Undefeated Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier is set to make his Octagon debut against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir on April 20th at UFC on FOX in Cormier's adoptive hometown San Jose, California.
As the 11-0, two-time Olympic wrestler prepares for the challenge, Cormier reflects on one of the most talked-about scraps in UFC history, Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139.
click to watch the fight
My favorite fight is Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139. I had been going to UFC events for awhile. Since I started fighting, I've cornered guys like Cain Velasquez and Josh Koscheck. I had been there, but I *never* saw anything like that fight. click to watch the fight
I thought it was over in the first round. The big punch, the big bomb, the knockdown. I thought it was over. I started jumping up and down and screaming, 'It's over! It's over!' My girlfriend and I usually watch the fights together. You start being the "smart boyfriend" saying, "I told you!" But it was just the beginning. It went from jump-out-of-your-seat-and-I'm-the-super-smart-psychic-boyfriend to "All right, let me sit back down because Shogun isn't going anywhere." It was one of those eye-opening moments where you're so happy and so smart and so right to "Oh my goodness, this is going to be a crazy fight."
The first round was "I told you so." The second round was "This is just crazy!" The third round was, "He's finally going to get him." The fourth round was a little slower compared to what they were doing before, but, in comparison to any other fight, it was a barn-burner. The fifth round, they were so exhausted, Dan just laid under Shogun for five minutes. Shogun was in mount for the whole round just beating him down.
Then they had to carry Dan out of the cage -- it was unreal. In the fifth round, if you're Dan Henderson fan, you're on the edge of your seat saying, "Just get through it" -- and he actually did. It was an amazing fight. I always respected Shogun Rua, but, after that fight, I have a new level of respect for him. These guys put each other in trouble.
My girlfriend, Salina, she's normally pretty reserved during
fights, but during that one, even she was animated. It was crazy to see. It was going to be the first time
she had seen Dan Henderson fight.
I love Dan Henderson. I'm a big, huge Dan Henderson fan. I was
blabbering on and on and on talking about Dan Henderson. When they were
coming out, I remember thinking that the fight was going to be crazy
because both of these guys bring it. I expected it to be crazy, but it
exceeded my expectations by the way the fight played out.
only do I like Dan Henderson because of the wrestling, I like him
because I've watched him for a long time. I like how he's so proud of
his background in the Olympics. He fights with the USA on his shorts. He
always has some good music when he comes out. He's proud of who he is
and he's accomplished so much and he's been able to still accomplish so
much even at a higher age.
It's easy to root for somebody like
Dan Henderson. He's always competed at the highest levels of this sport
and has had a lot of success. It's more than just wrestling. It's how he
carries himself in a sport that is easy to get lost in and forget who
you are and where you came from. Dan is that same person as before.
When you walk away from watching a fight like that as a competitor, you're just nipping at the bud to get in there. I want a chance to get in there and do something like what those guys did. Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua left a part of themselves in the cage that night. You can't have a fight like that and not. Also, the memories -- the time that they spent in there together will live with them forever. They made magic that night.
It's like Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar at The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale. Every now and again, you put two dudes in there and they make magic. That's what that night was to me. I was like, "I cannot wait to get in there and who is going to be the guy who is going to do that with me? When is my time going to come when I'm in there going against someone who brings the best out of me, takes me to a different place, we both get through it, and we leave this cage with people talking about it for the rest of our lives?"
Dan and Shogun fought before Josh Barnett and I fought. After that fight, I thought, "Josh and I did something pretty good, we fought our asses off for five rounds at heavyweight, but it was not like that." Josh and I were good partners and we did do something special on May 19th, but I don't think it went to that level of those two in November 2011.
I love this sport. I love this sport as a competitor and as an athlete. I love this sport as a fan. I don't know what could have made me like it any more, but I think watching that fight that night and watching Cain win back his belt made me like this sport more and more and more. It keeps going back to the old days of you put two guys in there and let the best man win -- there's nothing more pure than that.