By AMBER PAPPE
With 12 strong match-ups on the card, UFC 139 wowed the crowd of 13,173 Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
Sacramento superstar Urijah Faber earned submission of the night for his intense bantamweight bout with Brian Bowles. Always a crowd favorite, the charismatic “California Kid”made quick work of Bowles, powering him around the cage in the first round, and then flooring him with a huge uppercut that set up the victory via guillotine choke in the second.
“It’s the best I’ve seen him look,”said TJ Dillashaw, a 2004 Bret Harte graduate and member of Faber’s Team Alpha Male. “Bowles is a tough opponent — he took him out fast and aggressively.”
Coming in to the fight, Faber was confident and eager to prove himself against the talented Bowles. “I think our skills are pretty even as far as being well-rounded, but I think I’m a little better in every category,”said Faber, the former WEC title-holder at featherweight.
With the victory, Faber becomes the official number one contender at 135.
Post-fight, he called on current bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz from the Octagon.
“Dominick, you can run, but you can’t hide,”he challenged.
He also gave a shout out to Dillashaw, crediting him with the combination he used to submit Bowles.
“Call out to TJ Dillashaw,”said Faber. "You guys see TJ on The Ultimate Fighter, that’s my boy right there. And he gets everybody with that.”
The respect from Faber was an appreciated accolade to add to a weekend spent swarmed by TUF fans seeking photos, autographs and friendly chatter.
“Urijah is really generous,”said Dillashaw. “He always shows appreciation to anyone who helps him out. It was cool of him to recognize me.”
Faber was not the only Alpha Male on the card. In a lightweight bout, teammate Danny Castillo took on Season 13 Ultimate Fighter champ Shamar Bailey. Castillo, in control throughout, secured a first round victory via TKO due to punches.
In other action, Oakdale’s Michael McDonald, the youngest fighter in the UFC, faced Alex Soto. The 20-year-old McDonald, a bantamweight who fights out of Oakdale MMA, sister gym to Sonora MMA, made quick work of Soto, knocking him out in first round and earning a $70,000 knockout of the night bonus.
The blistering pace of the evening continued as veteran middleweights Wanderlei Silva and Sanshou kickboxing champ Cung Le stormed the Octagon in the co-main event. To begin, Le did a solid job keeping Silva out of range with spinning strikes. As Round 1 closed, the two swapped several violent exchanges, with Silva drawing blood. The action revved up another notch in Round 2 as Silva decimated Le’s nose, dropping him to the mat and into the arms of the reeree. The legendary Brazilian “Axe Murderer”earned the victory via stoppage.
The night concluded with light heavyweight legends Dan “Hendo”Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun”Rua in what experts are calling a war for the ages. UFC president Dana White hailed the fight as one of the top three all-time.
For five rounds, the headliners put on an action-packed, bloody brawl. The non-stop slugfest began with Henderson relying on heavy punches. Rua scored a late-round knockdown, but Hendo was up and the two continued to trade.
Heavy hitting and harsh punishment continued in the second, with the two in the clinch as the round ended. Power shots filled Round 3. Henderson, the former Strikeforce and PRIDE champion, dropped Rua and rained down punches and vicious elbows as the referee eyed the action carefully for stoppage.
Illuminating just why the fight will make UFC history, the fighters stayed in it to the very last moment. Just when it looked to be over, each found a second life. Bloody, battle weary and clearly relying on mind over matter, both scored takedowns in Round 4. Rua capitalized and landed several punishing punches; Henderson, obviously dazed, worked to regroup. Rua grabbed another takedown, but could not maintain control and the two ended the round spent.
More of the same closed out the final five minutes. The fight looked to be up for grabs as the two worked for victory. Rua took the fight to the mat and used ground and pound to try to end it, but could not make it happen. Though some expected a draw, the victory went to Henderson, with all three judges scoring the bout 48-47.
“I don't know how the judges scored the last round. It could have been, or should have been, a 10-8 round. But that doesn't take anything away from Dan Henderson,”commented Rua. “He is a legend.”
Thus, UFC 139 will long be remembered for a night of amazing athleticism, incredible will and awe-inspiring heart.
Gracious and clear-minded in defeat, Shogun recognized that he had been part of something extraordinary.
He concluded, “Those are the type of fights that create a legacy.”