Their first fight is arguably the greatest in UFC history, but once is rarely enough when there's a chance to do it all over again, so Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will face off for a second time in the UFC Fight Night main event in Natal, Brazil this Sunday.
Henderson and Shogun put on a five round classic the last time they faced each other in 2011, but now almost three years later, how much has changed, if anything, and will this second fight possibly live up to the bar set by the first one?
In addition to Henderson and Shogun, former Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira faces off against another reality show alum in CB Dollaway, while two more international winners from the show throw down when Leonardo Santos takes on Norman Parke
It's a stacked card from Brazil, but who has the edge and which fighters could be on the verge of an upset to score the most points possible in the UFC Fantasy Game? Read ahead to find out.
MAURICIO "SHOGUN" RUA (-215 FAVORITE) VS. DAN HENDERSON (+165 UNDERDOG)
It's nearly impossible to duplicate the kind of greatness we all experienced during the first fight between Shogun and Henderson so it's safe to assume the second fight could be epic, but it's hard to imagine it will be the same as the first.
Since their last fight, Shogun and Henderson have both fallen on harder times, experiencing several losses between the two of them, but there's still a recipe for an excellent fight with two competitors both hoping to spark a run in the ever-widening UFC light heavyweight division. Henderson returns from his first career knockout loss when he was finished by Vitor Belfort, while Shogun recently bounced back with a huge finish over James Te Huna in one of the nastiest finishes of the last six months.
While it seems crazy to think the first fight will be carbon copied in this fight, there are still some interesting statistics that could tell the story this second time around. Despite Henderson's dominant near finish through the first three rounds, Shogun still battled back to win the final two rounds and ended up outstriking his opponent 96 to 77 in significant strikes and 191 to 113 in overall strikes. Shogun's output was incredible, especially given the trouble he got into as soon as the fight started. On the ground, Shogun was also very effective, passing Henderson's guard, which he did eight times during the fight while stuffing all but one of his opponent's takedowns. Rua countered with five takedowns of his own, and that's no easy feat given Henderson's wrestling pedigree.
There's also the mindset going into this fight that makes a big difference. Henderson is off three losses in a row while just being finished by knockout for the first time in his career and Shogun returns following a career resurgent win over James Te Huna with a vicious knockout of his own.
Expect Rua's toughness to be the same in this fight as it was the first time around, but as long as he can avoid Henderson's massive right hand, the result should be much different. Rua can mix things up with his attacks before wearing Henderson down, round after round, and finally seize his opportunity to take over late in the fight. Shogun has a deceptive ground attack, as witnessed in his first fight with Henderson, and there's just no give up in his heart. Henderson will undoubtedly make a strong showing for himself, and he has the 'H-bomb' to end the fight with one punch, but unless he lands that early, Shogun sticks around and drowns him in deep waters late to get the win and even up the series at one a piece.
And really who could complain about these two fighters possibly fighting for a third time to settle it once and for all?
CEZAR FERREIRA VS. CB DOLLAWAY
The last time CB Dollaway was in Brazil he picked up a win over Daniel Sarafian while also getting Fight of the Night honors. The win, which isn't easy to come by for foreigners traveling to the South American country, was the big thing for “The Doberman,” and in this fight, Dollaway will face the winner of the first Ultimate Fighter Brazil, Vitor Belfort disciple Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira.
This matchup could really be decided on Dollaway's use and effectiveness of his wrestling. The former Arizona State standout averages nearly four takedown attempts per fight, and given Ferreira's takedown defense, which currently stands at a perfect 100-percent, this is going to be a war for who gets the fight to where they want it. Ferreira is no slouch with his own wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but it's likely that if this fight ends up on the ground, it will be Dollaway who takes it there.
The former Ultimate Fighter finalist showed new confidence in his striking during his last bout against Tim Boetsch, but his biggest strength remains his wrestling and ability to grind an opponent down to a nub over three rounds. Ferreira's wild striking, where he only lands with 36.8 percent accuracy, could leave him susceptible to the takedown regardless of his defense, because to this point in his UFC career, he's never faced a wrestler as good as Dollaway.
Expect Dollaway to keep the pressure on for all three rounds and never let Ferreira gain confidence in his hands by getting into big exchanges. If Dollaway can resist the urge to stand and trade with Ferreira, he's got a great chance of going home with his second win in Brazil by decision. The flipside is a bad alternative, because if Dollaway chooses to stand up with Ferreira, he may survive all three rounds, but he likely won't come away victorious in that scenario.
LEONARDO SANTOS VS. NORMAN PARKE
Two winners from the international versions of The Ultimate Fighter face off, with Brazil's Leonardo Santos taking on TUF Smashes’ Norman Parke. Much like Dollaway vs. Ferreira, this is another fight that all comes down to positions and who controls where this fight lands.
The term world-class gets tossed around a lot in MMA, but Leonardo Santos really is one of the best in the UFC when it comes to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He's competed in the prestigious Abu Dhabi grappling championships in previous years and holds a win on the mats over former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. It wasn't MMA of course, but it's still no small feat to beat St-Pierre in anything considering the grappling pedigree he exudes in his fights and training.
Parke, however, is anti-grappling and that's where this fight could separate in terms of the outcome. Park is tremendously fast and primarily a boxer, which means he won't throw a ton of kicks that could catch him in a trip or a takedown from Santos. Parke has showcased great takedown defense thus far in his UFC career, with an 83 percent average overall, and with his fast hands and feet it could spell disaster for Santos over three rounds.
Parke has knockout power without a doubt, but he will likely want to stick and move to stay away from Santos' takedowns. As the rounds move forward and it gets tougher and tougher for Santos to actually grab hold of Parke for a takedown attempt, much less getting a submission, the shift in momentum will drift dramatically towards the Irishman. By the end of the third round, Parke should be in control and walk away from Brazil with a victory.
FABIO MALDONADO VS. GIAN VILLANTE
This battle between two light heavyweight sluggers will certainly be an early pick to contend with Shogun and Henderson for Fight of the Night. Fabio Maldonado and Gian Villante both have huge power in their hands, and the willingness to stand and trade bombs that should make this a very fun fight to watch.
Maldonado is an extremely busy striker, landing 5.72 significant strikes per minute, and he lands with just a shade under 61 percent accuracy, which is nearly 20 percent higher than the UFC average. Where Maldonado excels is with his body punching, which may be some of the best in the UFC. He digs into the gut with his strikes and that takes a toll on a fighter over three rounds. Villante probably possesses more power and athleticism, but there's no discounting heart and an iron chin, and Maldonado has both.
If Maldonado fights his normal style of fight, he will weather a storm at some point from Villante, but assuming his zombie-like ability to absorb strikes holds up, he will eventually begin to take over in the clinch, which is where he works best. Maldonado lives to push an opponent against the cage and start digging into them with punches to the midsection. Over the course of the fight that kind of damage starts to add up, and by the third round, Maldonado is still punching and Villante will either crumble to the mat or get to a decision with bruised ribs and a punctured ego.