Dan Henderson was on shaky legs and had been dropped twice earlier in the fight, but he still had his right hand -- and that was enough.
The finish came at the 1:31 mark of the round, when Henderson landed his patented right hand after getting Rua, aka "Shogun," to drop his arms to defend a takedown. The victory ends a three-fight skid for Henderson, who will turn 44 in August.
"You know, this one probably means more than most," said Henderson, on the win. "Shogun is such a big part of mixed martial arts; such a talented, tough fighter.
"Especially after the year I had, coming off that, I wanted to make sure I got a win."
As much as the fight was a testament to Henderson's knockout power, his chin more than proved itself as well.
The fight had shades of the first meeting between the two, which was considered by many to be the fight of the year in 2011. That five-rounder featured several momentum changes, with Henderson ultimately earning a unanimous decision.
Heavy exchanges were once again a theme in the rematch. Coming off the first knockout loss of his 17-year career to Vitor Belfort in November, Henderson was nearly finished in the first and second rounds by punches.
Henderson hurt Rua (22-9) with a short left hook on the inside in the first round, but ate a counter left by Rua moments later that knocked him down. Referee Herb Dean was on the action as Rua moved into Henderson's guard and landed hammerfists. The bell might have been the only thing that saved Henderson from a first-round stoppage.
Rua appeared to be on the verge of a knockout again in the following round when he dropped Henderson with a right uppercut. Henderson eventually got Dean to stand the fight back up by tying up Rua from the bottom, but still appeared unbalanced on his feet. With all momentum clearly in Rua's favor, Henderson shot on a weak double leg early in the third and then connected with the right hand. The blow caused Rua to flip completely over backwards. He attempted to recover by turtling on a single leg, but a few hammerfists from Henderson rendered him defenseless.
"He definitely dinged me," Henderson said. "He rung my bell a tad in the first round and again in the second. I just decided to be patient, but think I was a little too patient in the first two rounds. I wasn't very offensive.
"In the third round, I think we decided to get after it."
Henderson gets his hand raised for the first time since that initial bout against Rua in November 2011. He was scheduled to fight Jon Jones for the title the following year, but withdrew due to knee injury. Rua falls to 1-3 in his last four fights.
Dollaway crushes Ferreira in Round 1
A defensive Dollaway (14-5) leveled Ferreira (7-3) with a counter right cross, left hook that dropped the Brazilian less than one minute into their middleweight bout.
The finish came just 39 seconds into the fight. Ferreira struck first with a straight left to Dollaway's chin, but grew wild as he pursued an early finish.
"I'm going to go home, look at the top-10 list in my weight class and figure out who I match up well against," Dollaway said. "I might call them out because it's time for me to start making my move. I love fighting down here in Brazil. The fans show incredible passion and it is awesome to see I'm starting to develop a small fan base. I knew if I stuck to my game plan, I could control the fight and finish him and that's exactly what I did."
The knockout is the sixth of Dollaway's career and first since UFC 92 in December 2008. He slipped a few Ferreira left hands in the opening 10 seconds, but stiffened noticeably when the one connected.
Rather than circle away from the fence, Dollaway stood his ground and landed the clean counter punches. Ferreira tried to sit up and draw Dollaway into his guard, but referee Mario Yamasaki called the bout as Dollaway unloaded punches.
Dollaway is now 3-1 in his last four, with the loss coming via split decision to Tim Boetsch at UFC 166. Ferreira, 29, fell to 3-1 in the UFC.
Point deduction leaves Parke with a draw
A questionable point deduction by referee Wernei Cardoso prevented Norman Parke from his fourth consecutive UFC win.
A lightweight bout between Parke (19-2-1) and Leonardo Santos (12-3-1) ended in a majority draw, thanks in part to a penalty Parke received in the second round.
The Irish lightweight grabbed the shorts of Santos as he went for a takedown, which prompted Cardoso to take an immediate point with no warning. The call impacted the outcome, as two scorecards read 28-28. A third had it 29-27, Santos.
"I was winning the second round until I went for a takedown against the cage and my hand slipped from behind his knee, so I accidentally grabbed on to his shorts and got a point taken from that," Parke said. "I think I should have gotten a warning first. I believe he grabbed the cage in the third round and never got a point taken, so theoretically I won the fight. Maybe he should come to Dublin in July and we'll settle it once and for all."
Neither fighter delivered a memorable performance. Santos, known primarily as a grappler, showcased much-improved striking early but did almost nothing offensive in the second half of the fight.
He landed a short right uppercut in the first round that caused significant swelling under Parke's left eye. A member of Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro, Santos scored on several hard inside leg kicks, but failed to keep it up throughout the bout.
After taking the worst of the exchanges on the outside, Parke adjusted and forced Santos into close-quarters action the rest of the way. He used his size advantage to pin the Brazilian along the fence and score points with knees and short punches.
It was a grueling strategy for Parke to impose, but it appeared to win him the last two rounds. The effort eventually netted him a draw, the first of his career.
"A draw never even crossed my mind," Santos said. "I felt it a little bit in the last round, but I believe I won the first two. You can schedule another fight against him and I'll be there. I've got to go full force now."
Maldonado uses cardio to outslug Villante
Maldonado (21-6) poured it on Villante (11-5) from the second round on of their light heavyweight bout, earning a dominant unanimous decision in the process.
After being handled by Villante on the ground early, Maldonado took advantage of his superior striking and cardio to cruise to scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27.
"It was a war standing up, but that was after he gave me a hard time on the ground," Maldonado said. "His wrestling is very good, so I knew I had to impose my striking game and avoid the fence. I knew that, striking, he'd get tired first."
Villante scored a takedown in the first 20 seconds of the fight. Maldonado managed to wrestle back to his feet, but was dragged down again moments later. The effort won Villante the round, but left him visibly exhausted in the second round.
He then became an easy target for Maldonado's jab and left hook to the body. Villante smiled at one point after nailing Maldonado with a few good knees that opened a cut on the Brazilian's forehead, but the smile faded after he ate a left hook.
The final round was all Maldonado, as it appeared Villante's body basically shut down from the volume of strikes. He attempted several desperate takedowns, all of which were easily shrugged off by Maldonado.
At one point, Villante landed a defensive counter right hand, which only prompted Maldonaldo to wave him forward more. Referee Herb Dean nearly stepped in during the final seconds, as Villante appeared out on his feet.
"There were a couple of times when I knew I hit him and he took a weird step, like he wobbled a little bit," Villante said. "But then he kept coming. I think I surprised him the same way. He hit me with some good ones and I kept going. I think it was a good fight."
Maldonado extended his current win streak to three, his longest in the UFC. The New York-based Villante dropped to 1-2 within the promotion.
Prazeres handles Taisumov by decision
Prazeres (18-1) cruised in a lightweight bout that was marred by Taisumov's (21-5) penalties. The Russian was docked points in each of the first two rounds and received a warning in the third.
The penalties, which were due to an illegal kick and for fence grabbing, ultimately had little effect on the outcome as Prazeres won all three rounds on his own merit. All three judges scored the contest 30-25 for Prazeres.
"I only have one thing to say: My team deserves a lot of praise," Prazeres said. "The result speaks for itself, they did an amazing job."
Prazeres, who accepted the fight on short notice, set the tone with his offensive wrestling. He scored a bodylock takedown on Taisumov in the opening minute and transitioned immediately to full mount.
Taisumov eventually escaped and scrambled to his feet where he landed an illegal kick to the downed Prazeres. Yamasaki docked him immediately and warned a similar offense would get him disqualified.
A different issue surfaced in the second round as Taisumov, wary of being taken down, held the fence to keep upright during a Prazeres takedown. It resulted in another penalty and placed him well behind on the scorecards.
Taisumov tried to rally in the third and landed a few hard combinations against a fading Prazeres, but eventually surrendered another takedown.
Prazeres improved to 2-1 in the UFC. He edged Jesse Ronson via split decision in his last performance at UFC 165 in September. Taisumov fell to 1-1 in the Octagon.
Jason gets quick stoppage of Siler
Rony Jason collected his second win by knockout in the UFC, although he might have benefited from an early stoppage by referee Wernei Cardoso.
Jason (14-4) scored a TKO over Steven Siler at the 1:17 mark of the first round. He caught Siler (23-12) with a right hand over the top and then a perfect left hook.
That was all Cardoso needed to see. He stepped in and put a stop to the featherweight bout even as Siler, who was knocked down by the left hook, threw upkicks from his back.
"I had an amazing camp. I made weight and still had some grams to spare," Jason said. "I'm very happy. I feel like everything went perfectly. Last time I was crying, this time I'm smiling. That's how a fighter's life goes."
Siler immediately protested the stoppage, but to no avail. A former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series, Siler fell to 0-2 in his last two fights. The loss marked the first time he has been finished in the Octagon.
"I'm disappointed because it was an incredibly early stoppage by the ref," Siler said. "I didn't even have time to communicate I was OK because he jumped in so fast. I got hit, dropped to my back to take a defensive posture and was throwing an upkick to give me some space. And then, all of a sudden, it was over. I guess it was my fault for getting hit, staying exposed."
Jason, who improved to 4-1 in the UFC, rebounded from a first-round knockout loss to Jeremy Stephens in November. The Brazilian scored the fifth knockout of his MMA career.