Henderson vs. “Shogun” from UFC 139 will be inducted into the “fight wing” of the UFC Hall of Fame this summer, the promotion announced Saturday night during the UFC 224 broadcast. The ceremony is scheduled for July 5 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Henderson beat Rua on Nov. 19, 2011 by unanimous decision in San Jose, Calif., but the battle was one of the most rollicking, back-and-forth displays of toughness and heart in the history of the UFC.
In the fight, Henderson landed a big right hand early that put “Shogun” in big trouble and seemed to be a prelude to an early end to the main event. Rua somehow survived the first round barrage, then some more in the second round. Henderson once again nearly finished “Shogun” with punches in the third round, but the Brazilian legend stunningly held up.
“I was hoping to be able to force the issue and make him quit on me,” Henderson told MMA Fighting earlier this week. “I didn’t see any of that in him.”
Instead, Rua battled back to win the fourth round. In the fifth, “Shogun” gained full mount and rained blows down on Henderson, nearly finishing “Hendo.” Henderson, like Rua before him, survived to the bell. Every single judge scored the first three rounds for Henderson and the final two for “Shogun.”
“I was always trying to win the fight. In the fourth and fifth rounds, I got most of the time on top of Henderson,” Rua said, via provided quotes from the UFC. “He could handle my punches and at the end, I gave my max, all my heart and I’m happy that we had a great fight.”
When it was all over, “Shogun” had landed 96 significant strikes and Henderson landed 77, per FightMetric. In total, there were 472 strikes thrown in the five-round bout.
“The first fight between Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua is one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “This fight represents everything that’s great about UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts. Dan came out dropping bombs and took control of the first three rounds, while Shogun was able to absorb a ton of punishment, win the fourth and push the fight to the brink in the fifth. This fight was so good that it was named the 2011 Fight of the Year and is still considered one of the top five fights in UFC history.”
Henderson, now retired, said the UFC told him the fight would be inducted into the Hall of Fame a bout a month ago.
“My first response was, I didn’t know that they did induct fights the Hall of Fame,” Henderson, 47, said with a laugh. “I think it’s pretty neat that they remember different moments, as well as the people involved. Being in that fight, I know it probably wasn’t as exciting to me as it was for the fans to watch.”
“Hendo” said this fight with “Shogun,” which was named the MMA Fighting 2011 Fight of the Year, is one of the best ones of his career, along with his knockouts of Fedor Emelianenko and Wanderlei Silva.
“It’s right up there — top three or four, for sure,” Henderson said. “Fedor and Wanderlei, knocking them out was great. So, maybe him being three. Definitely was a tough night for both of us.”
“Shogun,” meanwhile, is still fighting in relevant contests in the UFC light heavyweight division. He faces Volkan Oezdemir in the main event of UFC Hamburg on July 22 in Germany. Rua, with all of his accomplishments, said he is still asked about the fight with Henderson often.
“This fight was really good for the crowd, they really liked it,” “Shogun,” 36, said. “I can only compare it to one other fight, when I fought [Antonio Rogerio Nogueira] in PRIDE. I’m just really happy that everyone keeps talking about this fight. Everywhere I go they talk about it and I appreciate that it’s a part of UFC history.”
Henderson, a California was a two-division PRIDE champion, the UFC 17 middleweight tournament champion and a Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, not to mention a former Olympic wrestler. He retired in 2016 after nearly dethroning middleweight champion Michael Bisping. Henderson also owns another win over Rua, via knockout, from UFC Natal in 2014.
Rua is a former UFC light heavyweight champion was the 2005 PRIDE middleweight grand prix champ. “Shogun” has won three straight and remains a contender in the UFC’s 205-pound division.
Both men will surely go into the Hall for their bodies of work. Now, though, they’ll go in for an historic showcase of durability and perseverance.
“When asked when I was still fighting about the Hall of Fame, I always said, ‘That would be cool, but that’s not why I’m fighting,’” Henderson said. “It doesn’t matter as much to me as just making sure I represent myself well and represent the sport and do the best I can and win the fights. That’s why I’m fighting, just to have some personal satisfaction, not necessarily because I want to get in the Hall of Fame. But now that I’m done fighting, yeah I guess it would make sense that I’d be in there. But I wouldn’t be crushed or anything if it didn’t happen.”