They finally met Saturday night at UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif. And for mixed martial arts fans it was worth the wait.
Henderson started strong, landing powerful overhand rights that wobbled Rua on numerous occasions. Then he survived a solid comeback in the final two rounds by Rua to earn a unanimous decision.
All three judges scored the fight 48-47, as did ESPN.com.
"That guy can take a punch. I hit him hard and thought I could finish him," said Henderson, who improved to 29-8 and extended his win streak to four. "But I thought won the first three rounds; one might have been a 10-8."
The 41-year-old Henderson nearly finished Rua in the third round. He landed a right hand that dropped Rua. Henderson then jumped on him and connected with several punches that nearly forced the referee to jump in. But Rua found a way to survive the onslaught, though his face was a bloody, puffy mess.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion, however, refused to quit. He rebounded in the fourth and fifth rounds when Henderson ran out of gas.
Rua (20-6) staggered Henderson with a left uppercut but lacked the energy to finish him. He would nearly finish Henderson in the final round, but the former Pride and Strikeforce champion held on to get the win.
Silva bounces back with KO victory
But the former Pride middleweight champion refused to listen and stepped into the cage against Cung Le determined to silence his critics. He did just that with a second-round knockout of the former Strikeforce middleweight titleholder.
"This is a great moment for me, after what has happened to me in my life," Silva said. "But we never give up."
Le was able to connect repeatedly with his patented kicks early in the fight, but he showed fatigue near the end of the opening round. Silva finished the round with a flurry.
It would prove a prelude to what would happen in the next round.
Le again started quickly, landing kicks. But with less than a minute remaining in the round, Silva (34-11-1, 1 no contest) landed a hard right that stunned Le.
Wanderlei followed with several knees. Shortly thereafter he would floor Le with a left hand and a knee.
The fight would end at the 4:49 mark.
Le, who was making his UFC debut, had not fought since June 2010. He is 7-2 as a pro.
Faber foils Bowles in Round 2
Faber used his hand speed and aggression to find holes in Bowles' defense. He landed an uppercut in the second round that wobbled the former WEC bantamweight champion.
Bowles tried to survive the striking onslaught from Faber but left himself vulnerable to a guillotine. Faber applied the choke at the 1:27 mark to win. He improve to 26-5.
"That's how you finish fights," Faber said. "Dominick, you can run, but you can't hide. I wanted to showcase my hands in this fight."
The win also gets Faber his much-desired rematch with Cruz. They fought in July; Cruz won that bout by unanimous decision.
Bowles (10-2) lost his bantamweight crown to Cruz in March 2010.
Kampmann gets split over Story
He succeeded by earning a split decision over Rick Story.
One judge saw Story winning the fight 29-28, but the other two gave Kampmann the advantage, 30-27 and 29-28. ESPN.com had Kampmann winning 29-28.
Story went to the body often in the first round, but he had begun breathing heavy by the start of the second. That's when Kampmann started to find his range, and he landed straight right hands.
In the third, Kampmann began to dominate the grappling battle. He was able to get Story on the ground and nearly submitted him as the horn sounded to end the fight.
Kampmann snapped a two-fight skid to improve to 18-5. Story (13-5) dropped his second straight.
Bonnar grounds out a win over Kingsbury
After a first round that started with both fighters delivering clean strikes, Bonnar took his act to the ground, where he dominated Kingsbury.
The fans weren't happy with the action; many directed their anger at Bonnar afterward, booing loudly when he appeared on the big screens.
All three judges, however, saw Bonnar as the clear winner -- 30-27, 30-25 and 30-27. ESPN.com had it 30-26 for Bonnar.
"I'm not used to fans booing my fights. I felt I had good control on the ground," Bonnar said. "I didn't want to risk it and get knocked out."
Bonnar improved to 14-7 and got his third win in a row. The loss dropped Kingsbury to 11-3 (1 no contest) and snapped his four-fight win streak.
Bader KOs Brilz in first for much-needed win
After dropping two fights in a row, once-highly touted Ryan Bader was in dire need of a win and he got it.
Bader caught a retreating Jason Brilz with sharp right hand one minute into the first round. Brilz hit the canvas and Bader landed another punch before the referee jumped in. The knockout came at 1:17 of the opening round.
Brilz (18-5-1) has lost three in a row.
McDonald's right hand stuns Soto
Alex Soto came in overly aggressive and Michael McDonald made him pay. McDonald landed a solid right hand as Soto charged in. The punch sent Soto to the canvas, and McDonald continued throwing punches. Soto was soon defenseless, and the referee jumped in to save him at the 56-second mark.
Soto's aggression was welcomed by McDonald.
"That's one of my favorite moves [throwing the right hand], especially when someone is coming at me aggressively," said the 20-year-old McDonald, who improved to 14-1 with the knockout win.
Soto, who was making his UFC debut, fell to 6-1-1. He began his professional mixed martial career on a six-fight win streak.
Weidman continues his perfect run
Weidman improved to 7-0 (3-0 in UFC) with a first-round submission of Lawlor. The end came at 2:07.
Lawlor was motionless on the canvas for a few seconds before regaining consciousness.
"I'm real happy," Weidman said. "Tom Lawler is the toughest guy I've faced thus far."
Lawlor slipped to 7-4 (1 no contest). He has dropped three of his past four fights.
Tibau powers his way to split decision
Two judges scored the fight 30-27 and 29-28 for Tibau, who won his third straight fight to improve to 24-7. The third judge favored dos Anjos 29-28.
ESPN.com had it 29-28 for Tibau.
Tibau nearly finished dos Anjos in the second round after landing a hard right hand. Dos Anjos (15-6) was on wobbly legs for a few seconds, but he held on to survive the round.
Torres finds flow versus Pace
Since losing his WEC bantamweight title to Brian Bowles in August 2009, Miguel Torres has struggled to regain his rhythm. He took a step toward getting some of it back during a unanimous decision over Nick Pace.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27. ESPN.com also saw it for Torres 30-27. The bout was fought at a catch-weight of 141 pounds, after Pace was unable to make the 136-pound weight requirement.
Using his 8-inch reach advantage, Torres (39-4) continuously connected with stiff left jabs, sharp rights and hard kicks.
Pace (6-3) was unable to close the gap and dropped his second fight in a row.
Baczynski submits Brown in second
Welterweight Seth Baczynski extended his win streak to four with a second-round submission of Matt Brown.
In the first round each fighter landed solid strikes: Baczynski with punches before the horn sounded, and Brown with several sharp knees. But in the second, Baczynski (15-6) was able to lock in a guillotine from which Brown was unable to escape.
Brown (12-11) tapped at the 42-second mark. He has lost four of his past five fights.
Castillo releases his anger on Bailey
Castillo showed his disappointment with Bailey by stopping him via TKO at 4:52 of the first round in a catch-weight bout.
"I felt disrespected at the weigh-ins; don't come in 2 pounds overweight and then say you can't lose any more weight," Castillo said after improving to 12-4.
Bailey fell to 12-5 after dropping his second fight in a row.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.