It wasn't quite the bout their first meeting was in 2011, but it was still something. Dan Henderson survived being dropped twice in two rounds to find a way to give Shogun Rua a taste of his own medicine, as he stopped Rua in the third round to earn the TKO victory.
To put it mildly, things started badly for the former two-division PRIDE champion.
Both fighters opened orthodox and Rua did the early stalking. Rua pecked away at Henderson early with leg kicks, both inside and out, and blocked Henderson's early right overhand attempts. Henderson attempted his own leg kicks and even a brief push for a takedown, albeit one that went nowhere. Rua, by contrast, landed a hard leg kick only to be countered with a left hand from Henderson. Rua was hurt and as Henderson pursued, Shogun blasted him with a right-left combination that sent the American crashing to the mat. Rua pounced on Henderson trying to land anything he could, but Henderson manged to move just enough to prevent the fight from being stopped.
Rua picked up the intensity right from the second frame's opening, landing another hard right and forcing Henderson into the clinch. The two eventually separated and both just missed on a series of bombs. They traded again and this time Shogun drilled Henderson with a blistering uppercut that sent Henderson to the mat again. Shogun worked on top, but not with a ton of urgency or heavy ground and pound. A lack of activity eventually compelled referee Herb Dean to stand the two fighters up, which put Rua right back in stalking mode.
Henderson opened the third round charging with a series of punches, most of them missing. In the clinch, however, Rua's hands were down, and as they separated, Henderson cracked Rua with a crushing right hand. The shot sent Shogun reeling. As he tried to recover in turtle position, there was no recovery to be had. Referee Herb Dean stopped the fight and as Shogun stood, he collapsed backward in both agony and in a state of semi-consciousness.
The end came officially at 1:31 of the third round.
"This one probably means more than most," Henderson said of his victory in the rematch post-fight. "Shogun's been such a big part of mixed martial arts and such a talented and tough fighter. Especially the year I had last year, coming off of that, i wanted to make sure I got a win. I was a little too patient, I think, at the beginning of the fight. It just means a lot more to me than most fights to fight and beat a guy like Shogun."
When asked about whether he was hurt early in the bout, Henderson copped to being affected by Shogun's strikes.
"He definitely dinged me a little bit. He definitely rang my bell in the first round also and again in the second. I just decided to be patient. I think I was a little too patient the first two rounds. I wasn't very offensive. That third round we both decided to get after it and leave things where we left the last fight.
"I'm such a big fan of Shogun and what he's done for the sport and how he represents himself and the sport, so I'm always a fan of his," Henderson continued. "Thank you for bringing the best out of me as well."
Henderson's record climbs to 30-11 while Rua drops to 22-9.