Henderson Outpoints Palhares; Marquardt Blitzes Kampmann at UFC 88

Dan Henderson (Pictures) entered UFC 88 on Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta staring at the possibility of three straight losses.

Worse yet, Rousimar Palhares (Pictures) is the caliber of opponent who could very well have handed him that third consecutive defeat. The 28-year-old Brazilian Top Team standout wasn’t well known entering the middleweight bout, but those who had seen him fight knew he could give Henderson trouble.

Right away each man’s strategy was clear. Palhares, wanting the fight on the ground, initiated the action with a takedown attempt. Henderson, wanting to stay on the feet, stuffed the shot and fed Palhares a right hand to the jaw.

Henderson, 38, fighting out of Team Quest in Temecula, Calif., punished Palhares for his failed takedowns. An uppercut dropped the Brazilian at one point, but his chin held up and sent the fight into the second round.

That stanza arguably went to Palhares, who wasn’t just shooting for takedowns. He used an unorthodox kicking game off scrambles to keep Henderson guessing and occasionally sucking air after catching a shin into his gut. Palhares also planted the lifelong wrestler on his back in the second round with a thudding slam, then quickly went to work on a heel hook that might have tapped a lesser opponent.

Henderson escaped, though, and shrugged off the danger after the fight.

“My knee was pretty much out the whole time,” he said. “I knew that I didn’t want to sit there, but I also knew that he really didn’t have it.”

Moments after the submission attempt, Henderson was back on his feet and countering takedowns with uppercuts that perhaps won him the round.

In the third, Palhares kept looking for takedowns that were rarely successful. Henderson was content to defend the attempts and occasionally counter with his hands, which was effective but not especially entertaining.

The strategy worked, giving Henderson a unanimous decision -- 30-27 twice and 29-28 on the scorecards -- for his first win in the UFC since returning from his title run in Pride.

“This opponent was just as tough as any I’ve faced here,” said Henderson (23-7), who’s fought Anderson Silva and Quinton Jackson (Pictures) in the UFC. “A tough chin. It’s tough when you want to fight a certain way -- I wanted to try to keep it on my feet. I knew he was damn good on the ground and I didn’t want to mess around with him there. I felt comfortable there, but normally I’m more aggressive, so I apologize about that.”

Also in middleweight action, Nathan Marquardt (Pictures) buckled Martin Kampmann (Pictures)’s knees less than a minute into their bout.

A head kick had done the damage, stunning Kampmann and sending him stumbling into the cage. Marquardt, 29, pursued with more punches while his opponent tried to tie him up.

Kampmann, 26, known as a good kickboxer, never recovered. Shortly after the head kick, he took a knee to the chin and went reeling across the Octagon, where again he was trapped against the fence. Marquardt was aggressive but smart, taking aim on his hurt opponent with accurate hooks and uppercuts.

“One thing I learned from my experience is not to just go crazy when you get a guy hurt like that,” said Marquardt, who improved to 27-8-2 while bouncing back from his split-decision loss to Thales Leites (Pictures) in June. “You have to get nice, accurate shots and land them right on the chin.”

That’s where his uppercuts connected on Kampmann. The strikes ripped through the Dane’s desperate defense, and a right hand to the body opened him up for a flurry that sat him down for good.

Marquardt was still punching when referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout at 1:22 for Kampmann’s first loss in the UFC.

“I knew I was faster, better at everything,” said Marquardt, who explained that his plan wasn’t necessarily to strike with Kampmann but rather to capitalize on any opening. “I knew he was a kickboxer, but I knew I could take him standing.”
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