Posted 03/21/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 38 Preview

About 90 seconds into the third round of their first fight, Dan Henderson lands a right hook that crumples Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Shogun hits the mat like a sack of potatoes or a broken Jenga tower or Bloodstain Lane hitting the sack in his mom’s attic after a hard day of laying bricks, and you figure the fight’s over.

But referee Josh Rosenthal gave Rua every chance to recover, and the Brazilian kept moving just enough to stave off a stoppage. By the end of the round, Shogun’s back on his feet, and Henderson’s the one looking like he desperately needs the minute break.

It’s this sequence that elevates the fight from good to great. Shogun’s dominant, 10-8 worthy fifth round is what elevates it from great to sublime. (Look at the fifth round stats, and tell me a 10-9 isn’t a travesty.)

Fox Sports’ Mike Chiappetta wrote that this rematch “can’t reach expectations, and shouldn’t have to.” And, well, no shit? Peyton Manning isn’t likely to throw 55 touchdowns again next year. Only a genuine goober would head into this fight expecting no regression from 2011.

Here’s another clue: the UFC isn’t putting this on pay-per-view despite it being a valid rematch to one of the greatest fights of all time. Henderson’s three more years into his 40s, and Shogun has the knees of a man twice his age. That’s not to say this won’t or can’t be exciting, but it may be a matter of who looks less worse.

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Dan Henderson was the first fighter, officially, to use testosterone replacement therapy in MMA, and after Saturday, he may be the last. The Nevada State Athletic Commission put the kibosh on TRT last month, surprising just about everyone. The UFC, which acts as its own commission in countries lacking their own regulatory bodies, will follow their lead, and it’s likely other state commissions will follow suit. (California has already expressed their support.)

Henderson had this to say (via Fox Sports):

“I feel like if they really wanted to make a statement they should have done more drug testing,” Henderson said. “Implemented no advance noticed, random drug testing.  Show up guy’s houses at odd hours and make them give blood and pee in a cup.”

He’s right, of course. Removing therapeutic-use exemptions for TRT only hurts in reducing performance-enhancing-drug use in mixed martial arts. Fighters once using it will turn to illicit options, except now they won’t be tested as stringently. As Georges St-Pierre said recently, a fighter caught using steroids is a sign he is “very disorganized.”

It’s a PR move, and it’s one that hurts fighters who may have a legitimate medical need to use testosterone. And it raises an important question: if testosterone TUEs are off the table, why not remove TUEs altogether?

Henderson, again (via MMA Fighting):

“Are they going to ban insulin for diabetics and other prescribed medications that get people into normal ranges?” Henderson said to “Seems like they could have easily implemented random drug testing.”

It sounds glib, but it’s a genuine question. Despite abuse of the treatment, we know that low testosterone is a legitimate medical issue. Why is a fighter like Henderson – who seems to avoid the level of scrutiny reserved for, say, Vitor Belfort or Chael Sonnen – being discriminated against when someone with diabetes or attention-deficit disorder would be able to receive an exemption for insulin or amphetamines with zero issue?

The optimal solution is simple. First, make the criteria for a TRT TUE more stringent. Second, as Henderson notes, increase the level of testing. A simple urine test on the day of the fight has no chance of discentivizing drug use. It’s been said time and again, but the only effective enforcement strategy is random, year-round blood and urine testing.

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This show starts a strange three-fight run of off-Saturday events: Shogun vs. Henderson 2 goes down on Sunday, Nogueira vs. Nelson in Abu Dhabi takes place on Friday, and Bisping vs. Kennedy (headlining an Ultimate Fighter Finale) airs on a Wednesday.

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The bout quality takes a steep drop after the main event. Ultimate Fighter: Brazil winner Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira fights CB Dollaway in the co-main. (Oof!) Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 winner Leonardo Santos meets Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner Norman Parke. To put it clearer, Gleison Tibau pulled out with an injury, and the event lost most of it’s non-main event star power.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter

Mike Fagan