Mauricio “Shogun” Rua did not exactly have the type of start to his UFC career that he or anybody else expected. Before entering the UFC, Rua boasted a 16-2 record with 13 (T)KOs and had only had a fight go out of the first round on four occasions. He was expected to come into the UFC and dominate the way he had in Pride. Dana White, who in recent years has gone away from giving UFC newcomers a “warm-up” match, placed Rua in the Octagon with Forrest Griffin for his opening encounter. Griffin submitted Shogun in the third round and all of the sudden people were questioning if Rua really had what it takes to be a successful UFC fighter.
Rua’s next two fights were okay, but not spectacular by any means and many wondered why he seemed to be lacking the killer instinct he once showed off in every one of his previous matches. He defeated Mark Coleman with a third round TKO in a fight that should have been much shorter. Next was a washed up Chuck Liddell, who was coming off a second round KO loss to Rashad Evans. Rua TKO’d The Iceman with thirty seconds left in the first round, but again many people still were not seeing the Shogun that they came to know and love. He impressed Dana White enough to get a title fight against the reigning Light Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, in his next match. In a fight that many felt Rua won decisively, Machida was given the decision victory after neither fighter could end the match. While Rua may have won the fight in most fans’ eyes, it was his inability to finish the fight that left many of those same fans unsatisfied. Questions about Rua’s ability began to arise. Was it the pressure of finally being on the biggest MMA stage in the world? Would he never be the fighter that Dana White and so many fans expected he would be?
Those questions would be answered seven months later in the rematch when he knocked Machida out in the first round in impressive fashion. Machida had come into the fight with a 16-0 record, but he looked like he had no answer for Shogun. Now, the questions being asked were, “What clicked with Shogun?” and “Why all of the sudden did he look like the fighter everyone expected?” If you watch the video, you will see a much more dangerous and confident fighter in Shogun than we had seen since he left Pride. His punches were crisper and his movement was must quicker. Come to find out, Rua had been struggling with knee injuries. A knee injury not only hinders a fighter once he enters the octagon, but more importantly, it makes it nearly impossible to train, which means when the fight finally does happen, the fighter will be rusty and physically unfit. This explains why Rua seemed to be gassed in his first few fights after the first round. Even the fights he won, he looked tired, rusty, and at times incompetent. But, as the video above shows, when Rua is healthy, he is the aggressor, stalking and his opponents around the octagon, throwing punch after punch and kick after kick until he finally lands the deciding knockout blow.
Heading into his UFC 128 fight against Jon “Bones” Jones, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has no choice but come out swinging. Jones is one of the best, young stars this weight class has seen in a long while, and there is little doubt that the 24 year old, New Yorker will come out swinging in his first MMA title fight. However, if the last fight with Machida proved anything, it is that if Shogun is healthy, he will not be afraid of anybody. With both fighters coming into the contest seemingly at their best, this fight will truly be a defining moment for one of the two. Whoever comes out of this fight the victor, will be propelled to the very top of the MMA world. Fans seem to love both fighters: Jon “Bones” Jones for his tenacity and youthful exuberance and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for his confidence and knockout power. I don’t think anybody expects this fight to go five rounds. With these fighters, you should expect to see a short, but highly entertaining fight, most likely ending with a knockout. Who will get the knockout? If Rua comes in healthy, like he did against Machida, he should be able to take advantage of Jones’ inexperience in the big fight, but if one of those nagging injuries flares up again, it could be a quick and devastating night for Shogun.
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