Henderson vs. Shogun: The Judges Got it Right

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 by Tony Reid

In our world of instant gratification and constant information overload, the microwave friendly, “gotta have it now and have it my way” society of 30 second highlights, Sportscenter sound bites, constant Twitter updates and never ending Facebook posts anything great that happens in the present tense is automatically considered the “best of all time”. It has to be, right? I mean, it just happened, you watched it, and all the “experts” are saying it was great so there couldn’t possibly be anything better ever or it would most assuredly be the first result in a search on Google. In the unique case of MMA you don’t have to look back over 100 years of history to determine whether or not this fight might actually be the best of the best. There is a short list that spans less than two decades and it includes Griffin vs. Bonnar I, Hughes vs. Trigg II, Frye vs. Takayama, Frank Shamrock vs. Ortiz, Stout vs. Fisher, and many others and as with any list, it could go on and on.

When Dan Henderson fought Mauricio Shogun Rua last weekend at UFC 139 after years of anticipation, it was truly a fight for the ages. I am generally one of the first people to avoid hyperbole, allusions of grandeur and over hyping but this was the real deal. I am also one that is generally up in arms when a decision goes in a direction other than the way I saw the fight in my eyes and that happens more times than not nowadays but in the case of Henderson vs. Shogun, dare I say, I feel the judges got it right. You might not agree with my assessment but read below for my best Cecil Peoples impersonation.

In the first round Hendo landed more power punches/shots, doing a good bit of damage from inside the clinch, dirty boxing and the like. Mr. Clinch Gear himself also had a legit front choke/guillotine attempt. He took the fight to Shogun and pulled out the round. Round 1: 10-9 Henderson.

The second round saw more of the same with Hendo utilizing the clinch and battering Shogun with more dirty boxing. There was a bit of trading on the feet but Hendo again controlled the majority of the round. Round 2: 10-9 Henderson.

The third round was an early game changer (there would be a game changer later as well) in that Hendo was milliseconds away from finishing Shogun. After the standup battery Hendo inflicted on Rua eventually dropped him, Henderson followed him to the ground and unleashed dozens of punches and elbows in a ground assault where there were a few moments that no one would have questioned a stoppage by referee Josh Rosenthal. Hendo was landing those huge, winging rights standing way up high above a grounded Shogun and then transitioned to landing shots from the top position when Rua was on his back and later his side and belly. Many people that disagree with the decision and point to Shogun’s leg lock attempt in an effort to avoid a 10-8 round. In my opinion, this submission attempt was out of pure desperation, similar to a wrestler landing a takedown after being battered on his feet for the first four and a half minutes of a round.  He was not going to pull that off, he was too gassed and his brain was too scrambled at that point.  Round 3: 10-8 Henderson

The fourth round started a completely new fight. (Game changer number two)Shogun completely took over the fight and made Hendo look old and tired. He landed more in the standup this round (23 to 8 in significant strikes and 33 to 9 overall strikes) and he scored three takedowns, at ease, to Henderson’s one. Hendo was in retreat mode and on the defensive for the vast majority of the round. Round 4:  10-9 Shogun.

The fifth round was one of the most lopsided rounds in a fight that wasn’t stopped that I can remember (along with the first round of Edgar Maynard II) and one that was completely dominated by Shogun. He out struck Henderson 79 to 8…Yes, 79 to 8. Shogun landed 26 significant strikes to Hendo’s zero…that’s right zero. Shogun also got mount five times in the fifth round. This was a 10-8 round if I ever saw one. Round 5: 10-8 Shogun.

Regardless of your feelings on the scoring of this fight, we can all be content that we witnessed one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport. And think about how instrumental that choice to make main events five rounds instead of three became here? That was a huge factor. Imagine if this one had only gone three rounds? Not a single person on the face of the earth would have questioned the decision. The truth of the matter is we can all play Monday morning quarterback and give our two cents after a judge’s decision, good or bad, but the only three opinions that matter are of the three people that sit Octagon-side on the night of the event. Anyhow, with my somewhat questionable 10-8 rounds, my final score card reads: Henderson 47, Shogun 46. Let the hate mail begin.