At UFC 139, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan Henderson faced off in one of the most epic battles in mixed martial arts history. In fact, the matchup was considered fight of the year by the UFC, and left mixed martial arts fans salivating for a second matchup between the two combatants.
However, since then, neither fighter has been able to maintain a successful winning streak. Given Henderson’s age, Rua’s fluctuating win/loss record and the world titles that they have already gained in and outside the UFC, it would behoove the loser of UFC Fight Night 38 to heavily reconsider his career and perhaps even retire.
Henderson was highly touted when he came over from the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships organization in 2007. His accolades are second to none. The California native’s accomplishments include, but are not limited to:
Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship
Pride Middleweight Championship
Pride Welterweight Championship
2005 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix Champion
In addition, some of Henderson’s greatest triumphs include epic wins over former world champions in Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and perennial contender Michael Bisping.
He left the UFC in 2009, and after securing another world title in Strikeforce, he returned to the UFC in 2011. However, his reappearance in the largest MMA company in the world has been less than lackluster.
Henderson is currently riding a three-fight losing streak. During his last outing, he was viciously knocked out by Vitor Belfort at UFC Fight Night 32. Right before his loss to Belfort, the No. 8-ranked contender stated that he had no plans of retiring. According to Christopher Murphy of BJPenn.com, Henderson exclaimed:
I feel good and I know I’m able to compete with the top guys in the sport. I’m thinking it will be at least two years before I talk about retiring. “[My goal is] try to be the best guy out there, which means getting a belt or having a title shot. Those are the goals and that’s what I’m striving toward achieving.
Even with the recent banning of therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy in many jurisdictions, Henderson’s sentiment regarding retirement has remained steadfast. In a recent interview on Inside MMA (h/t MMAWeekly.com), Henderson stated:
I’m gonna focus on beating Shogun and then business as usual, go to the drawing board and figure things out after that…
…It is what it is. It’s unfortunate that it happened this way (the banning of TRT) instead of conquering the problem of all the performance-enhancing drugs. [But] I’m not done yet. I’m not retiring because of this.
Recent losses and the banning of testosterone replacement therapy aside, at 43 years old, Henderson has become a pioneer within the world of mixed martial arts and has nothing left to prove.
Notwithstanding, the former multi-world champion will be 0-4 in his last four bouts if he loses this Saturday at the Ginasio Nelio Dias in Natal, Brazil. A defeat would also leave Henderson on par with the likes of Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, who were both forced to retire on a string of losses after an illustrious career.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Like Henderson, Rua was an accomplished MMA fighter before entering the UFC in 2007. He is the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Champion, and the Brazilian's popularity assisted in drawing astronomical crowds during his four-year tenure in Japan. Despite his accolades, the No. 7-ranked contender has garnered inconsistent success in the UFC, beginning with his debut at UFC 76.
After a highly anticipated arrival to the UFC, on September 22, 2007, Rua was submitted by future light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
Overall, Rua has accumulated a record of 6-6 in his last 12 outings. He did, in fact, win the UFC light heavyweight title from Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 but quickly lost it during his first title defense against the current champion, Jon Jones.
During his time with the UFC, the Brazilian has seemingly struggled with cardio issues. Rua appeared uncharacteristically sluggish and inattentive against key opponents, such as Forrest Griffin (their first matchup), the then-44-year-old Mark Coleman, Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson and Chael Sonnen.
Leading up to his last fight against James Te Huna at UFC Fight Night 33, UFC president Dana White explicitly stated his intentions with Rua if he would have lost that bout. According to Matt Erickson of MMA Junkie, on an episode of Fox Sports Live on Fox Sports 1, White stated, “…if ‘Shogun’ loses this fight, I probably would have that (retirement) conversation with him.”
Rua went on to defeat Te Huna via knockout in the first round. However, the Brazilian's opponent was never considered a title contender and is currently ranked No. 15 by the UFC.
All in all, at UFC Fight Night 38, in his home country of Brazil, Rua is granted the opportunity to remain relevant among the 205-pound ranks. If he loses, however, the former world champion will sport a percentage of less than .500 in his last 13 fights, which may lead to him having a “talk” with the UFC president himself.