In fact, his last win was against Shogun at UFC 139. He came up short three times since then, losing decisions to Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida, and then suffering his only TKO loss to Vitor Belfort at Fight Night 32 in November. Hendo nearly got finished by Shogun in the last minute of the first round, with Shogun dropping Henderson with a left hook, and following up with some ground and pound. Henderson showed that his chin is far from diminished, as he weathered the storm and made it out of the round. The finish came in the third round, with Henderson cracking Shogun with two loud, short right hands, and following up with some punches on the ground until Herb Dean waived it off. Shogun was badly hurt by those punches, and fell back down to the canvas after attempting to stand immediately after the TKO loss.
What do you do with Dan Henderson now if you are the UFC? He’s a main event fighter who is a legend in the sport, so you can’t exactly put him up against the Fabio Maldonado’s and the Ovince St. Preux’s of the world, but he’s also either lost or already fought most of the top contenders. Hendo’s emphathic win extends his horizon a bit in the sport, as we would undoubtedly be calling for his retirement had he fallen at the hands of Shogun. I say match him up with Daniel Cormier, which I think would be a fantastic matchup of elite level wrestlers which would probably be a stand up battle.
Biggest Loser: Scott Jorgensen
This was Jorgensen’s second fight at flyweight, and he was coming off a loss to Zach Machovsky in his 125-pound debut. The finish came after an accidental headbutt from Jussier Formiga dropped Jorgensen, and he got snagged in a rear-naked choke from the Brazilian that handed him his 2nd loss in a row. Jorgensen is left to contemplate his future in the weight class, and in the UFC after an illegal (albeit accidental) strike contributed to his demise on Sunday night. I don’t think Jorgensen should give up on fighting at flyweight, but the stakes will certainly be higher in his next outing as he’s now got his back against the wall staring down the possibility of the dreaded three-fight losing streak.
Stock up: C. B. Dollaway
This was Dollaway’s 13th fight inside the Octagon. It’s hard to believe that he’s been showcasing his wares in the UFC for six years now. He was facing the winner of the inaugural season of TUF Brasil in Cezar Ferreira, who was 3-0 inside the Octagon. Dollaway made short work of Mutante, by dropping him and finishing him off with some precise and vicious ground and pound. It was an impressive win for Dollaway that should put him right back in the rankings conversation, and he will most likely get a top 15 fighter his next time out.
Stock down: Gian Villante
I gave ‘Biggest Loser’ to Jorgensen, not because he looked the worst on Sunday, but because he had what I felt was the worst set of circumstances, on a night where a lot of guys had some bad circumstances. Gian Villante however, did look the worst of any fighter on the card. It’s hot in Brazil, that may have played a part, but Villante gassed out hard after a dominant first round. In the third round he looked like he wanted nothing to do with being in the Octagon. He had his hands down, and was unwilling to engage, most likely because he simply didn’t have the energy to do so. I’m not going to judge Villante’s entire career by this one performance, but he needs to have a remarkably different next time out if he hopes to stay in the UFC.
Just the worst ever: Referee Wernei Cardoso
I am fairly critical of bad calls in mma, if only because I feel that the athletes who train and compete at the highest level of this sport deserve a certain level of competency out of those who referee their fights. This referee might as well have worn a Brazilian sports team’s jersey into the Octagon, because it seemed as though he was hell-bent on favoring Brazilian fighters. The second that Rony Jason swung his arms this guy was ready to waive it off for the Brazilian, and he outright sprinted towards Steven Siler to end the fight while Siler was still clearly defending himself intelligently. Then in the Parke vs Santos fight, he took a point from Norman Parke (without any warning whatsoever) for grabbing the shorts of Santos.
On the surface, he might be guilty of simply being overzealous with point deductions, except for the fact that while he was laser-focused on penalizing the non-Brazilian, Leonardo Santos was wrist-deep in a fence grab, which is equally as illegal, and much more impactful to the fight itself than grabbing someone’s shorts. If you’re going to be taking points, you need to apply the same standard to both fighters, which he did not. Cardoso set the bar pretty high for incompetency in the mma referee game on Sunday night, and it’s going to take a pretty big screw-up or legitimate corruption to top his antics at Fight Night 38.