UFC 139 recap: HendoShogun lives up to legendary status

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UFC 139 recap: HendoShogun lives up to legendary status

SAN JOSE -- There are few times when the word epic can be used to describe a sporting event and be used correctly. Saturday night it defined the UFC 139 battle between Mauricio Shogun Rua and Dan Hendo Henderson.

It was a fight that fans had been hoping to see since the pair's days in PRIDE and, even after almost a decade, Hendo and Shogun delivered a fight that fans will remember forever. The five-round light-heavyweight battle had everything you could imagine. Both fighters looked like they went through an absolute war.

The fight was tipping towards Hendo after the first two rounds. He had the Brazilian Rua bloodied and reeling, but couldnt land the knockout blow. Mid-way through the third it seemed like Rua got another shot of adrenaline. The fight started to look even as each threw punches, landed kicks and went for finishes.

As the rounds changed, so did the momentum. Shogun started taking over and Hendo was the one reeling. Roles had reversed, but the intensity remained. The crowd began to get louder and more raucous as each minute passed. By the end of the fifth and final round HP Pavilion was going insane.

As is the case with a lot of epic bouts, this one went to the scorecards. It was a hard fight for many to call as each fighter had advantages and looked to be in control. The fight ended in a unanimous decision for Dan Henderson. All three judges had it 48-47.

This is one of those sports moments that comes around very rarely. UFC President Dana White called this bout one of the top-3 of all-time, going on to say it is our Ali-Frazier 3.

For one night, San Jose was the epicenter of the MMA universe and the UFC did not disappoint. On a night of great fights, the epic main event between Hendo and Shogun stole the show.

Undercard notes:

Le vs. Silva: The co-main event of the evening was a bout between two legends. Wanderlei Silva took on San Joses Cung Le in this middleweight fight. The first was pretty even as Le knocked Silva down early, but was unable to build on that. That left an opening for Silva, who took advantage.

The end of the first and all of the second belonged to Silva. After a bit of back and forth, Silva landed several punches that rocked Le. Le ended up against the cage where Silva teed off with knees and more punches. Le was unable to counter anything and the ref stopped the fight. It was Silvas first win since 2010 and puts the legendary title back on his resume.

Faber vs. Bowles: Two former WEC champs took the stage in this bantamweight bout and its easy to say the fight did not disappoint. The California Kid Urijah Faber, who fights out of Sacramento, dominated early and rode a strong wave of punches and knees to a second-round finish.

After Bowles opened the second with a straight jab, Faber countered with a vicious uppercut. That began the end for Bowles. The fight ended with Faber the winner via submission by way of guillotine. He is now the number one contender for the UFC bantamweight title.

Kampmann vs. Story: In what started as a brawl, Kampmann won by split decision after a technically dominant second and third round. He was able to slow the tempo and control the fight on the ground.

Kingsbury vs. Bonnar: Bonnar defeated the San Jose native Kingsbury by unanimous decision. Crowd booed as Bonnar kept fight on the ground and used his Jiu-Jitsu to control the fight.

Knockout of the Night: Michael McDonald
Submission of the Night: Urijah Faber
Fight of the Night: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua and Cung Le vs. Wanderlei Silva

Nuggets' Malone plays what if game with Kings, takes jab at ownership

Nuggets' Malone plays what if game with Kings, takes jab at ownership

SACRAMENTO -- It seems like yesterday that Michael Malone was leading a Sacramento Kings team featuring DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay into battle every night. Less than three years later, only Gay remains with the franchise and he’s out for the season with a torn left Achilles. 

Thomas left in a lopsided trade that yielded Sacramento Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception during the summer of 2014. Malone was let go with an 11-13 record 24 games into the 2014-15 campaign after Cousins went down with a bout of viral meningitis. Cousins is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans following a blockbuster trade on Sunday.

“I always go back and think - ‘what could have happened if myself, DeMarcus, Isaiah, a healthy Rudy, if we were all together?,’” Malone told a small group of reporters before shootaround on Thursday. “We’ll never know, but I like to think that a lot of positive things would have happened, because I felt like we had something good going here. And it wasn’t to be.”

Malone’s reputation as a defense-minded coach played into his firing. At the time, owner Vivek Ranadivé used musical metaphors to describe what he was looking for in his next head coach.

“We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos, but now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised,” Ranadivé said. “What we need is a jazz director.”

Malone is back in Sacramento Thursday night as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets and he’s looking for his first win against his former club in his fifth opportunity. He also heads a group that leads the Kings by a game and a half in the standings and boasts the NBA’s fourth highest scoring average at 110.6 points per game. 

“I can’t remember all the things that were said when I was fired, because there was so much being said,” Malone stated. “But I know one of the things that was being said was ‘style of play.’ There were people that were not in my corner that used that as a way to get me fired. Now we’re one of the highest scoring teams in NBA.”

“I look at you people, you were wrong,” a smiling Malone added while looking directly into a news camera. 

Known for his ability to connect to Cousins, Malone was as shocked as anyone to hear that the Kings traded the talented 26-year-old. The two have remained close, despite no longer working together.

“That was definitely a surprise over All-Star break,” Malone said. “Surprise for me, even a bigger surprise for him from what I understand.”

Malone has very little time to worry about his former player. He has to prepare his Nuggets team for a new-look Kings roster that has played a gritty, hard-nosed style all season long. With 26 games remaining, his team sits in the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase and they face a team that is backed into a cormer.

“They have a chip on their shoulder,” Malone said. “You make a big trade like that and I’m sure the players in that locker room are going to say, ‘Everybody’s writing us off because we don’t have DeMarcus.’ They’re going to come out and try and prove everybody wrong. They beat Boston, a very good team, without DeMarcus, and I’m sure that’s the model they’re going to try to use moving forward.”

A straight shooter through and through, Malone spoke on a variety of topics before heading out to the floor to prep his team for the 7:30 start at Golden 1 Center. 

“I just want to get a win, period,” Malone said. “The grudge is gone, this is part of the business. I knew the rules when I signed up, I really did.”

Malone understood the reality of taking over a fledgling franchise under new ownership and management when he took the Kings job. Sacramento gave him his first head coaching opportunity in the league, which he is grateful for, but his departure was anything but clean. The grudge might be gone, but those who covered Malone during his time with the Kings know full-well that playing this franchise will always be personal. 

Power of science: Warriors thriving with chemistry experiment

Power of science: Warriors thriving with chemistry experiment

OAKLAND -- Zaza Pachulia holds his own during competitive games of poker on the airplane alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson - they call it the "Good Guys Table." Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee, one-time teammates with Denver reunited in Oakland, hold secret chats.

"We're building an empire," Iguodala joked. "We've got secret stuff we can't talk about."

Jonnie West - son of Hall of Famer and Warriors executive Jerry West - joins Curry, Pachulia and Thompson for their card games.

"It depends how Klay feels. If he's tired, then no card game," Pachulia said.

With all that was made before the season about adding Kevin Durant to an already star-studded roster, Golden State's players have jelled just fine. The NBA-best Warriors (47-9) are gearing up for the second half and what they hope is another championship run, and chemistry sure isn't holding them back.

Two-time reigning MVP Curry and KD love to watch each other accomplish amazing things on the floor, along with Draymond Green and Thompson and all of the others who contribute off the bench.

Curry initially allowed Durant to find his groove, then began to assert himself more and increase his shots. Experience playing together is the biggest factor to keep building team bonds, if you ask Iguodala.

"Weathering storms builds chemistry and adversity builds chemistry," he said. "The season's long and you want to have all types of ups and downs. And that's where you build it the most, and off the court, plane rides. I think when you play with teammates seven, eight years, you're still building throughout that time. You continue to learn about each other. You've just got to understand that that's part of the process and you've got to want to learn from one another."

The Warriors are counting on every advantage they can gain, on and off the court. During flights, team dinners, anywhere.

After a heartbreaking Game 7 to end last season's NBA Finals, Golden State's players want nothing short of a championship. Many of them got a taste winning the title two years ago for the franchise's first in 40 years.

Steve Kerr, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, gets a kick out of watching his teams come together each year.

"It's one of my favorite parts of coaching honestly, is seeing how a team comes together, seeing the relationships develop, seeing guys laughing together, seeing who hangs out with who," Kerr said. "It's great. This team has a really, really good chemistry that developed really quickly. Obviously, we had the core group intact from last year. We lost some key guys, too. The additions have been great. The chemistry is really good."

Pachulia took it upon himself to be a part of that. With constant attention on the Warriors, he knows the importance of sticking together through all of the many challenges that come in an 82-game season - and those things prepare a group for the postseason.

"You wish for the chemistry to come right away because you're kind of feeling pressure, a lot of talk's going on from outside," Pachulia said. "The reality is it's a process. It takes some days, it takes some games. It takes some bumps as well for the team to get on the same page and get the chemistry right. You've got to go through the process. I just don't see it the other way. We couldn't wait for these 40 or 50 games to pass and see where we were going to be. I feel really confident where we are right now, with everything we had throughout this 50 games, even the losses we had unexpected. It made us better, it made us stronger. You can appreciate it, honestly. We care about each other. We're on the same page. Keep going. We're not going to stop."

For Iguodala and McGee, the "chatter" stays between them.

"I have a lot of really in-depth conversations with JaVale McGee," Iguodala said, "about life."