Sunday, November 20, 2011

UFC 139: The night two legends stole the show

How much do I love MMA? I missed the live telecast of UFC 139 Saturday night because I was DJ'ing and didn't get home till 4:30AM. However, I set my alarm for 6:45AM, so I could get up to watch the replay at 7AM Sunday morning and it was well worth the effort. On a stacked card being fought in San Jose, CA, it was a pair of legends that stole the show.

The main event alone was worth the price of admission as light-heavyweights (205 lbs.) Dan 'Hendo' Henderson (29-8, 13 KO's 2 subs) and Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (20-6, 7 KO's 1 sub) put on an epic battle that is already being lauded as one of the greatest in UFC history. After five grueling rounds of back and forth action, it was the 41 year old former Pride FC and Strikeforce champion Henderson who emerged the victor in his third return to the UFC.

Although it was a non-title fight, this classic proved the UFC brass right in making all main events five rounds; although early on it didn't look like it would get past one or two. In vintage Dan Henderson style, his lethal right hand caught Rua throughout the first three rounds and it looked like it could be the beginning of the end in all three. However, 'Shogun' somehow weathered the storm and found moments of his own throughout.

Ironically, as the fight progressed into the fourth and fifth rounds, the tide turned and it was Rua who had Henderson (pictured above) in serious trouble, especially in the fifth when he was in mounted position on the ground for at least four minutes. Yet, just like Rua before him, Hendo found the will, which is about all he had at the end, to survive. The result was an instant classic. In typical Henderson fashion, after the fight he told Joe Rogan, "That guy can take an f'in punch."

The co-main event was electric right from the entrance of the combatants and that electricity carried right on through into the cage. That's because it featured two combat sports legends, one in MMA and one in kickboxing, in former Pride champion Wanderlei 'The Axe Murderer' Silva and former San Shou world champion Cung Le. In a crossroads fight for both fighters as Silva (34-11-1, 24 KO's, 3 subs) was only 3-6 in his last nine fights and Le (7-2, 7 KO's in MMA) at 39 has a successful movie career going, it was Silva who would emerge the victor.

For Silva, four of those last six losses were by knockout, the last one in 27 seconds just four months ago. Thus, UFC President Dana White had been talking about possibly forcing him to retire and in the first round it looked as though that may be the case as Le had him in trouble at one point. However, a champion's heart cannot be measured and late in the second round it was Silva who hurt Le with a punch and then unleashed his patented fury. With vicious knees from a Muay Thai clinch, he dropped the hometown Le and finished him with hammer fists forcing the referee to step in.

An emotional Silva said in his post fight interview, "It's been a difficult last few years for me, but things can happen through belief and hard work. Jesus Christ is always with me; it is he who is the boss." As for Le, this was his first fight ever in the UFC and with this being his first fight in over 16 months, only time will tell if he'll have another or will finally call it a career. Fighting in movies is a lot safer and glamorous than in the octagon.

'California Love' is not just the signature entrance song for popular bantamweight (135 lbs.) Urijah Faber (26-5, 7 KO's 14 subs), but it is also what 'The California Kid' gave and received to and from the northern California crowd. The former 145 lbs. champion in World Extreme Cagefighting, took on Brian Bowles (10-2, 3 KO's 6 subs), who himself is a former bantamweight champion in the WEC. On this night though it was all Faber as he just outclassed Bowles with his speed, boxing and wrestling, eventually winning by submission using the vaunted guillotine choke his Alpha Male team is known for.

What had the potential to be a possible fight of the night candidate, turned out to be a three round technical affair; due in part to welterweight (170 lbs.) contenders Martin Kampmann (18-5, 7 KO's 6 subs) and Rick 'Horror' Story (13-5, 3 KO's, 3 subs). On this night, it was Kampmann, an extremely talented fighter who's been on the losing end of a couple of questionable decisions, who was on the positive end tonight and justifiably so. Using a nice combination of kickboxing, take downs and jiu-jitsu, Kampmann defeated Story who has now lost two in a row after being one win away from a title shot.

In the first fight of the night, it was a clear cut case of experience and overall better technique superseding talent and potential. Stephan Bonnar (14-7, 3 KO's, 7 subs), one half of the famed greatest UFC fight of all-time with Forrest Griffin, who at one point in the last few years had lost six fights in a row, has found new life as he defeated Kyle Kingsbury (11-3, 4 KO's 2 subs) via unanimous decision. Using a superior ground game, Bonnar totally dominated Kingsbury over three rounds to earn his third victory in a row.

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