Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua put on a show Saturday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., beating the daylights out of one another for 25 minutes in their UFC 139 headliner.

Though both men showed great heart throughout the five-round affair, it was Henderson who walked away with a narrow unanimous decision. Just minutes after besting his fellow Pride Fighting Championships alum, an exhausted but pleased Henderson offered up his thoughts on his UFC future. Asked if he believed he was next in line for a shot at the promotion’s 205-pound title, the former Strikeforce belt-holder responded in his typically understated fashion.

“Absolutely,” Henderson said in a backstage video interview with ClinchGear.com.

If Henderson has indeed earned himself a title shot with his win over Rua, it is well-deserved. The 41-year-old wasted no time in lighting up “Shogun,” staggering him with a right hand early in the first frame and immediately looking for an opportunity to finish.

Though Rua survived the initial scare, round two brought more of the same, as “Hendo” cracked his man with a stiff uppercut and generally dictated the round’s pace with his power punching.

Henderson’s sledgehammer overhand right returned in round three, smashing into the side of Rua’s skull and buckling his knees. This time, Henderson committed to the kill, raining down a storm of leather and elbows while hoping for a referee intervention. Somehow, the Brazilian again survived, transitioning to a heel hook attempt before regaining his vertical base.

“I tried to finish him a couple of times. I think that tired me out a little bit. He tried to ‘Rocky Balboa’ me and wear me out with his head,” Henderson said. “I thought it was one or two shots away from being finished. He tucked his head in pretty nice. I tried to push him away and get some elbows [in]. I couldn’t get any distance.”

Round four was another competitive frame until Rua landed a sharp uppercut of his own that wobbled Henderson. Rua pounced, scoring a takedown and mounting his foe before briefly taking Henderson’s back as the round expired.

The final frame was all Rua, as “Shogun” took Henderson down early and once again mounted him. Though “Hendo” recovered half-guard several times, the Brazilian recaptured the mount with as much regularity, cashing in on some payback via ground-and-pound.

Though few would argue that the fight was a competitive one, Henderson claimed that he was not worried by his predicament in round five due to his performance in the first 20 minutes of the bout.

“When he got the takedown in the fifth round, I knew I had the fight won. I just didn’t want to give him a 10-8 round,” said Henderson. “I would have been very surprised if [the decision] had gone the other way. I thought I won the first four rounds, three of them easily, with a possible 10-8 round. So I knew I had the fight won.”

Though Henderson found himself trapped under his foe, the wily veteran survived the position to hear the final horn sound. While not ecstatic about finishing the fight on his back, Henderson admitted that he would have made more of an effort to escape had he believed the outcome was in jeopardy.

“That’s not the way I like to finish fights, but he wasn’t doing too much damage and I was still able to move on bottom. Had the fight been real close, I would have tried to win that fifth round,” said Henderson. “I think [it had to do with] a little bit of fatigue and me knowing I had the fight won, so I didn’t need to scramble.”

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