UFC Fight Night 38 Recap: Henderson, Shogun Thrill Again; Underdogs Rule The Day

In what will likely go down as one of the most statistically anomalous UFC events in history, Dan Henderson stole the show in the third round of his rematch with ‘Shogun’ Rua. After being on the verge of getting stopped in the first round and hurt badly once again in the second, Henderson landed a flush right hand coming out of a clinch that — in no uncertain terms — rearranged Rua’s face. After the Brazilian tried to roll through the punch that knocked him across the cage (think Lesnar/Herring), Henderson landed another wicked follow-up shot, before some perfunctory ground and pound sealed the deal 1:31 into the round. It was a huge win for Henderson, a devastating loss for ‘Shogun’, and may be the last time we see either man inside the cage — although that possibility seems much more realistic for the American.

Moving forward, there’s simply nothing left for Henderson in the sport. He was thoroughly beaten for the first ten minutes of the fight, and had it been anyone but ‘Shogun’ standing across from him, he would’ve been chasing that huge knockout punch down for the final 15 minutes rather than having it come into his lap. With the UFC changing their stance on TRT (and they’re serious… this time), and Henderson turning 44 in just five months, I just don’t see where he goes. The same could be said for Rua, who looked fantastic across the first two rounds — and the first minute and 15 seconds of the third — before finally being knocked out after all these years, and an inordinate amount of punishment taken in the cage. However, his relative youth and solid form lately will probably see ‘Shogun’ back in the cage a few more times than everyone is really comfortable with. Henderson’s victory as a +155 underdog (bet $100 to win $155) also capped off a night in which eight other underdogs won their bouts, there was one draw, and only one favorite prevailed. C.B. Dollaway was in on that trend as well, as he stopped Cezar ‘Mutante’ with strikes just 39 seconds into the bout and cashed as the second biggest underdog of the night at +340. The TUF Brazil winner looked like he was going to get started early, backing Dollaway up against the cage, but the tables were turned as ‘The Doberman’ answered back with a right-left-right combination that felled his opponent and led to the finish. The biggest question mark in the game of ‘Mutante’ has long been his chin, but the shots that dropped him were solid and well-placed, so perhaps his defense is more of the liability. Dollaway has now defeated the top two fighters from season one of TUF Brazil, and seems to relish the villain role he gets placed in when on the road. He deserves a step up after this performance, and I’d like to see him continue in the same vein he’s currently in. Thales Leites has a bout coming up in April against Trevor Smith, and if he wins that a Leites/Dollaway bout in Brazil would be an interesting one. Alternatively, Dollaway could play the villain in a new area, heading over to the UK to take on rising star Luke Barnatt. The third bout of the evening featured another TUF Brazil winner, and saw that TUF Brazil winner struggle. This time it was Leonardo Santos who would have lost a split decision, but was lucky to escape with a draw due to the overzealousness of the evening’s least valuable official, Wernei Cardoso. Cardoso deducted a point from Norman Parke for what the commentary team termed a “blatant” grab of the shorts, but looked more like two guys working for position in the clinch. The point deduction was the most notable happening of the fight, as aside from Santos showing some improved striking in the first round it was one of the duller affairs of the evening. Fabio MaldonadoFabio Maldonado, on the other hand, is never dull. Sure he’s pudgy and he can’t really wrestle or grapple at all, but the man has a way with his hands that is fun to watch. His deficiencies plagued him in the first round against Gian Villante, but Maldonado had the superior cardio and turned Villante into a heavy bag for the final ten minutes of the bout. It was another entertaining bout of Maldonado’s to watch, and I expect the UFC to continue to match him up to make fun fights rather than relevant ones. If they send a wrestler with good cardio down to Brazil to face him, it will end up with 15 minutes of the Brazilian fans booing to try to get a stand-up, so why not just throw him in there with a striker. The light heavyweight division is so incredibly shallow at the moment, that I don’t know who that may be, but Jimi Manuwa is one of the few names that springs to mind. The other two bouts on the main card both went the way of the Brazilians, and both had some “invovlement” from the referees. Michel Prazeres stayed undefeated since his drop to lightweight, picking up the unanimous decision over Mairbek Taisumov with scores of 30-25 across the board. This was not a blowout however, the extra points were attributed to Taisumov having a particular affinity for chain-link fence and grabbing it repeatedly in an attempt to avoid takedowns. Wernei Cardoso made another blunder with the stoppage of the fight between Rony ‘Jason’ and Steven Siler, calling the bout to a halt as Siler was defending himself with upkicks after being dropped by the Brazilian. There was truly no reason for this stoppage to happen other than the fact that Cardoso seemed to have decided the fight needed to be stopped as soon as Siler got rocked and awkwardly defended himself for a second. The undercard added another four first-round finishes to this card, and despite some strange goings on, it was definitely another entertaining and wacky night of fights. After six events in the past six weeks, the UFC now takes a quick break to recharge the batteries before they return with UFC Fight Night 40 in Abu Dhabi, and four cards in a 15-day span. Until then, there will be Bellator, WSOF, Legacy FC and Cage Warriors to keep MMA fans and bettors sated.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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